A BRIEF HISTORY
Officially opening 24th October 1867, Mayday Hills Lunatic Asylum was the fourth of it’s kind to be built in Victoria. At the time of construction it was noted as the largest building in the colony. The site for the Beechworth Lunatic Asylum was chosen primarily for its healthy elevated position, it’s capacity for potential expansion and its proximity to Beechworth (a rural center at the time).
Mayday Hills was considered a sufficient distance from town but not too far to make it difficult for visitors and delivery of provisions. Embodying impressive early 19th century architecture of the time, the self sufficient asylum was surrounded by farmland and fields, with it’s own piggery, stables, orchards and kitchen gardens on site. The asylum featured a theatre for patient recreation as well as tennis courts, an oval and cricket pavilion, which are available to guests of the George Kerferd and Linaker Hotels today.
Treatment of asylum patients in the mid to late 1800s was limited. The high altitude winds of Mayday Hills were believed to carry afflictions of the mind away, whilst restraint practices - applied either through the wearing of straight jackets or placement into isolation cages- were the main form of ‘rehabilitation’ provided. With rudimentary understanding of mental health, patients were admitted to hospital for genuine mental health conditions such as schizophrenia and depression, to misunderstood physical ailments such as epilepsy.
...Two signatures were required in order to be admitted to the hospital however eight were needed to be discharged. It was therefore much harder to get out of the asylum than in. It is estimated that around a third of patients admitted to Mayday Hills never left....
The nurses’ quarters (now the Linaker Nurse Quarters Hotel) were built in 1937. Prior to this, provision was made for nurses to sleep in their own private room located within each ward. Nurses were required to live on site unless they could show sufficient reason not to. The top floor of the nurses’ quarters was later used as classrooms for nursing training.
In 1967, professional landscape gardener Robert Coates was admitted to the Asylum as a patient. During his five year stay Coates was instrumental in the early planning of the gardens at Mayday Hills. The Melbourne Royal Botanic Gardens supplied many of the exotic trees, many of which can still be seen today.
In 1976 the Kerferd Clinic (now the George Kerferd Hotel) was built on the original site of the Medical Superintendent’s quarters (which were built in 1907). The Kerferd Clinic functioned as an early psychiatric treatment centre.
After 128 years of service, Mayday Hills Lunatic Asylum closed it’s doors in 1995. The site was purchased by La Trobe University in 1996 and redeveloped as a hotel school. The venture was abandoned in 2011.
Mayday Hills remained empty until 2013 when local families purchased the site and began it’s rejuvenation. The George Kerferd and Linaker Nurses Quarters Hotels were born.