About J Ward
J Ward started its life as a goldfields prison in 1859. When the gold ran out in the mid 1880s the prison buildings were acquired by the Lunacy Department as a temporary housing for the Criminally Insane. The County Gaol then became a ward (J Ward) of the Ararat Lunatic Asylum where the most depraved and most dangerous men in Victoria were housed in horrific conditions under the highest security.
The Ward was closed in 1991. J Ward is now a museum complex within the original prison structure dedicated to recording and preserving the history of the criminals imprisoned and hanged here during the life of the goldfields gaol and later as the infamous maximum security housing for Victoria's Criminally Insane men in a ward (J Ward) of the Ararat Mental Hospital.
The best way to see and understand J Ward is to join one of the regularly conducted Guided Tours. There is so much to see that no two tours are exactly the same. Each of the Guides is knowledgeable in the history of J Ward but each has a wealth of favorite true stories to tell.
You will see the place where murderers breathed their last. You
will see where their bodies are buried in unconsecrated ground in
unmarked graves. You might hear the story of the notorious Garry
Webb or of Bill Wallace who lived here for over sixty years and
died in his 108th year. You might hear how the Chapel was built due
to the efforts of William Watson Carr. You might hear of escapes or
suicides or of twelve year olds incarcerated here.
And doon't forget after dark when the lights go out a whole other
side of J Ward is revealed on our world famous ghost tours.