Thursday, 7 October 2010

The Inebriates Asylum at Beaconsfield

On September 30, 1889 the Governor in Council ordered that the buildings and premises situate at Beaconsfield and hitherto known as Craik’s Boarding House shall be an Asylum for Inebriates. Thomas Elmes was appointed the Superintendent of the Asylum on October 1, 1899.

Victoria Government Gazette, October 4 1889, p. 3320. The Victoria Government Gazette can be found at

On November 4, 1889 the Governor in Council ordered that The buildings and premises belonging to Mrs M.H.Blair, situate at Beaconsfield, and known as Walnut Gove, shall be an Asylum for Inebriates, to be used for the care and treatment of female patients only.

Victoria Government Gazette, November 8, 1889, p.3834.

Inebriates were defined as a person who habitually used alcoholic liquors and could be committed to an Inebriate Asylum for detention and curative treatment for up to three months. Inebriate Asylums were established in 1888, previously inebriates were committed to the Lunatic Asylum. Beaconsfield was the first Asylum to be established, and one was also established at Northcote in 1890.

The Victoria Government Gazette of December 20, 1899 lists the Regulations for the Management, Supervision and Regulation of Asylums for Inebriates. The Regulations covered the amount of food allowed to each inmate; intoxicating liquor was banned; inmates were banned from having money or stamps and all letters were opened before being handed to inmates. Regulations also covered what to do if an inmate became insane (they were sent to a Lunatic Asylum) or died (a letter was sent to the local Coroner and to the ‘person who shall have made the last payment on account of such patient). The Fees were also set out - £2 per week for patients on the ‘lower scale’ and £5 per week for those on the ‘higher scale”

On May 15, 1891, the Victoria Government Gazette reported that Thomas Bissell, a patient was missing. The Argus of July 21, of the same year, reports that his skeleton was found in the Gembrook ranges, about 12 miles from the Asylum.

Victoria Government Gazette, May 15 1891, p.2021.

On January, 6 1892 The Argus reported that an inmate, Francis Key had committee suicide, by shooting himself, after being admitted to the Asylum suffering from alcoholism and in week state. Apparently his wife was aware that he had a gun in his room, and she wrote to the Asylum expressing her concern and telling them of her husband’s suicidal tendency. In spite of this it appears the gun remained in his room and as the Inquest noted ‘sufficient precaution was not exercised by the Officials’.

The Argus, January 6, 1892 p. 6 The Argus has been digitised by the National Library of Australia and can be found at

Both Beaconsfield and Northcote were closed in 1892, Beaconsfield in September 1892 (see news report below) Another report in The Argus of September 4, 1894 says that the Asylum buildings were destroyed by fire. The owner, Mr Craik of Kincraik Boarding House, had the buildings insured for £700.

The Argus, July 6 1892, p.6

The Asylum gave its name to the surrounding area and even as late as 1925 a report in The Argus called the area Inebriates Hill. It is now known as Guys Hill.

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