Yarra Bend Lunatic Asylum Cemetery

 

 

Early Map

 

Yarra Bend was the first permanent institution established in Victoria that was devoted to the treatment of the mentally ill. It opened in 1848 as a ward of the Asylum at Tarban Creek in New South Wales. It was not officially called Yarra Bend Asylum until July 1851 when the Port Phillip District separated from the Colony of New South Wales. Prior to the establishment of Yarra Bend, lunatic patients had been kept in the District's goals.

  Following on from information you sent on on the Yarra Bend [Lunatic] Asylum Cemetery I have been slowly trying to locate further information on it. The DHS (Dept of Human Services - Victoria) does not hold any records for the cemetery, nor does the National trust of Australia (Victoria), but the PROV [Public Records Office of Victoria] has a series file on the Asylum and I plan to read the files to see if any cemetery data is in the various correspondence files that make up the package of material.
  So far I have been told that there were over 1000 burials at the cemetery and also over 1200 burials in the cemetery before it closed. Total number not known at the moment. I spoke to the Melbourne General Cemetery regarding the exhumation and re-burials and they noted:

* most went to them over time and were buried in common grave/s

* those who wished, ie the families, could have their family member reinterred into a single grave and pay for it. It is believed a number of reinterred bodies were put into single graves. The common grave/of course had no head stone/s.

* trying to locate when the actual re-interments took place. It looks like it happened over time from the late 1880s onwards.

* the dates of the Yarra Bend Lunatic Asylum were from 1848 (opened) to 1905, then from 1905 to 1925 when a new Act came into operation noting the change of name to the Hospital For the Insane. New admissions ceased in 1924 with the Asylum officially closing in 1925. All remaining patients were transferred to the Mont Park facilities.

The records for the Asylum can be found at the PROV in VA 2839 - Yarra Bend (Asylum 1848-1905; Hospital for the Insane 1905-1925). There are quite a few files in this series. Of interest is that none list the cemetery with the DHS believing there is correspondence in this set of files regarding the closing of the cemetery and the re-internment of the bodies.

This is just a brief overview of what I have found. What must be remembered is that the deaths listed on the Victorian Registry's CDs will have the death place as Northcote for the 1850s to 1870s as the Deputy Register was for the Northcote area and it picked up the registration of deaths from Yarra Bend. It was the place of registration that was used for death place. Later the death place was noted as Yarra Bend, Asylum or Yarra Bend, etc. So early burial records will be hard to locate unless you have the death certificates or know of the person.

Finally the PROV has as part of its on-line records the following Yarra Bend Asylum data via its web page; VPRS 7422P/1 Index to Male and Female Case Books with 108 pages of data on the web site. The pages are in alphabetical order. Unfortunately this is not the full list as I have a number of earlier deaths (death certificates) not listed on these 108 pages. You can get some indication of who was buried in the cemetery from the second last column on the page which notes what happened to the person (where known). Where it notes "died" and a date, there is a good chance they were buried in the cemetery. These on-line records seem to be from the 1880's onwards. The early years of the asylum are not listed. You can access the records at www.prov.vic.gov.au and go through the screens to search the on-line records.

  This is one of those hard to locate cemetery records, cemetery. The cemetery no longer exists as currently the area of the Yarra Bend Asylum is part of a large park run by Parks Victoria with the old cemetery being located on the river flats near the practice fairway of the golf course there. It is also felt that not all bodies were exhumed, but this needs to be proven. Parks Victoria are looking at this issue.
It is interesting that the records for this large number of burials and cemetery are not easily available.

 
David Weatherill
Email: djweath@bigpond.net.au
Bundoora, Victoria, Australia

 

 

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