Kew Lunatic Asylum

02 January, 2011

Front facade of Kew Asylum building, now private residences.
Front facade of Kew Asylum building, now private residences.
Image: Meg Lomax
Source: Meg Lomax

Question: I am doing historical research in the Kyneton Cemetery. I have come across the grave of W.A. Ansley, dated December 27, 1902. The headstone was put in place by the staff at the Kew Asylum. W.A. Ansley was listed as a clerk in the burial register. Is there any way to get any further information about him, specifically to confirm whether he was staff or a patient?

Answer: Patient records for Kew Asylum are held by the Public Record Office of Victoria (PROV) – a selection have been digitised and can be viewed online. Have a browse of their finding aid: PROV Guide: Mental Health Records.

What is available online from PROV is only a small percentage of their holdings – they do hold more records on staff and patients at Kew Asylum, and as a state institution, PROV is where all extant records are held, so it may be a case of you visiting PROV in person and ordering records to look at in the reading room there.

They do have an archivist on duty most days of the week, either between 10:00am and 12:00pm, or 1:30pm to 3:30pm, but you can call and check first when they are available for consultation.

Comments (14)

sort by
Stuart Pattison. 30 September, 2012 16:15
I love these old asylums, the great architecture and the ambience and ethos of a time long gone. I've visited many old asylums it's a great hobby of mine. I'm planning a trip to Melbourne next year, and i will be visiting Kew, even though it is now ' residential apartments ' but nevertheless i should get some good photos, And i've deafeningly got to see the Ha- ha walls (never seen them before as every asylum i've visited has never had Ha- ha walls ).
Margaret Frater 9 July, 2013 17:04
Question: I am told my grandfather, who died before I was born, was a staff member at Kew Asslyum. He died on 18 Sept 1917 aged approx 39. can you tell me if there are any records I could access?
Verena Valentinus 29 May, 2014 16:47
Would love to be able to visit this building with my crew. What number do I ring to get approval? Cheers
Discovery Centre 8 July, 2014 12:49

Hi Verena,

The Kew Asylum building is now a private residential complex, however the building is accessible by public road: Willsmere Road, Kew. You can only access the facade though, it is a gated community and access to the grounds of the building is only via prior approval from the Body Corporate - their details can be found at the front entrance of the administration block, however requests are assessed on a case-by-case basis by the residents committee.

Carol 12 June, 2014 18:05
My Grandfather William Patrick Shields death certificate lists Kew Asylum as his place of death in 1960-age 68. He was sentenced to Pentridge for 8 years in 1948. I would like to know what year, and for what reason he was sent to Kew.
Discovery Centre 7 August, 2014 15:26

Hi Carol,

As a government-run institution, any extant records relating to admissions and discharges would be held by the Public Record Office of Victoria - you should get in touch with them for help looking for any documents relating to your grandfather's time at Kew.

Christo Perkins 18 January, 2016 23:57
Carol, I am william shields great grandson ... could tell you the full story
Cheyanna Harrison 18 June, 2017 17:43
This is interesting - I have reason to believe I'm also William Patrick Shields great granddaughter. . from what I found he was sent to Kew for murdering his wife Eileen. Contact me if you want to chat further.
Fiona 30 December, 2014 20:18
Hi, I've heard there is a museum at Willsmere (in the old paying female ward) and wondered if it is open to the public, but can't find much info about it online. Do you know if the museum still exists and how to contact them? THanks!
Jenny 12 October, 2016 17:51
Question: A female ancestor was admitted to Kew Asylum in June 1883, had a baby in November of that year and died on 11th November, 1883. Her death certificate does not say where she is buried. Any ideas of where she may be buried. I have tried Melbourne General Cemetery. I would appreciate any information you may have. Thanks
Judith Scurfield 2 February, 2017 16:39
As part of Kew Historical Society, its Collections Committee would be interested to visit the Kew Asylum museum mentioned in a couple of these emails. Does it still exist, and how would we arrange a visit?
Pam Richardson 8 February, 2017 10:15
I am also interested in finding out where a relative would have been buried. She died in the Kew Asylum in 1891. I would really appreciate any information you might have. Thank you.
Discovery Centre 8 February, 2017 13:00

Hi Pam,

The best place to look for these records will be the Public Record Office Victoria (PRoV). They have Mental Health records that include the Kew Asylum.

Antonella Fuoco 20 May, 2017 14:53
Hello, I was watching the show, The Sullivans today and was wondering if the Kew Asylum building was used on the show? Thank you
Write your comment below All fields are required

We love receiving comments, but can’t always respond.