On the banks of the Black Dog Creek, a humble wooden shack called - aptly - the Black Dog Inn, was set up as a horse changing station for mail coaches on the Melbourne-Sydney road in 1844. A few years later the more substantial brick hotel Horse and Jockey was built, with a police camp on the pub grounds alongside.
In 1854 the few residents of Black Dog were no doubt pleased to change the town’s name to Chiltern - after England’s rolling green Chiltern Hills. Gold was discovered by John Conness at nearby Indigo in 1858, causing the focus of regional settlement to shift from Black Dog Creek to the Chiltern gold lead.
The inevitable rush, of some 10,000 miners, established rudimentary encampments along the muddy diggings track (now Conness Street) towards the Beechworth and Indigo gold fields. At its height, Chiltern had a population of 20,000.
In 1862 Chiltern was proclaimed a municipality, with the elected council represented by miners - believed to be a first in Victoria. The Victorian gazette of 1865 lists the town as having a County and Police Court, Court of Mines, reading room, telegraph station, post and money order office, its own newspaper (the Federal Standard), and banks.
Two decades later, Chiltern was described as an important township containing five churches, twelve hotels, two newspapers and a population of 1243 engaged in mining, agriculture and grazing. Easily-won surface gold had long gone, leaving mechanical methods and the more enduring deep quartz mining to persist for some 60 years; the Golden Bar mine yielded 10,200 ounces, the Pass Poy mine crushed 1757 tons of quartz for 2843 ounces of gold.
The wealth generated during Chiltern’s golden decades produced many buildings which are today classified or owned by the National Trust. A ninety-minute historic walk takes in Conness Street’s heritage shops including Dow’s Pharmacy built in 1859 which operated until 1969, the Star Hotel and billiard saloon, the 1877 Bank of Australasia, the Athenaeum (now Chiltern’s museum), Kilgour’s Blacksmith and Implement factory, and the police lockup.
A fine example of colonial brick residences can be seen in “Lakeview” at Lake Anderson. The childhood home of writer Henry Handel Richardson (real name Ethel Florence Richardson), the house is featured in Richardson’s book “Ultima Thule.” Now restored, the home is occasionally open for inspection.
The Chiltern Regional Park encircles the town with several walking tracks through box-ironbark forest encountered by miners last century. It’s also home to two of Victoria’s rarest birds - the regent honeyeater and the turquoise parrot. The park is particularly noted for its spring display of wildflowers.
A 25km historic drive takes in Donkey Hill lookout, the pioneer cemetery, the Magenta Mine which produced 13,000 ounces of gold, and the State Battery site where mine ore was crushed.Chiltern is central to the Rutherglen and Barnawartha wineries, Mt Pilot where Ned Kelly and his gang hid for months prior to capture, and the Yeddonba aboriginal art site.
Chiltern is located 275km north-east of Melbourne off the Hume Highway, about three and a half hours drive.
STAY THE WEEKEND AT:
Tuileries, at Rutherglen. Big, luxurious, themed rooms with king bed, spa, patio overlooking vineyards. Two restaurants, bar, pool, tennis court. Last visited & approved Aug 2011 T 02 6032 9033
COPYRIGHT PETER ROBINSON 2011
see my images at www.australianplaces.net
For the past 25 years Peter Robinson has travelled far and wide but Australia, being home, is his first love. As an experienced travel writer and professional photographer, his wealth of knowledge is revealed in travel and accommodation reviews that have freelance integrity and honesty. The main focus of this site is to present brief reviews of a select group of places to stay for the weekend. Each place has been visited at least once and evaluated for high standards before inclusion - and after reviewing over 600 places Peter has done the hard work so you can enjoy Great Weekends Away.