Chiltern is a fascinating historic village; time has forgotten to take with it and still stuck in the gold rush era of Victoria with its unique streetscapes and wooden verandas. Located around 290km North East of Melbourne, Chiltern is a three-hour drive through Hume Fwy to reach.
Explorer Major Mitchell was the first white man to pass somewhere nearer to Chiltern in October 1836, before any other white man until the overlanders in 1837. Squatters began settling in the area from 1839 but faced many difficulties from local aboriginal population and the wild dogs which were a plenty in the region. The aborigines speared their flocks. The area of Chiltern was on the Wahgunyah cattle run and was known as Black Dog Creek. The Black Dog Creek got its name after a settler shot and killed a black dingo at that place.
Chiltern was surveyed in 1853 and it was named after the Chiltern Hills in England.
Alluvial Gold was first discovered in Chiltern by John Connors and party in 1859. They came as a prospecting party from Indigo Goldfields about a mile away. As gold prospectors poured into the town, the population of the town went upto 20.000 in its peak. When mining was booming in the 1860’s to the 90’s, The Chiltern Valley, The Sons freedom, Barambogie, Doma Mungie and other mines were working full shifts. From the Chiltern Valley Mine alone £1250,000 worth of Gold was obtained between 1878 and 1914. Along with mining Wool, honey, diary, wheat, wine and tobacco were also produced from Chiltern. When big mining operations ceased in 1912, Chiltern had already established itself as an Agri-producer. The district was well known for light fine class of wool it produced. The tobacco produced from Chiltern plantations were free from the visitations of blue mould.
After the Goldrush began, there was a huge demand for transport in the region. Hiram Crawford, born in USA came to Victoria in 1853, found gold in the nearby Woolshed Valley and made his fortune. He founded Crawford and Co Coaches. Business operated regular passenger and mail services between Albury and Melbourne via Chiltern and daily service to Beechworth. He was elected Mayor of Chiltern in 1863.
The Post Office opened on 1 September 1859. The first sale of town allotments were made on 20th September 1861. Chiltern was created a district on 9th December 1862 and proclaimed a shire on 15th May 1873. The railway was opened on 19th November 1873. The local newspaper Federal Standard was established on August 1859, a month after Gold found in Chiltern.
How to reach Chiltern from Melbourne
By Car: It is located on the Hume Freeway at the gateway of indigo shire
By Train: Catch a VLine train from Southern Cross Railway Station
By Plane: Albury Regional Airport is 30 minutes’ drive from Chiltern
What to see and do in Chiltern
Mt Pilot National Park
Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park was created in October 2002 to conserve and enhance what remains of Victoria’s Box-Ironbark forests and woodlands.This 21,565 ha National Park covers several historic gold mining sites as well as magnificent flora and fauna. Mt Pilot lookout at 545m above sea level gives a panoramic view of the Chiltern Valley. If you continue along the foot of Mt Pilot through the Yeddonba Road, you will reach the ancient Yeddonba aboriginal cultural site. Mt Pilot National Park is also a good location for cycling.
Chiltern is also known as one of the premium birds watching areas in Victoria.
Historic buildings in Chiltern
Dows Pharmacy: Built in 1859, Dows Pharmacy still houses original fittings and vast array of pharmaceutical equipment and products from the past. The Pharmacy was operated by David McEwen, father of former Australian Prime Minister, John McEwen. The Pharmacy was sold to Mr and Mrs Dow in 1836 and subsequently the name was changed.
Lake View Cottage: Lake view cottage was built for John and Mary Hancock, shopkeepers of Chiltern. In 1876, Dr Richardson, a Doctor of Medicine moved to Lake View Cottage with his family, including Ethel Florence Richardson, who later became the authoress, Henry Handel Richardson. The house became a focus of one of her novels, “The Fortunes of Richard Mahony”
The Chiltern Athenaeum Museum: The Athenaeum Museum building was erected in 1866, which replaced an earlier timber building. It was used as council chambers, Town Hall and Library. The Museum features, memorabilia from the regions past and art works. The exhibits include memorabilia relating to Sir John McEwen, whose father operated the local pharmacy from 1891 to 1907, the First World War photographic collection, artworks by Alfred Eustace including several gumleaf paintings and photographic and outdoor displays of Chiltern’s mining and agricultural past.
Federal Standard Printing Press: The brick building that once housed the office of Federal Standard News Paper built in 1861, still have old printing presses and other equipment in working order. Federal Standard was Chiltern’s first newspaper. It is open on the second weekend of each month from 10am to 3pm.
Chiltern Railway Station: Chiltern Railway Station Complex was built in 1875 by architect James Lever on the Melbourne-Wodonga line. It comprises a small, bi-chromatic brick station building and residence with a hipped roof and a concave verandah carried on cast iron columns.
Lake Anderson and Parkland: Close to the Lakeview cottage is the Lake Anders which was created as a result of Gold mining. Alliance Gold Mine was located here during the Gold Rush days.
The Post Office: The building was erected in 1863, with extensions added in 1900, 1919 and 1930. Mail was originally carried to Chiltern on horseback by Joseph Howden on route between Melbourne and Sydney. Due to the Gold rush Bank Commissioners were unable to meet requests for saving banks in rural towns. As the role of Post Office strengthened, colonial banks began using post offices as brank outlets.
In 1873, railway between Melbourne and Sydney began connecting Wangaratta and Wodonga. The service provided fast and efficient way to get mail to Chiltern, replacing horse and cart that operated before. In 1985, Australia Post introduced its own truck to carry mail ending the ‘mail by rail’ era.
Chiltern Telegraph Office commenced on 28th March 1861 and operated until telegrams ceased Australia wide in 1960’s.
Court House: The building was erected in 1865. It was built from local stone and clay of the area and has the distinctive color of Chiltern’s local red bricks. The architect was Henry A Williams. It was in this courthouse warrant for Ned Kelly’s arrest was signed.
Yeddonba Aboriginal Cultural Walk
Time: 60 mins • Distance: 0.75km• Starting Point: Yeddonba Road Carpark
A sacred site of the aborigines. The many areas significant to the aboriginal community including rock shelter and bush tucker area. This is a well laid out circular track.
Chiltern Walking Path• Time: 1.5 hrs • Distance: 3.7km • Start: Chiltern Post Office
The Chiltern Walking Path logo depicts a Yellow-Footed Antechinus which is a small marsupial mouse native to the area.
White Box Walking Track• Time: 2.3 hrs • Distance: 8.5km• Start: Honeyeater Picnic Area at Cyanide Dam
Magenta Mine• Time: 3-4 hrs • Distance: 15km• Start: Chiltern Visitor Information Centre
Tuan Track Walk• Time: 2 hrs • Distance: 7km • Start: Tuan Campground on Depot Road.
Mount Pilot Lookout• Time: 15 mins • Distance: 1km • Start: Mount Pilot Lookout Carpark
Skeleton Hill Track• Time: 1.5 hrs • Distance: 3km • Start: Western most point of Skeleton Hill Road