Maldon District History

Enjoy this small taste of Maldon district history – it notes key dates and associated endeavours. As you can imagine there are many stories to tell and many more yet to be uncovered.

View across Maldon township from Derby Hill 1867, composite of 3 images

For many thousands of years the Jarra People of the Dja Dja Wurrung language group occupied a large area of central Victoria. The Liarga Balug, a clan of the Jarra tribe, lived in the Mount Tarrangower and Maldon district. The plains, hills and valleys sustained the people and provided them with abundant food and materials to trade.

The Maldon District was colonised by European settlers during the late 1830s and 1840s. The pastoralists used their vast holdings for dry-land farming and in the process effectively denied the Indigenous people access to the water and hunting grounds. The Indigenous people were moved to reserves, first at Hamilton’s Crossing, then Franklinford and later Coranderrk, and within a few decades only a small number remained in the area.

These large-scale pastoral operations were disrupted in the 1850s when gold was discovered near Maldon. The discovery of gold in the Tarrangower (Maldon) area became public knowledge in December 1853 and suddenly the handful of diggers became thousands. A long street of buildings quickly sprang up in Maldon township. Apart from tents, shanties and wooden buildings, the 1850s saw the construction of the first brick church. a Market Hall and fine bank and the first brick hotel. Maldon was first incorporated as a municipality in August 1858.

By the 1860s Maldon had become a pioneering centre for quartz mining. Soon poppet heads, engine houses, towering chimneys and noisy crushing batteries became symbols of prosperity, and were accompanied by substantial residential and commercial developments. The streets of Maldon and its ‘suburbs’ were crowded with boarding houses, hotels, shops and much more. Maldon was proclaimed a shire in 1864, just 10 years after the discovery of gold at Tarrangower.

The 1870s saw the first of several downturns in Maldon’s gold mining activities. At the same time large numbers of selectors were moving into the district as the pastoral licence system ended. The district’s agricultural industry continues as an economic mainstay to the present day.

Technological developments of the 1880s included improved rock drilling equipment to speed up the laborious process of tunnelling for gold, and the railway finally arrived from Castlemaine.

The severe depression of the 1890s seemed to bypass Maldon as the deep mines continued to produce great wealth. New development: commercial, industrial and residential, continued into the 1900s and 1910s finally ceasing around the time of the First World War. The 1920s saw the last of the early mines close in 1926. Gold exploration and mining continues in the Maldon area today.

The Great Depression of the 1930s found Maldon already in decline. The last mine had closed, and many miners and their families had sought work elsewhere. Up to half of the town’s timber houses were relocated to places as far away as Melbourne.

After the Depression people drifted back to Maldon and by the 1940s the population had risen substantially. The tendency to relocate houses continues, however this time around Maldon is receiving houses from other areas.

During the late 1940s and 1950s the district’s fortunes continued to improve with an influx of people and capital for the development of the Cairn Curran Reservoir at Baringhup.

The journey from tumultuous 1850s gold-mining town, through boom times and decline took an unprecedented turn in the 1960s. between 1964 and 1969 Maldon’s historic 19th and early 20th century buildings and streetscapes were rediscovered, surveyed, and declared ‘Notable’ by the National Trust. Once again Maldon was leading the way, this time as ‘guinea pig’ for the fledgling heritage conservation movement.

Maldon Museum & Archives Association holds many records and artefacts which can shed further light on the history of the district from the early decades up to the present day.

Please contact us to find out more.

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