Towns in Australia

Exploring Australia, town by town

Chewton VIC


Postcode: 3451

Chewton is a town in central Victoria, Australia. The town is located in the Mount Alexander Shire Local Government Area, 116 kilometres north west of the state capital, Melbourne. At the 2001 census, Chewton had a population of 370.

Prior to European settlement, the Chewton area was inhabited by the Dja Dja Wurrung Aboriginal people, part of the Kulin nation. The first European in the area was the explorer Major Thomas Mitchell on his way to discovering “Australia Felix” in 1836-37. Not long after, a sheep station was established by a Dr Barker, which incorporated the current town site.

Gold was discovered by a shepherd at nearby Forest Creek in 1851, spawning a large gold rush. Over 30,000 diggers arrived at Chewton within three months, soon followed by prospectors from around the world, including many Chinese. The town was surveyed in 1854 with lots sold the following year. The Red Hill Hotel, constructed in 1854 is still standing today. By the 1860s the alluvial gold had been exhausted and efforts turned to underground shafts in search of gold bearing quartz reefs.

Underground mining saw the immigration of Welsh and Cornish miners and some mines were very successful. The Wattle Gully mine founded in 1876 is still operating today. As gold mining wound down, the population declined to 1,212 in 1891 and 454 in 1933.

While close to Castlemaine the town maintains a distinct identity. Several historical buildings and sites, including the Chewton Town Hall (constructed in 1858) and the Post office (constructed in 1879) are now owned by the Chewton Domain Society, a community group established to manage the properties. The society also produces a monthly community newsletter. For several years, Chewton was host to a folk music festival over the Australia Day long weekend. In 2007, the festival relocated to nearby Newstead.