Chiltern is a town in Victoria, Australia, located in the north east of the state between Wangaratta and Wodonga, in the Indigo Shire. At the 2001 census, Chiltern had a population of 1,036. The town is close to the Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park. Chiltern was once on the main road between Melbourne and Sydney but is now by-passed by the Hume Freeway running a few kilometres to the east.
Chiltern boomed during the Victorian Gold Rush, and many of its buildings are now classified by the National Trust. The Grape Vine Hotel, on the corners of Main St. and Conness St, boasts the largest grapevine in Australia, planted in 1867. The town hosts an antique fair in August and an art show in October. It is the birthplace of John McEwen, 18th Prime Minister of Australia. Chiltern was home to the Australian female writer who wrote under the nom de plume Henry Handel Richardson famous for her book The Getting of Wisdom.
The discovery of gold in the late 1858 early 1859 brought a huge shift in population into the Chiltern – Black Dog Creek area. The discoveries at this location was a significant factor in drawing many miners away from the goldfields surrounding Beechworth, during the big drought of 1859. Unlike Beechworth the mines around Chiltern were deep wet leads, requiring a diffent type of miner capable of sinking shafts to some 400 feet in depth. Miners with these skills came into the area, from Ballarat and Bendigo and joined with those from around Beechworth. Some of these miners were colourful characters and several appear in O’Brien’s book cited below.
While Beechworth gold production declined during 1859, Chiltern’s gold production increased to such an extend that Chiltern looked as if it would usurp the importance of Beechworth, which was the most important regional centre in North-eastern Victoria during 1859. Chiltern did overshadow Beechworth within a few years, but finally, when the gold dwindled, so did Chiltern.