Maldon is a town in Victoria, Australia, in the Mount Alexander Shire local government area. It is officially known as “Australia’s First Notable Town”, and is today best-known for the 19th century appearance the town has maintained despite the passage of over a hundred years since its Gold Rush days. At the 2001 Census in Australia, Maldon had a population of 1,235.
The district where Maldon now stands was first discovered by white Europeans in 1836, during Major Thomas Mitchell’s famous Victorian expedition. It was settled soon afterwards by pastoralists, and two sheep runs were established in the area, at the foot of Mount Tarrengower. In December 1853, gold was discovered at Cairn Curran (the name given to one of the sheep runs), and Maldon became a part of the Victorian Gold Rush.
The goldfield, which was named “Tarrengower Fields” after Mt Tarrengower, immediately attracted an immense number of men eager to make their fortunes at the diggings. Just one month after gold was first discovered, the Chief Commissioner for Goldfields reported 3000 miners had arrived at the diggings.
By 1856 there were estimated to be 18 000–20 000 people at the goldfields, and the Victorian government arranged for the settlement to become a town, which was named Maldon. In 1861, a government census declared the town’s population to be 3341, servicing an additional 5-6000 miners at the diggings. At that time it was the 8th-largest town in Victoria, and remained so for the next decade. However, as miners were forced to dig deeper to obtain usable specimens, or as mines ran dry completely, the population began to decline. By 1891, Maldon held a mere 1600 inhabitants.
Today, Maldon’s population is more or less stable at around 1000 people. The town has changed very little since mining operations ceased, with buildings and streets barely updated to reflect the passage of time. The town’s Main Street has seen an old bank replaced with a service station, but is otherwise nearly identical to its appearance at the beginning of the 20th century.