Sunday, June 02, 2013

An Afternoon in Chewton and Castlemaine

Melbourne has been experiencing very heavy rainfalls from Friday and Saturday and we knew that there would be no Saturday morning ride so with our son being in Castlemaine we said that we would like to drive up and bring him back home on the weekend. It gave me a chance to relax after a busy work week and forget about working in the bathroom for the whole weekend..
Melbourne's first day of winter. On the Freeway out of the City.
As forecast, Saturday morning did start our wet and miserable after torrential overnight rain.By the time we arrived at Kyneton for our coffee stop, the rain mellowed to a fine drizzle.

Along the way we took a coffee stop at the town of Kyenton. It's quite historic and the locals have made the effort to beautify the town. The highway now by-passes the town and those who rush by miss an experience.
Beside the little Cafe is a gift shop that has all manner of things. Jewellery, books, furniture and even interesting gum boots. See below.
We weren't in a hurry so we took our time however, we could have spent even more time in this pretty town. We'll go back for a whole day next time.

Autumn trancends into winter at Kyenton.
Just as you drive towards Castlemaine, you enter Chewton. The town is situated on the winding road as you drive down into the valley. It was foundered on gold as was Castlemaine and many of the other towns in the area during the 1850s.
Between the two towns is the Forest Creek Diggings of Red Hill and White Hill. We took the time to walk the 400 metre pathway to discover how the miners sourced the gold but at the same time destroyed the environment.

A period photo of the Forest Hill Diggings.
Maybe not the same scene today - but it could be!
I should imagine that the few buildings have been re-established to give the tourists a better idea of how the miners worked.
Especially this building.
Surprisingly much of the old machinery is still littered over the Heritage listed diggings.
You can see here how the water cannon totally ripped the hill apart to totally expose the soil for the gold. 

The drive from the diggings into Castlemaine takes you by some very quaint little miner's cottages built in the 1850s and council buildings of Chewton. Castlemaine is set out on a grid of wide straight streets where Chewton seems to take the least difficult layout following the terrain.

You can see the prosperity that gold brought to Castlemaine, not just by digging the precious metal but also for those that came to service the miners. Store keepers, banks, general stores all evolved around Castlemaine.
We fully intended to enjoy a lunch before meeting up with our son. It was just a a regular country pub meal of lamb shanks washed down with a bottle of local Shiraz - not too fancy but "very noyce".

So after lunch we decided to return to one of the grand old homes of Castlemaine that we visited over twenty years ago.

Built in 1861 by Baptist Missionary James Smith, Delhi Villa as he named it, took in a vast view of the town of Castlemaine from its high point. Smith sold it in 1863 to return to his work in India.
It was then purchased in 1863 by businessman Ernest Leviny where it stayed within the family to 1981. The last surviving daughter, Hilda sold the property to the Castlemaine Art Gallery of which two other sisters, Mary and Kate helped to establish in the early 1900s.
Even today it retains its original features - surely due to it being in the one family for such a long period of time. It had hardly changed since our last visit twenty years ago.
The house is surrounded by vines and trees dating back to the second part of the 1800s. The gardens take up 1.2 hectares but summer is the time to enjoy the gardens, not winter as we did on this visit. When we did visit back in the late 80s, it was surrounded by a huge hedge. It was only recently taken down, all 400 tonnes we were told.
The rooms retained their originality throughout. You could tell by some of the peeling paint on the ceilings. The patina of time added to the viewing experience.
The two bay windows, one each end at the rear accommodate a music room at one end and a reading room at the other.
The doors in the centre open out to the gardens.
This passage divides the music and reading rooms.
From memory, this was Hilda's bedroom. Hilda along with four other daughters remained single while only one married.
The Daughters were all into the arts and crafts period and much of the house was refurnished in this period after the parents, Ernest and Bertha passed away.
The laundry and servant's quarters have hardly changed - we were fortunate to be offered a look at the kitchen which today is "Staff Only". You could see three phases of cooking over the history of the house.
The sitting or reading room housed many of the original wall hangings  and ornaments belonging to the family.
There was also several pieces of Ernest Leviny's silversmith work displayed in glass cases.

It read 60 degrees - the old language before we became metric. Yes. it really is the start of winter.

Another one of the period homes can be seen from the gardens of Buda as we  left to take the leisurely 160 km drive back to Melbourne.
A link to the impressive history of Buda and the Leviny family.
There's a great video about the Leviny sisters at this site.
Just a little promotional piece on Castlemaine.

Hope you enjoyed our Saturday in the Goldfield's District of Victoria.


  1. What a lovely and interesting tour! They look like nice old towns in which to pass a day.
    Thanks for allowing me to be an armchair tourist.

    1. Craig - hope you and Sue can join us on many more armchair tours. We aim to do more 100 km radius tours from Melbourne soon.

  2. I enjoyed the wander around with you, and like Craig said 'Thanks for allowing me to be an armchair tourist'!

    1. Hi there Vera,
      Yes we like to just pop off on a whim. Castlemaine is on our 100 kms radius from home of places to visit.
      Long weekend coming up, I wonder where we might visit?

  3. What a great place. The people seem terrific too. I really enjoyed the video.

    1. Western Victoria is a really nice place to visit Nadege.
      Rich in Gold mining, pastoral and wine growing history.


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