The district of Longford is located about 7 km south of Sale, south of the junction of the Latrobe and Thomson Rivers. The area is about 214 km east of Melbourne.
The morasses bordering the Latrobe River provided rich food sources for the original inhabitants, the Brakaulung tribe. When pastoral invaders claimed the area as the Glencoe run in the early 1840s relations between squatters and numerous Aborigines were hostile. In the early days of settlement communication with the outside world was through Port Albert to the south, and the track to Flooding Creek, later known as Sale, crossed Glencoe. Cattle were drive to Port Albert and shipped to Hobart. After the river was bridged in 1858, daily coaches ran to Port Albert. There was a public house on Glencoe from the earliest days and in 1858 the Bridge Inn, at the river, was licensed.
Shipping reached the Gippsland Lakes in the late 1850s, and by the early 1860s a wharf near the bridge on the Latrobe River, known as Latrobe Landing, was the port for Sale. It became the site of Longford, and the name is thought to either be descriptive or derive from the Irish county or Lord Longford.
In 1878, the railway line linking Sale to Melbourne was completed. Original plans included a rail connection to the wharf but this never eventuated. The Swan, later Victoria, Hotel was constructed in 1877 at Latrobe Landing. The hotel catered for sports people who visited the area in large numbers to hunt and fish during the 1880s. Steamer excursions on the lakes were also very popular during this period. In 1890, a canal was constructed to the town of Sale, but by this time the shipping trade had greatly declined.
From the 1860s, a lime industry thrived at several locations in the Longford district. The lime was burnt in kilns, bagged and hauled to the wharf or railway station. Longford lime was in demand for building in Melbourne and the local district. With the building slump during the 1890s depression, production was scaled down but the industry survived. A bacon factory was established at Longford in 1870 and there was also a tannery from the 1880s.
To cater for the growing population a school commenced classes in 1876. Longford was described in the 1903 Australian handbook:
The settlement acquired a mechanics’ institute (1911) and two churches. In the 1930s, lime was mined again at Longford for agriculture. A radio transmitter for the local Australian Broadcasting Commission radio station was built on a hill at Longford in 1935. In 1970, a regional wireless station was constructed. In 1969, the first stage of a gas processing plant was opened near Longford. Further stages were completed in 1976 and 1983. Gas is received from production platforms in Bass Strait. In September 1998 a catastrophic explosion occurred at the plant, disrupting the state’s gas supply for several months. In 2013 oil spilled from the Cobia pipeline into Bass Strait.
The district is still mainly pastoral, with a number of small acreages and hobby farms adjacent to the town and some areas of pine plantation. Longford township has a general store, several local businesses, a school (131 pupils, 2014), hall and tennis courts. Sale golf course is west of the town and a swing bridge over the LaTrobe River, north of Longford, is heritage listed.
Census populations for Longford have been:
Deanna Gunning, Glimpses of Longford, 2010