Darlington is a small rural village on the Hamilton Highway, western Victoria, where it crosses Mount Emu Creek. It is 28 km north of Camperdown and west of Derrinallum and Lismore.
Darlington was an early place of white settlement, being situated on a track which forded the Mount Emu Creek. The creek was also known as Taylor’s River, after Frederick Taylor who settled there in 1839. Taylor gained an atrocious record for mistreatment of native people and was almost certainly responsible for the massacre of over 35 Aborigines at Murdering Gully.
When a bridge was built in 1849 the place was known as Elephant Bridge, as the track passed quite close to the prominent volcanic cone, Mount Elephant, about 10 km eastwards. In 1852 a township was gazetted and named Darlington, possibly after the place of the same name in Durham, England.
A Presbyterian church was built in 1847 and two hotels some time before then. The present Elephant Bridge Hotel (1855) survives. The village, however, scarcely grew beyond a few stores and a coach stopping place. A school was opened in 1865. In 1903 Darlington was described in the Australian handbook:
The Presbyterian church (1847) was the pioneering building at Kilnoorat (‘Church of Noorat’), built on land at Mount Emu Creek, donated by an early settler. It was about central to an itinerating Presbyterian charge. When Kilnoorat was burnt down in 1880, massive Presbyterian edifices had been built in Camperdown, Noorat, Skipton and Terang.
The district around Darlington consisted mainly of fine wool pastoral estates on flat to undulating cleared plains. After World Wars I and II most were subdivided for soldier-settlement farms. The increased settlement added to the Darlington district’s population but Derrinallum and Lismore grew as towns. Darlington primary school closed in 1977.
The historic Elephant Bridge abutments are on the Victorian Heritage Register.
Darlington’s census populations have been:
H.D. Cumming, Darlington, Taylor’s River and Mount Elephant Bridge, Back To (Darlington) Committee, 1965
R.A McAlpine, The Shire of Hampden 1863-1963, Terang, 1963
Pamela McGregor and Lynton Oaten, Mount Elephant: a history of the Derrinallum and Darlington district, the authors, 1985