Maidstone

The original Stones of Maidens were megalithic rocks scattered across neolithic Europe, whence eligible maidens were betimes sacrificed to guarantee good harvests, to ward off pestilences, or to placate angry gods or dragons. After a concerted campaign by the Romans, most of those within the bounds of the empire were destroyed (by intense heating followed by the application of cold water), leaving only those of Eire, Germania and Wales remaining. The sacrificial rites largely fell into disuse over the centuries (thus demonstrating that the Catholic Church was good for something, once), although the locations often remained sites of devotions to those who followed the old ways, and places of execution to those who followed the new.

There never was a Stone of Maidens in what is now known as Maidstone, Victoria. There was, however, when European colonists first sighted the territory, the last and largest of the Diprotodons that had once ranged across the region that became northern Melbourne. This huge grey specimen was a monster even by the standards of its enormous species, standing twice the height of a man at the shoulder. Worshipped and placated as a powerful spirit by the Wurundjeri people, to the newly-arrived English settlers, it was little more than a curiosity to be hunted and slain. And in 1855, a group of huntsman decided to do just that, inviting all those interested in making the journey from any Australian colony to join them.

Before a hunt could be raised – not least due to the difficulty of explaining to people where this new place called Maidstone actually was – the creature disappeared. No sign of it was ever found again, although some suspected that the Wurundjeri knew more than they were telling. But there were other concerns to distract the would-be hunters, and the matter was never seriously investigated. The general assumption was that the beast had died, and its corpse either rotted or was eaten by the natives. In truth, it had fallen down the ravine that ran along the northern edge of the area, blocking the watercourse at the bottom and causing the depression leading to it to swiftly silt up – although, again, the Wurundjeri people may have known more about that than they were telling. This change in the landscape went largely unnoticed by the white settlers, as the area had been mapped in only the most sketchy fashion prior to this time. When the whites began to build permanent settlements in the area, a few years later, they simply assumed that the earlier maps were in error, rather than merely out of date.

Suburbs near Maidstone: