AUSTRALIANS have always marvelled at places European, steeped in history and source of legendary tales.But they didn’t start making the connection with their own historic towns and villages until many 19th century buildings were lost.Had it not been for various depressions and recessions, the goldfields of central Victoria would probably have been even more dug over.But things turned around in the 1960s and 1970s when a movement of mainly younger people began to see value in Australia’s relatively short history and its fascinating vernacular architecture.It was in this new mood of appreciation that Miles Lewis took part in a research project from the School of Architecture at Melbourne University.“My father, Brian Lewis, was the first professor and dean of architecture at Melbourne University, and first chairman of the National Trust,’’ he said.“Maldon was brought to his attention by Helen Vellacott, of Castlemaine.“And he initiated `Maldonology’ by drafting me and four other undergraduates to investigate it as part of our coursework in the history of architecture,’’ Lewis said.His mother, Hilary Lewis, was also an architect and town planner, as well as a member of the Survey and Identification Committee of the National Trust, which was responsible for classifications. “She nominated Maldon for the new Notable Town classification, which was intended to be used across Australia, though that never eventuated,’’ Lewis said.After supporting research by Lewis junior, the former gold rush era settlement was finally declared Australia’s first Notable Town in 1966. “I returned that year and camped in mullock heaps near the Beehive mine chimney,’’ Lewis said.“But it rained overnight and I proved to be in a creek bed. “Next day, I was in the shire office - a weatherboard annexe on the side of the Market Hall - with my sleeping bag in front of a radiator and the room full of steam.’’In those days, Lewis recalled, owning historic buildings was more a curse than good fortune.“When Town and Country Planning Board officers came to town, locals saw the government number plates and their car was stoned,’’ he said.However, heritage classification helped in applying the controls needed to save the town centre - even though debate on their value continues today.Locals are still often to be found embroiled in discussions about heritage matters - an old tree has disappeared or original sign-writing may be earmaked for replacement.There are even tales of a cafe proprietor being asked to change tablecloths deemed out of character, and an artist who used white paint on his gallery sign when those in the know thought high-white paint didn’t exist in the 19th century.Now 40 years on, Lewis will present a new perspective of his beloved Maldon.On Sunday, July 20, Professor Lewis will tackle Maldon 40 Years on: Triumph or Tragedy?’Has Australia’s first Notable Town withstood the test of time under its heritage guidelines? Do we need national living heritage and what does the future hold for places like Maldon?Professor Lewis, who has an AM for service to architectural history, heritage protection and urban planning, is author of Victorian Churches, Melbourne: the City’s History, The Essential Maldon and numerous articles and papers on the built environment.His address will be held at 2.30pm next Sunday at Maldon Community Centre, Francis Street. Entry $5.For more information, phone 5475 1871.