Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Hopwood, Henry (1813–1869)

by Susan McCarthy

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

Henry Hopwood (1813-1869), founder of Echuca, was born in Bolton, Lancashire, England, son of Henry Hopwood, manufacturer, and his wife Mary, née Kelly. His bookshelves in later years suggest that he acquired at least a passing acquaintance with some Latin authors. On 11 December 1832 as a gilder in Liverpool he married a widow Fanny Wagdin (Walkden), née Roberts(?). On 8 March 1834 as a labourer he was convicted at the Lancaster Assizes for receiving stolen silk and sentenced to fourteen years' transportation.

Hopwood arrived at Hobart Town in the William Metcalfe on 4 September. For 'orderly conduct' he was made a police constable in February 1835. For breaching regulations by living with a woman not his wife in 1838 he was sentenced to a road-gang for a year. In May 1839 he 'aided and assisted' the abduction of his master's daughter and was sent to Port Arthur for two years. He received a ticket-of-leave on 22 December 1842 and rejoined the police. He was conditionally pardoned on 15 January 1846. In February 1844 he had submitted plans for supplying water to Launceston from the South Esk River. In 1845 he was 'an active, intelligent and well-disposed' clerk to a district constable's office but was denied a post in the public service when he applied in April 1846.

When his sentence expired Hopwood moved to Port Phillip and became overseer of boiling-down works on the Murray River near the future site of Echuca. When the works closed, he knocked together the huts, licensed them as the New Road Inn and had a punt for crossing the river. In 1853 when Francis Cadell and William Randell demonstrated the navigability of the river, Hopwood sent his plans for a town to Lieutenant-Governor Charles La Trobe and, perhaps with prior knowledge, leased a section of the Wharparilla run, newly gazetted as the site for a future town. Early in 1854 the town of Echuca was surveyed and named, and the first land sales held in April. Hopwood was a keen bidder. He built his Criterion Hotel 'of iron and bits and pieces' where the Echuca Club now stands, and claimed that his new punt cost £1500. In January 1855 he became postmaster at Hopwood's Ferry; by March he had opened a butchery, bakery and boiling-down works and by November a large iron store. In 1856 his remarkable pontoon bridge spanned the Murray, and in 1857 he bridged the Campaspe River, his rights secured by a special Act. Later he built a brick store, organized a school, planted a vineyard, published a newsletter and in March 1859 opened the Bridge Hotel.

Hopwood's first wife died early in 1857, and in 1859 he married Charlotte Walters of Bendigo. After a brief retirement to St Kilda he returned to Echuca in August 1860 to run the Bridge Hotel. As patron of the town he was largely responsible for attracting Angus Mackay and James Joseph Casey to publish the Riverine Herald at Echuca in 1863. In 1864 he leased the Bridge Hotel to a manager and retired from public life, save for a blustering six months from August when he served on the Echuca Road Board. Aged 55 he died of typhoid on 1 January 1869. His daughter Alice, born in Tasmania about 1845, married James McCulloch in 1867 and died without issue in 1895.

Energetic and resilient, Hopwood's undisclosed conviction undoubtedly corroded his public self-confidence. He was noted for arrogant outbursts, stormy quarrels and petty disputes, but also for intense loyalty to friends and kindness to those he deemed needy.

Select Bibliography

  • S. Priestley, Echuca: A Centenary History (Brisb, 1965)
  • Argus (Melbourne), 1853-68
  • Riverine Herald 1863-68
  • Colonial Secretary's files, 1851-56, and Chief Secretary's files, 1856-60 (Public Record Office Victoria)
  • Hopwood letters (Echuca Historical Society).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Susan McCarthy, 'Hopwood, Henry (1813–1869)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/hopwood-henry-3795/text6007, published in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 22 September 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

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