Hampden shire (1863-1994), in western Victoria, was centred on the township of Camperdown, although Camperdown was a separate urban municipality during 1952-94. Situated west of Lake Corangamite, the shire extended from Skipton in the north to Camperdown in the south. Its western boundary was Mount Emu Creek and a prolongation further west to Terang.
The shire was described as craters and lakes country, comprising mainly basaltic plains with volcanic cones. The southern part had the higher rainfall, with considerable dairying, and the northern part was drier, suitable for sheep grazing. All of the area had once contained large pastoral estates: their legacy was soldier-settlement farms and numerous heritage-listed homesteads.
The shire was crossed by the Princes, Hamilton and Glenelg Highways. Railway lines run approximately parallel to the first two highways and there was a line to Skipton on the Glenelg Highway (1916-85).
The origin of the shire’s name was the county of Hampden, presumably named after John Hampden (1594-1643), an English parliamentarian who opposed the Stuart family’s claim to the English throne. When proclaimed on 31 December 1863, Hampden shire extended southwards to Bass Strait, between Curdies River and Gellibrand River. The southern area was heavily forested but its gradual clearing created enough settlement for the Heytesbury shire to be severed in 1895.
In 1946 the shire was described in the Australia blue book:
In addition to the towns mentioned there is also Glenormiston and Noorat, near Terang. They were the centre of a dairying district with a large dairy factory until 1974. Cobden, in the once neighbouring Heytesbury shire, became the regional dairy factory. Lismore and Derrinallum had extensive soldier settlement after World Wars I and II. Hampden shire’s population was for many years topped up by closer-settlement and soldier-settlement farms, as the following census figures show:
*Heytesbury shire severed **Camperdown town severed
In 1994-95 Hampden shire was mainly a grazing area, with 806,000 sheep and lambs, 49,300 dairy cattle and 44,900 meat cattle.
On 23 September 1994, most of Hampden and Heytesbury shires were united with parts of Otway and Mortlake shires to form Corangamite shire.
R.A. McAlpine, The Shire of Hampden 1863-1963, Terang, 1963
Bill Anderson, On western lands: a history of the Shire of Hampden, Camperdown, 1996
Boorcan, Camperdown, Darlington, Derrinallum, Glenormiston, Lismore, Noorat, Skipton and Terang entries