Beechworth Shire

Beechworth Shire (1866-1994) in north-east Victoria, was centred around the township of Beechworth which in 1991 had 63% of the shire's population. Most of the other towns or villages in the shire began as mining settlements, as did Beechworth, and farming and forestry became their main industries. Most farming is confined to areas between ranges.

Beechworth Shire was proclaimed on 8 January 1866 by the union of the Stanley Road District (1862) and the Wooragee Road District (1863). These areas were south and north respectively of Beechworth and began with gold mining. On 29 December 1871 the shire was united with Beechworth borough and restyled the United Shire of Beechworth.

Until the 1900s local opinion sustained the belief that the shire's prosperity was mainly based on mining, despite evidence to the contrary. Efforts were later made to promote Beechworth for tourism, emphasising its tree-clad elevation. Meanwhile agriculture and grazing were carried on, and softwood plantations were planted in 1941 after the 1939 bushfires. In 1946 the shire was described in the Australian blue book:

Road and railway access to the shire occurred in the west from Everton, diverging to Beechworth and to Myrtleford along the Ovens Valley. The railway lines' lives were 1876-1976 (to Beechworth) and 1883-1987 (to Myrtleford).

In 1994 farming occupied 45% of the shire's area of 772 square kilometres, on which were carried 23,100 sheep and lambs and 15,400 meat cattle. Agriculture, orcharding and softwood production were also important, and 2.78 million kilograms of apples were grown. Tourism gained in importance in the 1970s.

On 18 November 1994 most of the United Shire of Beechworth was merged with Rutherglen Shire and most of Chiltern and Yackandandah Shires to form Indigo Shire. The residue was merged with Alpine Shire and Wangaratta City.

Beechworth Shire's census populations were:

Area Census Date Population
Beechworth Shire before union with the borough 1871 6715
United Shire of Beechworth 1901 7384
  1911 5978
  1947 4404
  1991 4966

Further Reading

Carole Woods, Beechworth: a titan's field, Hargreen Publishing Company, 1985

Beechworth, Stanley, Woolshed and Worragee entries