Stanhope is a rural township and district in the west Goulburn Valley irrigation area in northern Victoria. It is 16 km south-west of Kyabram.

Stanhope was the name of one of several pastoral estates owned or lease by James Winter and his family west of the Goulburn River. In 1867 the Winters built the Stanhope homestead on a property of 6000 hectares.

After the building of the Waranga Basin reservoir in 1905 the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission extended farm irrigation northwards. In 1913 the Stanhope estate was acquired for closer settlement and in 1917 a branch railway line was built from Rushworth via Stanhope to Girgarre. After World War I soldier settlers took up farms for citrus growing, lucerne and dairying. One of the settlers was John McEwen, future Country Party leader and Deputy Prime Minister during the Menzies-Holt years. A cooperative dairy was opened in 1923, and fruit was transported to Kyabram when its cannery was opened.

A school was opened at Stanhope in 1916 and another at Stanhope South in 1927. The first store in the new town was opened in 1920. Anglican, Methodist and Presbyterian churches were opened during 1920-22, and a war memorial hall was opened in 1920. The hall was used for Catholic church services until the St Lawrence church was opened in 1959.

The dairy industry in Stanhope had an unusual early history, not falling to takeover from larger rural or metropolitan cities. In 1970 The Co-op Dairy Company took over factories at Echuca and Numurkah, and in 1971 merged with the Shepparton Dairy Company to form Ibis Milk Products. The new company became Bonlac Foods Limited, with a processing plant at Stanhope employing about 180 people. Bonlac was taken over by Fonterra.

The general downturn in the dairy economy led to the cancellation of the annual Stanhope Field Days from 2010, an annual event that had been held for since 1980. 

Stanhope has a primary school (36 pupils, 2014), a community hall, a saleyards, the Fonterra cheese and butter factory, a swimming pool, a recreation reserve, bowling and tennis facilities and four churches. The shopping centre of about 12 establishments lacks a once prominent emporium which has closed as residents have changed to shopping in Kyabram. The railway line from Rushworth closed in 1987.

The census populations have been:

census date population
1921 522
1933 800
1947 793
1954 994
1961 905
1971 564
1981 539
1996 565
2006 520
2011 488

In 2011 the census population of Stanhope and environs was 915. At the 2011 census, dairy farming accounted for 17.4% of employment and other farming 3.9%, and dairy product manufacturing accounted for 7.6%.

Further Reading

Harley Forster, Waranga 1865-1965, F.W. Cheshire, 1965

Henshell Hansen Associates, Study of small towns in Victoria (Revised edition), p. 179-200, Department of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, 1990

Joan Sherman and others, Recollections of early Stanhope, Stanhope Lions Club, 1991