Hopwood was born in Bolton le Moors, Lancashire on the 21 May 1813. He was the youngest son of Henry Hopwood, a muslin manufacturer, and Mary Kelly. He was arrested in 1834 for receiving stolen rolls of silk, and sentenced to 14 years' transportation to Van Diemen's Land, a British colony in Australia (later renamed Tasmania). A persuasive and manipulative character, within a year of arriving in the colony, Hopwood had been appointed as a police constable. However, he often found himself in trouble, mainly due to dalliances with women, and in 1839, he was sentenced to two years' servitude at the Port Arthur penal settlement for 'aiding and abetting the abduction of his master's daughter'. He was eventually released and, in 1846, granted a full pardon after having served 12 years of his original sentence. During his time as a convict, Henry met Marth Bolton, a free woman formerly of Liverpool, Lancashire and with her had a daughter, Alice Bolton Hopwood, born on the 4 January 1844 at Morven, Tasmania.
Hopwood migrated to the fledgling colony of Port Phillip (Melbourne) where he worked his way north to the Murray River in 1848. Here he found work in a tallow plant, boiling down animal carcasses to extract their fat and oils, eventually becoming foreman. By 1850 the shrewd Hopwood noted the increasing numbers of drovers and farmers in the area and used his savings to build both a hotel and a punt. He charged a small fee for river crossings and profited from drinkers at his hotel. By 1858 he had almost single-handedly expanded the lonely riverbank site into a small town, complete with a pontoon bridge, newspaper, school, warehouses, and vineyards. The following year Hopwood constructed the Bridge Hotel, a more stylish double-storey brick building that still stands today.
Based on his record, Hopwood was a competitive, irascible and sometimes arrogant character who frequently became involved in petty feuds. On one occasion in 1868, a pitch pot from his river punt was borrowed by a Captain Reese. When not returned, Hopwood sued Reese for 'illegal detention of a pitch pot, valued at £1/11/6d'. The court was not amused and the case was subsequently thrown out. In consequence, a notice appeared in the Riverine Herald stating, "The Iron Pot Again! My Pitch-pot was lent to Captain Reese. It was not returned as promised. On my application to the Bench of Magistrates for its restoration - case dismissed. Therefore a THREEPENNY TOLL, Must go on the Bridge, TILL THE POT BE PAID FOR. H. Hopwood, Echuca Ferry." Such extreme disregard for legal authority as Hopwood showed earned him the rather derisive sobriquet, King of Echuca.
Hopwood was married three times. His first wife, Fanny and infant son, Henry Edwin Hopwood were left behind in England after he was transported; Hopwood never saw them again. He remarried in Melbourne, on the 26 October 1854, to Martha Bolton  and again on the 6 January 1860 to Charlotte Walter of Bendigo, following the death of his second wife. His only daughter, Alice, married James McCulloch without issue.
Hopwood died of Typhoid fever at his residence Apsley House, Echuca on the 1 January 1869. He has gravestones in both Echuca Cemetery and the Melbourne General Cemetery. His Echuca grave is a popular tourist attraction due to it being the actual location of his remains.
- McCarthy, Susan, Hopwood, Henry (1813 - 1869), Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, Melbourne University Press, 1972, pp 422-423.
- "England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:N1XQ-QWY : 9 March 2018, Henry Hopwood, ); citing yr 1813-1822 p 39, index based upon data collected by the Genealogical Society of Utah, Salt Lake City; FHL microfilm 1,966,399.
- "England Marriages, 1538–1973," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:NNLJ-C2T : 10 February 2018), Henry Hopwood and Mary Kelly, 01 Aug 1812; citing Bolton, England, reference v 1 p 229, index based upon data collected by the Genealogical Society of Utah, Salt Lake City; FHL microfilm 1,966,477..
- Morris Allan(1953), Rich River, Stockland Press. pp.21
- "Australia Marriages, 1810-1980," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XTZ9-16F : 10 February 2018), Henry Hopwood in entry for W. Hopwood and Martha Bolton, 26 Oct 1854; citing St. James, West Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, reference b4 rn13; FHL microfilm 993,777.
- Coulson Helen (1995), Echuca Moama, On the Murray, Hyland House Publishing. pp.42. ISBN 1-875657-75-4.
- 1869 'Family Notices', The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 - 1954), 2 January, p. 2. , viewed 10 Jul 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article244919444
- Hopwood's gravestone at Melbourne General cemetery Archived 2006-01-11 at the Wayback Machine, The White Hat guides.