Hotham was the name given to North Melbourne during the period 1855-87.

In April 1855, the Melbourne city council rearranged its wards, creating a separate ward for the township that had developed to the north-west. The ward was named Hotham, after Sir Charles Hotham, Governor of Victoria (1854-56).

The township was rapidly filled up by residents who were mostly gold rush immigrants. On 30 September 1859, it became the Borough of Hotham by severance from Melbourne city council. The area of the borough was a little over 500 acres (2 sq km).

In 1876 the present town hall at the corner of Queensberry Street was built, two years after Hotham was raised to the status of a town. Soon after becoming a town, Hotham was described in the Victorian municipal directory, 1885:

HOTHAM.-A municipal town suburban to Melbourne, named after Sir Charles Hotham, the Governor of Victoria when it was a ward of the City of Melbourne, and adopted his coat of Arms with the words "Lead on," but added the Royal arms of England when incorporated a borough. It lies about 1 mile from the General Post Office, on the N.W. Cars and omnibuses run regularly every few minutes, fare 3d. There are five branches of banks, seven agencies of insurance offices, seven churches, four State, and three private schools. Hotham has a savings bank, post, money order and telegraph offices, and numerous other large buildings. The leading industries are agricultural implement factories, tanneries, &c. The Melbourne Benevolent Asylum, which would be a credit to any of the older communities at home, is a State institution. Victoria-street divides Hotham from the city of Melbourne, and this asylum stands across, so that it is only partly within the Hotham boundary-the foundation-stone of which was laid in June, 1850, in the presence of 10,000 persons, and it then crowned a naked hill. Two horse tram lines will be constructed shortly. The Coburg railway passes through Hotham. It is the smallest municipality in Victoria, and the most thickly populated, there being about 31 persons to every acre in the town against 22 in Collingwood and two in Brighton. All the footpaths are asphalted, and are in good order. The most important meat market in the colony is in this district. There is very little unoccupied land in the town; the houses are mostly built on high ground, and the drainage is excellent. The swamp at the south-west of Hotham is about 75 acres of Crown land, and the Government are now reclaiming it, which will, when sold, add to the rateable value of land in the locality. The Royal Park reserve lies on the other side of the northern boundary of Hotham. The Town Hall, a magnificent building, with tower and spire 150 feet high, occupies a commanding position. Its original cost was £13,000 but last year the design was further extended by adding along Errol-street to the extent of £6000 additional. There is a mechanics' institute and public library (with over 2000 volumes). The Hotham School of Arts is one of the largest under the Technological Commissioners.

On 26 August 1887, the town was named North Melbourne.

Census populations were:

census date population
1861 7053
1871 13,491
1881 17,839
1891 20,997
1901 18,120

After North Melbourne was amalgamated with Melbourne city council in 1905 it was united with Flemington and Kensington as one ward. In 1939 the council’s wards were reconfigured to accord with an equality of voting (albeit the property based plural voting) and most of North Melbourne was in the Hotham ward. The name ‘Hotham’ was later given to a Housing Commission high rise estate (1961-63) at Canning and Melrose Streets.