For much of its history Coolbellup was closely linked to North Lake. The word Coolbellup was recorded in 1842 as the Aboriginal name of a lake in the area, but afterwards the name North Lake prevailed, both for the area and the nearby lake.
Traditionally, North Lake and its surrounds were places of great cultural importance for the local Nyungar aboriginal groups, where they set up large campsites, gathered bush food and medicine and held important ceremonies with large family groups.
In 1849, during the early years of colonial settlement, the area was leased to a Mr Samuel Caphorn, the son of a farmer, who arrived from England with his wife and nine children. The area was considered excellent for farming, and was used in large part as dairy farmland and market garden plots.
‘The North Lake’, as it was often called, enjoyed a ‘wild west’ type of infamy in the latter half of the 19th century, when its thick bushland was used on more than one occasion as a hideout for convicts escaping from Fremantle Prison, and once for Thomas Hughes, a high-profile murderer on the run. Another account tells of a group of colonial convicts breaking into a North Lake house and forcing the occupants to swap clothes with them for disguise.
In the early 20th century, the lake areas were designated native game reserves, and local men on holiday were warned against shooting there. In the 1950s, the area was set aside for state housing in the post-war population boom, and in 1957 the locality of Coolbellup was formally named as a suburb, separating it from North Lake
Leah’s article originally appeared in the April 2013 edition of Cockburn Soundings