Atwell was originally part of the Jandakot Agricultural Area
, and was named after Ernest Atwell, who had owned a block in the area.
The Atwells were a large and prosperous Fremantle family. Patriarch Henry Atwell had made his money as a firewood supplier to merchants and the government in the 1870s. He had connections with the pearling industry in Broome, but his lasting legacy was the Atwell Buildings on High Street in Fremantle, which are still there today.
Henry married Sarah Pusey in Fremantle in 1872, and over the next twenty years they had 14 children. The Atwells’ links to the Cockburn district would become numerous, and included owning the land on which the Spearwood Agricultural Hall
would be built in the 1920s, and their eldest son, Charles, who was credited with growing the first brown onions at Coogee
Ernest Atwell was the second son, born in 1879, and he took up Jandakot Agricultural Area
lot 209 in the late 1890s, at the age of 18 or 19. The 175-acre block was on the eastern side of Beenyup Road at the corner of Bartram Road. Today’s Kurrajong Park is part of Ernest’s old holding.
Ernest lived with his family in Beaconsfield in the early 1900s, but kept cattle, horses, and prize chickens at his property in Jandakot
. He and his brothers had a reputation in Fremantle as horsemen, opening a large livery stable out of the Atwell Buildings in 1906.
By the 1920s Ernest was involved enough with the life of the Cockburn district to be elected onto the Fremantle Roads Board, precursor to the Cockburn council. He was a Roads Board member for ten years, between 1926 - 1936, and he lived in Jandakot from the 1930s onwards.
Ernest died in 1963, around the time the Cockburn area was waking up to its future suburban potential
. In 1974 the suburb of Atwell (along with neighbouring Success
) was carved out of Banjup
, following the line of the proposed Kwinana Freeway, though neither suburb nor freeway would be developed until the early 1990s.
The housing development Harvest Lakes
was begun in the early 2000s and completed in 2008, becoming a model of modern community building in Cockburn's east.