The name ‘Kou-gee’ was recorded by Thomas Watson, a gentleman landowner turned surveyor who came to Western Australia with Thomas Peel’s settler group in 1829. In 1841 he surveyed a road between Dandalup and Fremantle, a route which passed Lake Coogee. He recorded the name of the lake as Kou-gee or Munster, after Prince William, Earl of Munster.
The name Kougee (also written Koojee, Coojee and eventually Coogee) has been recorded as a local Aboriginal name meaning ‘body of water’, though the origin may have become confused with the Coogee in New South Wales which slightly predates it.
The earliest known use of the name to refer to the area was in 1868, when a man named Wallace Bickley advertised property for sale in the
area ‘well known as “Koojee”’. Bickley was a Justice of the Peace in Fremantle and had taken up large swathes of land in the area to the south and east of Lake Coogee, mostly set aside as pasture for livestock.
Pensioner guards were some of the first European settlers on the shores of Lake Coogee, and consequently in the Cockburn district as a whole. Moving onto their allotments in 1876, they built stone cottages and planted small kitchen gardens to supplement their income as guards of the convicts at Fremantle. Many had wives and young children to support, and most found the distance between Lake Coogee and Fremantle too far to traverse daily, and this first small settlement petered out.
The 1880s saw assisted immigration schemes bring new settlers from Britain and allotting them grants in the Cockburn district. Among the 40 new landholders in Coogee were Walter and Letitia Powell, later to be owners of the Coogee Hotel
. The largest benefit of the settlements in the 1870s and 1880s was the clearing and building of roads to Fremantle: today’s Cockburn Road was cleared in 1876 and known as Koojee Road. By the early 1890s there were enough families in the area to warrant a school built at ‘Stockdale’, a property off Fairbairn Road, which would later become Coogee Primary School, as well as an Agricultural Hall for the market gardeners to display their produce at annual shows.
Coogee Hotel and lime kilns
The Powells’ Coogee Hotel
was opened in 1898 on a site originally known as Four-Mile Well. Around the same time lime merchants were beginning to lease land along the Coogee coastline to quarry and burn lime
for building and agriculture, serving the rapidly growing gold-boom population of Western Australia. For 29 years the Coogee Hotel served lime workers and the local market gardeners at South Coogee
, until it was closed during a push to delicense excess hotels in the state.
The Coogee coastline became important to the meat industry of WA when Robb Jetty
became the primary landing site for Kimberley cattle and sheep in the late 1890s. Several private abattoirs were built beside the jetty and the train line was extended to connect them to Fremantle. This would remain a major industrial presence in Coogee for nearly 100 years.
A small cluster of suburban houses was built around the old Coogee Hotel in the late 1960s, but most of the area remained semi-rural, with some market gardens further away from the limestone ridge near the coast. At least one limestone quarry was still present in the 1980s, but by the mid-1990s almost all of modern-day Coogee was built up into suburban housing. In 2005 the new suburb of North Coogee was approved and carved off the top end of Coogee, beginning a large-scale plan to build up desirable coastal living on old industrial sites.