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 food and medicine and held important ceremonies with large family groups.
Early European settlement
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 land was considered excellent for farming, and was used in large part as dairy farmland and market garden plots.
There were settlers living around North Lake as early as 1852, when three convicts escaped from custody in Fremantle and broke into a hut on the lake’s shore, forcing the inhabitants to swap clothes with them before stealing their guns.
Throughout the 1860s and 70s the most common use of the land around North Lake was for grazing horses and cows, with men like George Cooper, Charles Annois, and Joseph Baker all holding land and grazing stock in the area.
Few people actually lived on the site, however, and “the North Lake”, as it was often called, enjoyed a Wild West type of infamy. Its thick bushland was attractive cover for men running from the law, and 1872 saw another group of thieves hide out in the bush around the lake after stealing a safe and valuables from a wealthy Fremantle man. They were tracked by Aboriginal trackers
and caught as they camped off the road.
In 1887, notorious murderer Thomas Hughes escaped police for many days by hiding out in the bush between North and Bibra Lakes.
Environmental and post-war uses
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 largely subsumed for state housing in the post-war population boom, and North Lake was officially gazetted and named as a suburb in 1954.