The history of the area has been documented in the book “Cockburn – The making of a community”, written by Michael Berson and published in 1978 by the then, Town of Cockburn.
First Pioneers :
European pioneers quickly became aware of the significance of Bibra Lake during the earliest years of the Swan River Colony. Both George Robb and Benedict Von Bibra were early pioneers of this area, taking up land awards of 2,000 sections in 1830 and 320 sections bordering the lake in 1843 respectively.
It was Benedict Von Bibra (a carpenter from whom the suburb & the lake are now named) in 1843, who assessed from the stringyback trees, that the basin would become a lake in winter of a depth of seven to eight feet. As we know, he was quite accurate with his assessment. Von Bibra, recorded the name of the lake as Walliabup which was used on early maps for nearly 50 years.
Other early pioneers :
Annois, Aubin, Bassett, Bondini, Bracewell, Bray, Brown, Currie, Cook, Dixon, Fortini, Gadd, Gwilliam, Hankinson, Hatch, Ingvarson, Lucken, Marchant, Meller, Pearce, Robb, Stone, Tapper, Tetlow and Von Bibra are some pioneering family names associated with the Bibra Lake area, many of which are reflected in todays street names in the area.
Between 1850 & 1870 development and settlement continued with smaller 10-40 acres lots being the normal size to the East of the lake.
Joseph Meller took up 100 sections of land of area amid 1887 and secured business arrangements and vineyards. The first mud block home he based on Hope Road remains and has been changed over to a family home. Joseph Meller alongside different pioneers spearheaded dairying in the region.
In 1849, Samuel Caphorn took up an area of land, north of Hope Road, which he later sold in 1855 to James Baker. From 1855 to 1859, a number of additional small holdings east of Bibra Lake were acquired by the White and Tourner families and James Baker sold 11 acres of his block to George Cooper in 1859. Cooper built a four room house of white stone to the north east of the Planning Area (west of Baker Road), which was demolished in 1961.
In 1895, Mary Ann Tapper, with her son Daniel, purchased what had originally been Von Bibra’s land, built two houses and cleared 20 acres for market gardens and an orchard, and later started a dairy. Since then, this homestead site became the centre of the local community with a petrol pump, telephone exchange and post office. The Tappers leased part of the land to the Currie brothers who also bought land south of this lease and they also established a dairy enterprise. Around this time, a large community of Chinese market gardeners also established in the vicinity of Bibra Lake, leasing land from the owners of the day.
In 1899, George Robb’s original land awards was subdivided into 42 lots. The land between North Lake and Bibra Lake was purchased by John and Robert Dixon. The Dixons established a market gardening enterprise and sold firewood sourced from the upland areas.
Development of Bibra Lake:
Spurred on by the gold rush, extensive land division happened by 1890. During this period plantations of wheat, oats & maize crops were common with a variety of other farming sources such as dairy, vineyards, horse and cattle grazing developing alongside. Particularly, Chinese market gardeners were very successful through land leasing until they were forced to return home. The nature of wetland behaviour of changing water levels resulted in higher areas being developed with wheat and oats and lower lying areas with maize and vegetables once water levels dropped back each season.
It was during this period that Bibra Lake also became popular to visitors for picnics and sporting activities and soon tearooms were established on the western shore of the lake. It was during this period that the Fremantle District Roads Board declared the Western side of the lake a reserve for recreational use in 1902 and land leasing was effectively ceased. At the time Chinese were not allowed to buy land in WA resulting in most moving away or returning home.
After the First World War dairy farms were the main activity in the region until motorised transport allowed farming to move to further afield areas where soils were much richer and offered better opportunities. The resulted in financial depression during the 1930’s with Bibra Lake being less attractive due to its poorer soils, distance from the main market areas, lack of power and transport links also.
In 1940 suburban advancement started to infringe into the region, the land was finally fully acquired for residential development. Even at this point of history, the lake was referred to as Lake Walliabup but the connection with von Bibra was frequently recalled locally by referring to it as Bibra’s Lake. The name Bibra Lake was fully adopted in 1967 in favour of the original Aboriginal name. In 1977 the creation of 1350 lots saw the beginning of the 2300 homes & 6,500 individuals who now live in the area.