The area now known as Atwell was once part of the dairy property owned and operated for many years by Ernest Atwell. Originally it was purchased in the 1920's to spell horses he used in his livery stable business, which was conducted in Fremantle.
Whilst the family, his wife Violet and son Russell (the writer's husband), lived in South Fremantle, they travelled out to the farm most weekends. Using a road made of planks to drive their vehicles, which was horse drawn in the earlier part of the venture. The family moved out there to develop the farm in about 1930 to raise pigs, not a particularly viable business and eventually a dairy which became one the largest producers of milk in the metropolitan area during WWII. At one stage they were milking over 100 cows twice a day by hand until installing a milk machine.
The milk truck picked up from the front gate on Lyon Rd everyday and delivered to the depot. As most people didn't have a car, (most walking or riding a bike from Fremantle), the truck also brought out people who required a lift and also acted as a delivery truck, picking up parcels or goods for the locals.
The family built a house on top of the rise on Lot 211 (Harvest Lakes) followed by various farm buildings and a workers stay cottage and a large milking shed. The house was surrounded by a very beautiful garden, cared for by Violet. Violet was an extremely hard worker, cooking for the many transient dairy workers and working all aspects of the farm.
The land being sandy soil needed building up to make it more productive so Maize was grown in the low-lying area (now the main Harvest Lakes water feature). It fed the cattle and improved their milk production. The site of the lake was once a natural swamp and Russell grew Maize there as the water receded. The Maize reached height of 6 ft, proving the peat soil was very rich and suitable for growing a crop.
To give the dairy cows more grazing, after morning milking they would be let out to wander at will. Sometimes to Thompson's Lake, then on occasions as far as Coogee. On horseback, Russell would get the cows back for afternoon milking, which sometimes took several hours hours and helped by the cow bells which could be heard over long distance.
The Hammond family, who lived on now Hammond Rd, were great friends with the Atwell family. They grew vegetables and their two teenage children would walk to Fremantle to sell their peas at market. They did this until the 1950's.
The area is hard to imagine as a quiet, very sparsely populated place in the days the family first moved there. Many of the very few roads that were there, were only narrow sand tracks and unsuitable to be used unless rain had settled them.
The huge amount of land was slowly sold off but the Dairy was still operating until the late 1950's. The house and workers cottage were eventually demolished, but the old milking shed was still standing up until 10 years ago, when the area was cleared for redevelopment.
By Audrey Atwell