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History of Munster

History of Munster

Although newly named, the Munster area is one of the oldest in the City of Cockburn’s long history.

For most of the 19th century, the area was known to settlers as South Coogee, and its lake was known as Lake Munster, named for Prince William, the Earl of Munster. This lake area (now Lake Coogee) was good market-gardening land, and many small holdings grew up around its shores.

Long before this, however, Woodman Point played host to one of the first settlements in WA: Thomas Peel’s failed experiment in community-building, Clarence. Peel, his family, and several ships full of settlers landed in Jervoise Bay on New Years’ Eve, 1829, intending to recreate the village life that was fast disappearing in England. Plagued by bad luck, insufficient supplies, and a lack of understanding of the land, the new settlement was abandoned within two years and Woodman Point remained empty for many years to come.

In 1864, the entire Munster area was taken up as a pastoral lease by George Lourey Ellis. Keeping the rough grazing land for sheep and cattle ensured a good return for new settlers, as the colony at Fremantle was always in need of meat, and so vast tracts of Cockburn land were kept largely free of buildings and developments.

Scarlet fever, bubonic plague, smallpox and more!

Woodman Point had long been reserved as a quarantine area to deal with the many diseases that could be brought on incoming ships, but it wasn’t until 1886 that work was finally completed on the set of buildings that would serve the Cockburn Sound area until it was closed in 1979. During those 93 years, the quarantine station dealt with outbreaks of scarlet fever, bubonic plague, smallpox and more, including the tragic Spanish flu epidemic of 1918, where 26 Australian soldiers aboard the troopship Boonah succumbed to the disease just days after the Armistice was signed, and died whilst in quarantine at Woodman Point.

Munster was officially named in 1954, and remains integral to the Cockburn District, housing the wastewater treatment plant and the cement quarry.

Local history questions or anything to add? Please let us know by commenting below.

This article can also be seen on the Cockburn Libraries’ Local History blog and first appeared in the June 2013 edition of Cockburn Soundings

About The Author


Leah works as the Reader Services Librarian at Spearwood Public Library, where she orders the books, and takes requests for anything you can't find in the library! She also researches and writes local history articles for the Cockburn Soundings, and for anyone who has a local history question. Comment below to ask Leah a question.

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