Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Charles Bernard Cockett (1888–1965)

by Geoffrey Barnes

This article was published:

Charles Bernard Cockett (1888-1965), Congregational minister, was born on 24 February 1888 at Marrickville, Sydney, son of Frank Cockett, a draper from England, and his Scottish-born wife Rebecca, née Bowles, both of whom were members of the Rockdale Congregational Church. After attending Bexley Public and Fort Street Model schools, Bernard worked as a clerk with the Australian Gas Light Co. In 1910 he enrolled at the University of Sydney (B.A., 1913; M.A., 1915); he was Lithgow scholar in logic and mental philosophy, and won the Carslaw prize for astronomy and the (Sir) Francis Anderson prize for philosophy. A fine athlete, in 1913 Cockett held the State title for the one-mile (1.6 km) walk. He studied theology at Camden College, Sydney, under Rev. Dr G. W. Thatcher.

On 23 March 1915 Cockett married Florence Champion at the Congregational Church, Camberwell, Melbourne. Ordained seven days later, he served his first pastorate at Rockhampton, Queensland (1915-17), and was successively minister of the Wyclif Church, Surrey Hills, Melbourne (1917-20), and of the Memorial Church, Hobart (1920-25). His 1917 Livingstone lectures, 'Sex and Religion', raised some eyebrows in Congregational circles, as did his publication, Sex and Marriage (Sydney, 1920). He attended the International Congregational Council's meeting at Boston, United States of America, in 1920 and the Universal Christian Conference on Life and Work held in Stockholm in 1925.

As minister (1925-31) of Bunyan Meeting House, Bedford, England, Cockett developed an abiding interest in John Bunyan, on whom he published a monograph (London, 1928), and about whom he subsequently delivered many sermons and lectures. From 1931 he served at the Vine Memorial Church, Ilford, London, before returning to Sydney in 1939 to become minister at Pitt Street Church, the traditional seat of Congregationalism in New South Wales. He was active in religious and civic affairs, and in ministering to armed services' personnel. Foundation president (1941-46) of the Australian Council of Churches, honorary secretary (1946) of the Australian section of the World Council of Churches, and president (1941-46) of the Congregational Union of Australia and New Zealand, he was awarded an honorary doctorate of divinity in 1943 by the Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley, California, U.S.A.

In November 1946 Cockett embarked for England where he lectured for the Colonial Missionary Society and in 1948-51 served at the Chapel-in-the-Fields, Norwich. Following Florence's death, he returned again to Australia and became secretary to the Congregational Union of Western Australia, an office he was to hold until 1954. On 29 September 1952 he married Grace Edna Beal at Dalkeith, Perth. His last pastorate (1955-59) was at Haslemere, Surrey, England. Retiring to Australia, he died on 24 November 1965 in East Melbourne and was cremated. His wife survived him, as did the son and daughter of his first marriage.

C. Bernard Cockett, as he was formally known, was noted for the ebullient enthusiasm that characterized his varied activities. He had been acquainted with notable Church leaders in Britain and North America, and gave significant leadership to the ecumenical movement in Australia. As a preacher, he stressed the Gospel's relevance to contemporary social and theological issues.

Select Bibliography

  • J. A. Garrett and L. W. Farr, Camden College, a Centenary History (Syd, 1964)
  • Congregationalist (Sydney), Jan 1966, p 8
  • Congregational Union of New South Wales, Year Book, 1967, p 19
  • C. B. Cockett, The Wheel of Life (autobiography, manuscript, 1965, La Trobe University Library).

Citation details

Geoffrey Barnes, 'Cockett, Charles Bernard (1888–1965)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 24 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (Melbourne University Press), 1993

View the front pages for Volume 13

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


24 February, 1888
Marrickville, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


24 November, 1965 (aged 77)
East Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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