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Samuel Winter Cooke (1847–1929)

by Weston Bate

This article was published:

Samuel Winter Cooke (1847-1929), by Swiss Studios, c1901

Samuel Winter Cooke (1847-1929), by Swiss Studios, c1901

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an23646118

Samuel Winter Cooke (1847-1929), grazier and politician, was born on 13 March 1847, son of Cecil Pybus Cooke, and his wife Arbella, née Winter; he was baptized at St Peter's Church of England, Melbourne, on 10 April. Both his parents were of Anglo-Irish gentry descent. Because his mother abhorred colonial schools Samuel went to England in 1854 to Mr Shapcott's school and then to Cheltenham College, where he was football captain in 1865. He took a B.A. at Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1870, studied at Lincoln's Inn, and was called to the Bar in 1872. He was admitted to the Victorian Bar in 1873 after his return to the colony, but only practised briefly.

In 1878, his uncle, Samuel Pratt Winter, who died shortly afterwards, chose him from among his less talented brothers to inherit Murndal, a property of 10,000 acres (4047 ha) near Hamilton. There Samuel Winter Cooke bred Corriedales, Herefords and blood horses. He became a renowned host and generous employer, revered in the district. Samuel combined an aristocratic sense of duty and dignity with a democratic open-mindedness which he recognized and valued as Australian. A fervent Imperialist and frequent traveller overseas, he was yet bound strongly to Murndal and to Hamilton, where he presided at various times over the Pastoral and Agricultural Society, Race Club and Hunt. To accommodate numerous guests, many of whom were vice-regal, he enlarged and altered the homestead but retained its pioneer rooms and rambling charm. He was president of the Melbourne Club in 1896.

Cooke was a Portland Shire councillor in 1879-85 and president in 1882-84. He sat in the Victorian Legislative Council from 1888 to 1901 as member for Western Province. Minister without portfolio in 1893-94, he acted briefly then as minister of defence and minister of education; he was a member of the royal commission on the Mildura settlement in 1896, and of the commission on law reform in 1897. Member of the House of Representatives for Wannon in the first Federal parliament in 1901, he resigned to go overseas in 1903, then stood again in 1910 and was defeated, having put aside his strong free trade principles in favour of Alfred Deakin's fusion. In Federal parliament he stressed the importance of the Empire, free trade and White Australia, and opposed votes for women. In supporting soldier settlement he made his own land available on easy terms. He was a sincere Anglican.

On 6 January 1883 at All Saints, St Kilda, he married Alice Margaret Werge Chambers. She died in 1903 and on 6 July 1910 at Tahara he married her cousin Margaret, aged 29, daughter of John Hawdon of County Durham. Both marriages were childless. When he died in London on 26 June 1929 about half the estate, valued for probate at £100,141, passed to a nephew William Lempriere Cooke. A portrait by E. Phillips Fox hangs at Murndal.

Select Bibliography

  • Australian Council of National Trusts, Historic Homesteads of Australia, vol 1 (Syd, 1969)
  • Pastoral Review, 15 Nov 1905
  • Argus (Melbourne), 28 June 1929
  • Hamilton Spectator, 29 June 1929
  • Winter Cooke papers (State Library of Victoria).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Weston Bate, 'Cooke, Samuel Winter (1847–1929)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 21 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (Melbourne University Press), 1981

View the front pages for Volume 8

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Samuel Winter Cooke (1847-1929), by Swiss Studios, c1901

Samuel Winter Cooke (1847-1929), by Swiss Studios, c1901

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an23646118

Life Summary [details]


13 March, 1847


26 June, 1929 (aged 82)
London, Middlesex, England

Cultural Heritage

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