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Charles Cowper (1834–1911)

by Pamela Moore

This article was published:

Charles Cowper (1834-1911), politician and police magistrate, was born on 29 September 1834 in Macquarie Place, Sydney, the eldest son of Sir Charles Cowper and his wife Eliza, née Sutton. Soon afterwards the family moved to Kirkham, Camden, and at 9 Charles was sent to the school of his uncle, William Macquarie Cowper, at Stroud. Later he attended The King's School, Parramatta, for two or three years, and his father planned to article him to James Norton, solicitor, but was advised against it on medical grounds. Instead he was sent at 17 to manage Burrabogie station near Hay for his father. On 11 October 1855 Charles married Mary, daughter of Robert Copland Lethbridge of Penrith.

In 1856 he helped with the organization of his father's faction by managing the campaign for J. W. Chisholm in Argyle. In 1857 Charles was appointed the first honorary secretary of the Goulburn Agricultural and Horticultural Society. In the late 1850s he spent some time on the Kiandra goldfield where he set up a store on New Chum Hill and became a gold-buyer. When the gold commissioner was ousted by the diggers Charles was called upon by them to perform the duties of this office. In November 1860 Cowper stood for the seat of Tumut in the Legislative Assembly and was elected without a poll, all other candidates having retired. He was re-elected in January 1861, and on 29 August his appointment as clerk of the Executive Council was gazetted. He resigned from the assembly next day and in the by-election on 26 September succeeded in retaining the seat of Tumut. The office of clerk of the Executive Council was then made a political one and rescinded by proclamation on his retirement on 19 October 1863. Charles was thus a member of the government without seat in cabinet. On 3 March 1862 he was appointed a member of the Benevolent Asylums Board. Charles resigned his seat of Tumut in October 1863 and successfully opposed Sir James Martin in a by-election at Orange. He stood for Tumut again on 10 December 1864 and was duly elected but his seat was declared vacant on 25 July 1866 because he had been absent for an entire session without leave. He had apparently been ill, and was then in Queensland working on various stations extending from the Warrego to Cooper's Creek.

In 1869 Cowper was offered the police magistracy at Bourke by John Robertson, and accepted on condition that he be transferred to Sydney when a vacancy occurred there. He stayed at Bourke from 1 June 1869 to 22 May 1870, and on 23 May he took up the promised new appointment in Sydney as water police magistrate. He resigned on 11 August 1874 to become sheriff of New South Wales, an office he held until he retired in 1896. His wife had died at Burradoo on 13 November 1894 and in 1898 at Sydney he married Amy Rose Clarissa Bramley. He died at Beulah, Bowral, on 16 November 1911 and was buried in the family vault at St Paul's Church, Cobbitty. He was survived by four sons and by a daughter to whom he bequeathed most of his small estate for devoting her life to mothering his grandchildren.

Select Bibliography

  • R. T. Wyatt, The History of Goulburn, N.S.W. (Goulburn, 1941)
  • P. Loveday and A. W. Martin, Parliament Factions and Parties (Melb, 1966)
  • Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 6 June 1906, 17 Nov 1911
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 17 Nov 1911
  • Henry Parkes letters (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

Pamela Moore, 'Cowper, Charles (1834–1911)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 17 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (Melbourne University Press), 1969

View the front pages for Volume 3

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