Col Sir David Cooke, 12th baronet in Doncaster dynasty

Four generations of Doncaster's Cooke dynasty: Sir David Cooke, with his daughter Louise and granddaughter Rachel beneath a portrait of Sir Bryan Cooke in Doncaster's Mansion House. Sir Bryan was mayor of Doncaster in the 1800s and his body is laid to rest  in the Cooke crypt in All Saints Church, Arksey.
Four generations of Doncaster's Cooke dynasty: Sir David Cooke, with his daughter Louise and granddaughter Rachel beneath a portrait of Sir Bryan Cooke in Doncaster's Mansion House. Sir Bryan was mayor of Doncaster in the 1800s and his body is laid to rest in the Cooke crypt in All Saints Church, Arksey.
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Colonel Sir David Cooke, who has died at 82, was the 12th baronet in a dynasty that could trace its roots in Doncaster as far back as the 12th Century. The eighth baronet, Sir William Bryan Cooke, had been mayor of the town in 1836.

The family was noted as philanthropists as well as landowners, and evidence of its benevolence can still be seen in the village of Arksey, where the almshouses they built, originally for ageing spinsters, still stand.

The baronetcy had been created in 1661 for George Cooke, in recognition of his father’s loyalty during the civil war, and the title passed down through the oldest male descendants.

The ancestral seat was Doncaster’s Wheatley Hall, acquired in 1658 for £3,000 from Viscountess Carlingford. Built on a floodplain close to the River Don, it was among the most impressive structures in the area, four storeys high and surrounded by fine oak trees.

It was vacated by the Cookes during the First World War and leased do Wheatley Golf Club, but by the 1930s, it was decaying too fast for them to maintain. It was demolished in 1938 and the land sold to the council, who used it to house the factories of ICI, Rockware Glass and International Harvesters. Those, too, have gone now, though the ancestral name lives on in Wheatley Hall Road.

With the house gone, the Cookes moved south, and it was only much later and by luck and coincidence that Sir David renewed the family’s connections with the area.

He had retired to Harrogate, following a distinguished army career which took him to Hong Kong, Germany, Malaysia and Ulster, but also to Ripon, where, his daughter, Katie, recalled, he felt instantly at home.

Born into an army family, the son of the 11th baronet, Sir Charles Arthur John Cook - who had been taken prisoner at Arras in north-eastern France - and Diana Perceval, Sir David had been educated at Wellington College, Berkshire, and then at Sandhurst, and was commissioned in 1955, in the 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards, transferring later to the Royal Army Service Corps.

He retired from the military in 1990, having gained a BA from the Open University during his service, and set up his own health and safety businesses, offering consulting services to factories.

It was around the same time that the locals in Arksey were seeking to revive the 12 almshouses, now largely abandoned, that had stood opposite the church since 1660.

Sir George Cooke, the sixth baronet, had built them for the poorest and oldest people in the parish and endowed them with £120 a year, and they had remained in use throughout the 19th century.

Tony Sockett, a former councillor who is now secretary to the charity that administers them, was unsure if Sir David had known of their significance when in the 1990s local fundraisers discovered that the 12th baronet was alive and well in Harrogate.

“If he didn’t know then, he soon did,” said Mr Sockett, who added that Sir David had brought his considerable influence to bear in helping to secure the funding that would see the cottages transformed into six modern properties. They were declared open by Lady Cooke on St George’s Day in 1999.

Sir David developed a keen interest in his family’s archive in Doncaster - other than that of Brodsworth Hall the most extensive in the district - and remained, Mr Sockett recalled, the most jovial of men.

A resident of Royal Crescent and later at Harlow Terrace in Harrogate, Sir David was later cared for by his daughter in Edinburgh, after succumbing to Alzheimer’s.

Sir David William Perceval Cooke is survived by his three daughters, four grandchildren and one great-grandchild. His wife, Lady Margaret, died in 2013.