Mr Wilbraham Villiers Cooper, OBE, died yesterday at his home in London at the age of 79. Born in 1876, he received his early schooling at Cheam and then went on to Eton, where he was a King's Scholar. He went up to King's College, Cambridge, in 1895 and took the Classical Tripos in 1898. Though he was called to the Bar by the Inner Temple in 1903, he did not take up practice, preferring to seek a career as a journalist.
Cottages for £150
In 1905 Mr. St. Loc Strachey suggested in a letter to the Country Gentleman that the drift from country to town might be lessened if well-built, cheap cottages could be provided at a cost of not more than £150 each. An influential committee was formed to organise an exhibition and Mr Cooper was appointed organising secretary, in which post he showed such enthusiasm and ability that a large number of architects, builders engineers, furniture makers and designers took up the idea. A site, or rather two sites, were found at Letchworth, which had already attracted much attention as the pioneer garden city, and during the summer of 1905 a large number of people attended the exhibition which was opened in July by the Duke of Devonshire.
In the course of a long and friendly notice the Special Correspondent of The Times made the criticism that though there was much ingenuity shown in design and in the use of unconventional methods and materials (one cottage was built on a steel frame) the cottages as a whole seemed rather weekend refuges for town-dwellers than permanent dwellings for countrymen. Time showed the validity of the criticism for the exhibition had a far greater influence on the garden city movement than on rural housing.
Thenceforward until the outbreak of war in 1914 Mr Cooper, who was a Unionist but opposed to the tariff policy of his party, was engaged in local affairs in Surrey and in general journalism.
During the war he was attached to the Foreign Office and, being on the staff of the Control Commission in Germany after the Armistice, went to Upper Silesia in 1921 with the Inter-Allied Commission to supervise the plebiscite which determined the frontier in that area of the renascent Poland.
He had been a contributor to the Guardian for some years before in 1936 he succeeded the late JB Atkins as editor, and he held the post until 1939. During the 1939-45 War he was diplomatic adviser to the Press Censorship. His interests in classical literature found permanent expression in a translation of Boethius under the title 'The Consolation of Philosophy' and he also published a history of the village of Cuckfield, in Sussex.
He married in 1902 the Hon. Rose Ellen Goodhart, daughter of the first and last Lord Rendel. She died in 1927.
Wilbraham's father was Cuckfield vicar Canon Cooper
The Times, 3 May 1955
NOTE: Wilbraham edited his father's learned articles about Cuckfield, originally written for the Sussex Archaeological Society, and created the authorative, 'A History of the Parish of Cuckfield' published in 1912. This publication is still in great demand and fetches premium prices.
Contributed by Malcolm Davison.