William Cook was born in St. Neots, Huntingdon, England in 1849. He developed an interest in poultry while spending time on a neighbor’s farm. The year was 1863 and he was age fourteen. He was working as a Coachman in Chislehurst, Kent, and little did he know that he would soon become the founding father of Orpington Poultry.
Later in life, around 1886, he and his wife, Jane, were known to be breeding chickens at Tower House, Orpington, Kent. It was at this time in 1886 that William developed the first Orpington. It was black in color and came in two varieties, single comb and rose comb. He entered these Black Orpingtons in area shows with favorable results.
William Cook was, in fact, so successful that he published The Poultry Journal, sold a poultry keepers account book, studied poultry diseases, sold medicines, poultry food, fattening powder, and traveled the countryside presenting lectures.
By 1888, the Orpington was given it’s own classification. Sometime, between the years of 1887 and 1894, he introduced the White Orpington and also the Buff Orpington. Records show that the Buff Orpington was first exhibited at the 1894 Dairy Show.
In 1890, the family, which consisted of, William, Jane, three sons and two daughters, moved to Walden’s Manor which they later renamed Orpington House. His business, named, William Cook and Sons, grew and he opened a London Office at Queens Yard 105 Borough London, SE. His oldest child, Elizabeth Jane, was operating the farm at this time. Her brothers and sister also worked on the farm and Elizabeth Jane became very talented in poultry farming. It is understood that Orpington House, at some time later, became the presbytery of Holy Innocents R C Church in Sevenoaks Road.
The Jubilee Orpington was introduced in 1897. Its name was derived from the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria.
In 1902, reports show William Cook was awarded the Poultry Club Medal. By this time, he had poultry farms in South Africa and the United States.
The family was gripped in sadness during 1903. William’s wife Jane died in a gas explosion while visiting their son William Henry.
William Cook was very ill upon return from a visit to America in 1904. One day after his return, he died from Emphysema, and was buried beside his wife at Star Lane Cemetery, St. Mary Cray. William Cook’s daughter, Elizabeth Jane, having bought out her brothers and sister, continued to operate the family business, William Cook and Sons. She continued her father’s work and in 1907, released the Cuckoo Orpington and the Blue Orpington. In 1911, she introduced the Red Orpington.
William Cook’s son, William Henry, moved to Tubbenden Lane in 1911 and operated a business called W. H. Cook, LTD. He operated this business until he retired in 1947. The business enjoyed moderate success during its existence, as records show William Henry traveled extensively, and sold poultry all over the world.
Elizabeth Jane married R. Wakeman Clarke and continued to export poultry all over the world. Her business made use of the new airlines. She was successful until her death in 1933 when she was knocked down and killed in Bromley High Street.
By Sharon of Orpington House Farms located outside Marion, Illinois. USA.