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Dr Willam King

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The Co-operator

Dr William King

In the 1820s Brighton was a growing resort town for the wealthy, but it was also home to many poor people. In May 1828 Dr William King (1786 - 1865), a Brighton doctor, started the publication of a small monthly magazine, The Co-operator, which ran until August 1830, by which time about 300 co-operative societies had been formed around the country.

The 28 issues of the magazine contained about 200,000 words in total. It was only 4 pages in length and sold for 1d. but it sold all around the country. At its height it is thought to have had a circulation of 12,000. Under the magazine's title ran the words: "Knowledge and Union are Power: Power, directed by Knowledge is happiness: Happiness is the end of Creation".

It was through the work of King that Brighton became a centre and early pioneer of the co-operative movement, which achieved more stable foundations when in 1844 the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers published their book of Laws and Objects, a model set of rules adopted by co-operative societies throughout the world.

King was born in Ipswich, the son of the Rev John King, Master of Ipswich Grammar School. He trained as a doctor, married one of the daughters of Dr Hooker, the vicar of Rottingdean, and in 1823 they settled in Brighton.

He was soon involved in charitable work and social reform. Brighton was seen as a profitable location for the medical profession because of the many wealthy people who came to the town for health reasons, but King became known as "the poor man's doctor" because he treated poor patients at no charge or at whatever they could afford. In 1837 he opened the Brighton Self-Supporting Dispensary for which he acted as physician. King's medical help to the poor was recognised in 1842 when he was appointed consulting physician at the (Royal) Sussex County Hospital for "the sick and lame poor of every country and nation".

He was also a strong advocate of education for the working class, and supported the founding in 1825 of a Mechanic's Institute, known as the Brighton Institute, based at 31 West Street. King was a member of its management committee, two thirds of which were workers from the town's various trades. He was also a frequent lecturer at the Institute.

 

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