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.