JOSEPH KING (1860 – 1943)
"Well known for his work in connection with education and the revival of handicrafts and peasant arts …there are few men who have had a busier or more interesting and varied life than Mr King".
Joseph King was born in Liverpool into a family described as "non-conformist stock"; his father was a surgeon and his grandfather was a co-founder of the Liverpool Stock Exchange. He studied at Trinity College, Oxford, and after graduating he entered the Temple with the intention of studying for the Bar. In 1887, Joseph married Maude Egerton Hine and they lived together in Hampstead before moving to Haslemere in 1894.
King a Founder of the Haslemere Industries
The couple set up the Wheel and Spindle Guild in Haslemere in 1894, having been inspired by a visit to Scandinavia where handlooms were still being used in most households and where there was a thriving handmade industry. Maude first learned to spin and weave herself in order to teach these skills to country girls as an alternative career to shop work or domestic service. In 1897, The Wheel and Spindle Guild became the Haslemere Weaving Industry housed at Foundry Meadow (known today as Kings Road), Haslemere.
King the Financier
Joseph King owned much of the land around Foundry Meadow and in 1914 kindly donated it, including the weaving houses and Peasant Handicraft Museum, to the Peasant Arts Guild.
King the Writer
Joseph was an accomplished writer and wrote several pamphlets on political affairs in Russia and Germany, education and artistic subjects. In addition to writing many magazine articles, he acted as the London correspondent of an American Journal. Joseph also wrote a guidebook for the Peasant Handicraft Museum describing its collections.
King the Politician
Joseph stood unsuccessfully as a Liberal candidate for the New Forest constituency in 1892 and went on to lose two further elections in 1904 and 1906. However, in 1910 he was finally elected as MP for North Somerset and held this seat until 1918. He was very active in Parliament, especially with regard to the changes being made to education. He once asked a question in Parliament relating to the massacre of song larks for food to which a fellow MP is said to have replied:
"To Joseph King, the larks that sing, are best in pudding smoking. He says they're good, for the poor man's food, but he is only Joe-King!"
King and the Peasant Handicraft Museum
Joseph King was the first curator of the Peasant Handicraft Museum when it opened it doors in 1910. It was initially housed above the shop at No.1, The Pavement, Haslemere. He continued to be the curator when the museum was moved to Foundry Meadow and subsequently oversaw its move to the Haslemere Educational Museum. He was appointed an Honorary Curator of the museum until his death in 1943.