Sunday, 28 November 2010

Biographies: Joseph King

Joseph King’s role in the Peasant Arts movement was as financier, provider of buildings and promoter of the cause through the Peasant Arts museum and the support of his wife, Maude Egerton King’s, role in the movement.

King was born in Liverpool in 1860, the eldest son of Joseph King and his wife Phoebe (nee Powell).  Phoebe’s younger sister Louisa married George MacDonald, making Greville MacDonald and Joseph King cousins.  His father was a surgeon and his grandfather was a co-founder of the Liverpool Stock Exchange.   The family are described as ‘non-conformist stock’, Joseph went to Trinity College Oxford were he was active in founding the non-conformist union that aimed to bring free churchmen together.   After graduating he entered into the Temple with the intention of studying for the Bar.   However he continued his theological studies studying at Geissen University in Germany in the summer of 1885.   For family reasons Joseph returned to the UK and completed his legal training (The Congregationalist March 23rd 1911).  Interestingly both King and Blount had considered becoming non-conformist ministers, but instead had decided upon more orthodox career paths.
Joseph King from Swanton, E, W A Country Museum Haslemere Educational Museum, 1947

In 1881 King was living in Welford House, Hampstead as the head of the household with his sister.  By 1885 King was engaged to Maude Egerton Hine who was also living in Hampstead at the time.  Greville MacDonald first met Maude that year when he sat beside her at a dinner party and discovered that she was engaged to his cousin, Joseph King, who was at the time a young barrister (MacDonald, Reminiscenes of a Specialist, Allen & Unwin, 1932).  In 1887 Joseph and Maude married.  On the 1891 census they were living together at Wedderburn Road, Hampstead.  The Kings moved to Lower Birtley, Witley in 1894.  In 1895 Maude’s brother, William Egerton Hine painted a pencil and watercolour picture ‘A House at Lower Bertly, Witley’ (Christie’s, Watercolours by Henry George Hine and other artists of the Hine family, 1988, London) which doubtless was painted whilst visiting the Kings.   The Kings must have then moved to Upper Birtley where they are recorded as living on the census in 1901. 

By 1892 King was drawn into politics, unsuccessfully standing as a Liberal candidate for the New Forest constituency.   In 1894, shortly after moving to Haslemere, King served on Surrey County Council, eventually losing his seat six years later.  His Parliamentary career continued unsuccessfully losing two elections in 1904 and 1906 until in 1910 he was finally elected MP for North Somerset in the landslide Liberal victory that year holding the seat until 1918.  In common with his friend, Arthur Ponsonby (1st Baron Ponsonby of Shulbrede), of nearby Shulbrede Priory, King defected to Labour.
Joseph King, from Haslemere Educational Museum

MacDonald described King as “Keenly appreciating genius, though his inclinations embraced rather politics and non conforming orthodoxies, gave her (Maude Egerton King) every opportunity for her hopes in spinning-wheel and loom” (Reminiscences of a Specialist Greville MacDonald p375).  King owned the land on Kings Road that was then called Foundry Meadow, and it was here that the Peasant Arts buildings were erected, with Francis Troup designing them.  Around 1902 Sandhouse was completed, designed by Francis Troup, where the Kings lived until 1922 when they moved to Hill Farm, Camelsdale until Maude’s death in 1927.

King donated Foundry Meadow to the Peasant Art Guild in 1914.  This was the land where the weaving houses and workshops were. 
Peasant Arts Museum room at Haslemere Museum c.1927 from The Lost Arts of Europe, Haslemere Educational Museum, 2000

It also housed the Peasant Arts museum from 1912.  On several afternoons Joseph took groups of children in the Peasant Art Galleries, in order to stimulate their interest in folk history and the appreciation of art and handicraft.  During the development of the Haslemere Educational Museum Joseph King spoke to the Museum committee on the peasant arts collections and supervised the move from the King’s road site to the museum in 1926.  The Guild offered the collection to the Museum committee as a free gift together with a building fund of £500 which King matched using his own private funds.  The Guild furnished, fitted and decorated two rooms to house the collection and King authored a handbook describing the collection.  He was appointed Honorary Curator of the collection until his death in 1943 (Swanton, E, W. 1947 A Country Museum Ch. 10 Educational Museum Haslemere, Haslemere).
Arnold Dolmetsch in 1916

In 1928 King re-married, a year after Maude’s death, Helena Gertrude Martins and went to live in Brownholme, Tilford.   Helena appears to have been musical, being the Honorary Secretary and Treasurer of the The Dolmetsch Foundation.  The Musical Times in May 1951 advertizes a Dolmetsch early music concert and reception, where tickets are ‘obtainable only from Mrs Joseph King, Brownholm, Tilford’.  The Dolmetsch link here is interesting seeing as according to Trotter King's "greatest contribution may well have been his influence in persuading Arnold Dolmetsch to settle in the Grayswood Road in 1917, and introduce the community to the delights of early music" (Trotter, The Hilltop Writers, The Book Guild, 2003).


  1. An excellent addition to the Peasant Arts- well researched and presented.

  2. Thank you! Bizarrely, despite being a MP, there is not much information available about Joseph King.


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