Papers of William Henry Brown (1868-1950)

Scope and Content

The collection is currently being catalogued but includes:

  • Letters
  • Articles by Brown
  • Photographs
  • Working notes
  • Pamphlets and posters

Administrative / Biographical History

William Henry Brown was born in 1868 in East London, the son of an active co-operator. He attended pupil teacher's centres at Toynbee Hall and Oxford House University Settlements. By the age of fourteen he was a pupil teacher with a class of forty boys at an East London School.

Brown (often known simply as W.H.B.) came into close contact with many of the contemporary leaders of the co-operative movement, including Thomas Hughes and Edward Vansittart Neale. He made his first public speech in 1888, through the instigation of another pioneer Lloyd Jones, at the meeting of the old Tower Hamlets Society. In the same year he joined the staff of the South Hampshire Evening Star but by 1889 he had returned to London as the assistant editor of the British Trade Journal.

He was a devotee of the co-operative movement. Working along side Edward Owen Greening in plans for joining co-operators of all nations into a close union, these materialised as the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA). He became associated with the Co-operative News, the weekly newspaper of the co-operative movement, in 1895 and from 1898-1916 he worked as their London correspondent.

Brown also held posts within co-operative Societies. From 1895-1916 he was the secretary of the education committee of the Stratford Co-operative Society. He was also a member of the central board of the Co-operative Union, where he played a leading role in the reformation of the Cambridge Co-operative Society in 1899. In 1916 he joined the Co-operative Wholesale Society (CWS) publicity department in Manchester, known as the Co-operative Press Agency. Brown then edited the journal The Producer until his retirement in 1934.

After his retirement in 1934 he still continued to be involved with the co-operative movement. He was a contributor to many co-operative journals and society history publications from his retirement until his death in 1950. For example, Brown wrote profiles entitled the 'Gallery of Officials' of prominent co-operators every month under the pseudonym Timothy Autolycus for the Co-operative Official and this name is used in some of his letters.

Brown was interested in social welfare in general terms also, being associated with the first garden suburb in Ealing in 1901 and the first co-operative industry at Letchworth Garden City. Indeed one if his early publications (1909) was concerned with this development. He was also interested in social reformers, especially the Christian Socialist Charles Kingsley whose biography he wrote. During the First World War he was a member of the War Emergency Workers' National Committee and in the 1918 general election he unsuccessfully contested the Mossley Division of Lancashire as the first Co-operative Party candidate in the constituency. He was a long serving member of the Manchester branch of the Nation Union of Journalists. His other interests included the Home Reading Union, Women's Industrial Council and the International Arbitration League, of with he was a councillor. Brown was an active member of Cross Street Unitarian Chapel, Mossley and a Rechabite.

He died on 15 December 1950 aged 82.

For a list of Brown's writings and further sources about him see, Dictionary of Labour Biography Volume 1 Ed. Joyce M. Bellamy and John Saville (Macmillan, 1972) p. 56.

Access Information

National Co-operative Archive Co-operative College Holyoake House Hanover Street Manchester M60 0AS

Open materials, can be viewed by previous arrangement, Monday to Friday 10am to 5pm. Contact the Archivist at:


Acquisition Information

The collection was legally deposited with the National Co-operative Archive in October 2006.

Other Finding Aids

This collection has now been fully catalogued to ISAD (G) standard, please contact the Archive for details.

Archivist's Note

Description compiled by Karyn Stuckey, Assistant Archivist at the National Co-operative Archive.

Conditions Governing Use

The majority of items can be reproduced, providing a copyright declaration is completed. For further details please e-mail


None expected.