The shape of things that might have been – The Retreat, York, England

While brain-damaging and torturing people doesn't work , being nice to them does (who'd have thought it?)


In the late 18th and early 19th centuries an English Quaker named Henry Tuke founded an institution known as The Retreat that pioneered what was – and still is – a revolutionary new paradigm for helping the so-called mentally ill. I have featured a brief account of it here.

It came at a time when the fraud known as psychiatry, purporting expertise it did not and does not have, was “treating” people with various forms of torture. And it wasn’t getting results.

The Retreat, on the other hand, was actually getting quite remarkable results, essentially by being nice to people and not torturing them (who’d have thought it, eh?).

Since then, psychiatry has “evolved” into adopting the trappings of medicine as opposed to the Spanish Inquisition and has replaced the whips and head-beating machines of yesteryear with new approaches such as cutting out bits of the brain using an ice pick inserted through the eye socket, burning away bits of the brain using electricity and damaging the brain and nervous system using chemicals. (What have psychiatrists got against the brain?) Not surprisingly, it is still not getting results – unless you count hoovering up oodles of dosh for the benefit of itself and the pharmaceutical industry.

It is unfortunate that the Tuke model that was pioneered in York did not catch on and psychiatry did. By that I mean psychiatry had the good fortune to be adopted by the globalists as their control cult because they were more interested in stigmatising, doping and incapacitating people, controlling them and rendering them tractable than actually improving their lives. So psychiatry came in quite handy – and of course it was also good at providing a market for the globalists’ pharmaceutical arm. Psychiatry consequently got the funding and support from banksters like the Rockefellers and the bankster proxies infiltrated into government. The Quaker project, of course, didn’t.

So, elaborately funded and protected by the criminal elements lurking like high-flying vampires in society’s upper echelons, psychiatry grew strong and essentially took over the field of mental health, despite being based on a fiction, not actually curing anybody and, in fact, making far worse every area it touched and presiding over an ever-worsening epidemic of mental illness (bit of a clue, that, as to just how rubbish psychiatrists actually are).

The Retreat survived and is still going to this day but its humane approach, cost-effectiveness and far better results were of no interest to the somewhat unhinged powers-that-be and so its model was not replicated.

It’s a pity because if things had worked out differently – the Quaker model catching on and psychiatry being left to fend for itself and sink or swim according to (gasp!) RESULTS – we might not now be suffering epidemics of crime, drug abuse, suicide, depression and violence.

Bit of a missed opportunity that. Still, it’s never too late to get things on the right track – as opposed to off the rails and away with the fairies.

So here’s an account of The Retreat, York, England. – Steve

The Retreat, York, England

The Retreat was founded in 1792 by William Tuke, a Yorkshire Quaker, and opened in 1796. It has the distinction of having been the first establishment in England where mental illness was regarded as something from which a person could recover, and patients were treated with sympathy, respect and dignity.

The Retreat had a profound influence on public opinion, resulting ultimately in fundamental reform of the laws relating to mental illness and its treatment.

It occupies a central place in the history of psychiatry. Every textbook on the subject mentions the unique part played by it in the reshaping of attitudes to people who are mentally ill.

The Retreat opened in 1796 in the countryside outside York. Unlike mental institutions of the time, there were no chains or manacles, and physical punishment was banned. Treatment was based on personalised attention and benevolence, restoring the self-esteem and self-control of residents. An early example of occupational therapy was introduced, including walks and farm labouring in pleasant and quiet surroundings. There was a social environment where residents were seen as part of a large family-like unit, built on kindness, moderation, order and trust. There was a religious dimension, including prayer. Inmates were accepted as potentially rational beings, who could recover proper social conduct through self-restraint and moral strength. They were permitted to wear their own clothing, and encouraged to engage in handicrafts, to write, and to read books. They were allowed to wander freely around The Retreat’s courtyards and gardens, which were stocked with various small domestic animals.

There was some minimised use of restraint. Door locks were encased in leather, the bars on windows made to look like window frames, and the extensive gardens included a sunken wall that was impassable yet barely visible. Straitjackets were sometimes used, at least initially, as a last resort.

The approach of The Retreat was widely derided at first. William Tuke noted that “All men seem to desert me.” However, it became a model around the world for more humane and psychologically-based approaches. The work was taken on by other Quakers, including Tuke’s son, Henry Tuke who co-founded the Retreat, and Samuel Tuke who helped popularise the approach and convince physicians to adopt it in his 1813 book Description of the Retreat near York. In doing so, Samuel Tuke popularized his use of the term ‘moral treatment’. The term came to refer to a number of moves towards more humane approaches that occurred toward the end of the 18th century in the context of Enlightenment thinking. Ideas of ‘moral’ management were incorporated, and used for various therapeutic and custodial purposes, in asylums and therapeutic communities around the world.

In 1847 the first formal ‘medical’ superintendent was appointed. Moral therapy was gradually replaced by medication, special diets and hydrotherapy. The size of the institution grew and the formerly close-knit community ethos was left behind. In addition, both Quaker influence and the number of Quaker patients decreased through the century. After the initial period for which it is best known, therefore, there were marked changes in management, therapy and client groups.

Much of this early vision of a humane treatment for mental illness was lost as the 19th century progressed and the mentally ill were housed in increasingly large and impersonal asylums. Although the first half of the 20th century saw some attempts to humanize these institutions, it was not until the 1950s that the zeitgeist for the mentally ill began to change. Factors which can be seen to have contributed to this included the founding of the English National Health Service, the emergence of sociological studies of the toxic nature of large institutions, and the (re)discovery of a humane and egalitarian model of care in the shape of the  therapeutic community experiments during and following the second world war.

Although you do not have to have any connection to the Quakers to work at or receive healthcare from The Retreat, there are still a number of employees who have a Quaker religious background and The Retreat has a Quaker ‘Resident Friend’.

The Retreat remains a Quaker ministry. All Governors are Friends. The burial ground of the York Friends Meeting is on the grounds of The Retreat.

The above article is from Quakers in the World. Visit Quakers in the World for more great articles.


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About Steve Cook 2280 Articles
Director, UK Reloaded

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