Building record MYO1445 - THE RETREAT HOSPITAL

Summary

Mental asylum, now a mental health hospital. Built between 1793 to 1797 to designs by John Bevans of London in consultation with William Tuke for The Society of Friends (Quakers). The construction was supervised by Peter Atkinson of York. Further extensions and alterations during C19 and C20. Modernised 1957 to 1965. Grounds are Registered Grade II*.

Location

Grid reference Centred SE 6156 5081 (321m by 498m)
Map sheet SE65SW
Unitary Authority City of York, North Yorkshire

Map

Type and Period (5)

Full Description

Mental hospital. 1793-97; extended 1800-30; further extensions and alterations in later C19 and C20: modernised c1960. By John Bevans of London for The Society of Friends: supervised by Peter Atkinson Snr.

MATERIALS: orange-cream brick in Flemish bond with brick plinth; stone sills and flat arches of orange brick to all windows; moulded stone cornices to all parts; hipped slate roofs with brick stacks.

EXTERIOR: 3-storey 5-bay centre block between 3-storey 6-bay ranges with 2-storey projecting wings at each end: left wing partly rebuilt, right wing is 6 bays. In central block, central pedimented doorcase of attached Tuscan columns and entablature has 6-panel door beneath radial glazed fanlight recessed in round-arched architrave with moulded imposts. Ground and first floor windows of centre block and flanking ranges are 12-pane sashes; on second floor, unequal 9-pane sashes. In the end wings, some original tall small-pane windows have been altered to doors, some 6-panelled. In centre of ground floor are tripartite windows with stone mullions and 15 over 20 pane centre sashes. Some original small pane sash windows survive; others have been replaced by 12-pane sashes with slender glazing bars or C20 cross-windows with casements.

Left and right returns: 3-storey 3-bay gable ends to central range, partly obscured by alterations and extensions. On first floor, both have tripartite windows with 12-pane centre sashes; in gable ends are tall radial-glazed small-pane windows in round stone arches set in glazed outer arches of brick. Elsewhere, some original small-pane glazed sashes survive, others are 12-pane sashes. Rear wing to left return: 2 storeys with basement; 7 bays, with full height canted bay in the centre. Basement windows are squat 6-pane lights. On ground and first floors, central windows to left and right of canted bay are tripartite, left one on ground floor blocked, on first floor partly blocked. Canted bay has three unequal 15-pane sashes on ground floor. Except from one original 15 over 15 pane window on first floor, all other windows are 12-pane sashes. Gable ends are pedimented with moulded eaves cornice returned from front and have glazed oculi in the tympanum. Right gable has three 12-pane sashes on ground and first floors: left gable obscuredby extensions. Rear wing to right return: 2 storeys with basement; 10 bays. Basement largely obscured by roofing over of area. On ground floor, at left end a bay has been extended to provide a 1-storey sunroom; above is 5-light canted bay window with transomed casements. Otherwise windows are 12-pane sashes, two at right end blocked. Gable ends treated as for corresponding wing with tripartite window surviving on first floor of right end.

INTERIOR: not inspected.

HISTORICAL NOTE: the hospital gained an early reputation throughout Europe for its humane treatment of the insane and Quaker asylums in America were modelled on it. Several original small pane sash windows are framed in cast-iron with cast-iron glazing bars and window bars. They function in such a way that the appearance of a barred window is avoided. (An Inventory of the Historical Monuments of the City of York: RCHME: Outside the City Walls East of the Ouse: HMSO: 1975-: 51).
Listing NGR: SE6158250931

Derived from English Heritage LB download dated: 22/08/2005

History:

The Retreat was established at the end of the C18 by the Society of Friends (Quakers) for fellow Friends. William Tuke, the founding member, was a Quaker tea-merchant and philanthropist. He initiated its construction after becoming concerned about the death in 1791 of a Quaker, Hannah Mills, in the York Lunatic Asylum (now - 2018 - the former Bootham Park Hospital) without access to her relations. York Lunatic Asylum, which opened in 1777, had been established with good intentions, but by the 1790s had a poor reputation with reports of overcrowding, mechanical restraints, poor medical practice and unbearable living conditions. The Quaker belief of an ‘inner light’ (that there was goodness, reason and faith within everyone) influenced the way Tuke thought about the insane. He considered that the inner light of patients could be reached through the representation of these qualities in the surroundings in which the individuals were treated, suggesting ‘a milder and more appropriate system of treatment, than that usually practised, might be adopted’, thus providing a more humane and enlightened environment. The name proposed for the new institution, ‘The Retreat’ was intended to convey the idea of a quiet haven where a refuge or place of safety might be sought.

Tuke with the assistance of his son Henry and his friend Lindley Murray raised money for the purchase of the site, which was acquired in 1793. Subscriptions were called for from Quakers in all parts of England and, in spite of considerable financial difficulties, the building work proceeded in 1794. The architect John Bevans of London, a Quaker, was appointed to design the building, declining any payment for his services. The construction was supervised by the architect Peter Atkinson of York. In correspondence between Tuke and Bevans, Tuke suggested that the building should be peaceful and home-like so as not to appear heavy or prison-like, which would have an adverse effect upon the imagination of those who may have a connection with such places. In keeping with this thinking he referred to the patients as the ‘family’. The site for Tuke’s establishment was elevated with ‘a situation which afforded excellent air and water, as well as a very extensive and diversified prospect’. In addition to being able to see the countryside a direct connection with nature was enabled through the provision of a few acres for keeping cows and growing fruit and vegetables for the family and gardens in which they could work and take exercise. This was a marked contrast to the restrictive and detaining practices usual in contemporary asylums.

Having not designed an asylum before Bevans looked to the works of John Howard and he and Tuke visited George Dance’s St Luke’s Hospital, London built between 1782 and 1787 and then the most up-to-date asylum in the country. The resulting building had the appearance of an austere Palladian villa, with side wings like St Luke’s, built of brick with slate roofs. The windows had small pane sashes framed in cast-iron with cast-iron glazing bars and window bars to give the appearance of ordinary windows without bars. The central three-storey square block with a recessed two-storey west wing opened on 11 May 1796, with the first patient admitted on 13 June 1796. The following year a corresponding east wing was constructed. To the south a small, linear range of cow houses and pig sties was built, which is likely to date from the original construction phase, but was certainly present by May 1828 when it appears on a plan by Watson, Pritchett and Watson. There was also a burial ground to the east against the original west boundary wall.

The resulting design had no grand public rooms comprising suites of professional offices and consulting rooms as found in contemporary hospitals. Instead, the central block was notably domestic with the kitchen placed to the left immediately off the main entrance hall, rather than at the periphery or in the basement, as in St Luke’s. To the right was the housekeeper’s room with a pantry and dairy, while the two corresponding rooms with a south aspect were used as a parlour and the committee room with a central staircase between. With the exception of the committee room, the effect was similar to a farmhouse, the closeness of patients to domestic activity manifesting the Quakers’ belief in hard work and self-discipline as a means to redemption. Wealthier patients were also housed in the central block with other patients accommodated in individual rooms opening off wide spine corridors in the wings. On the south side of the building were four secure airing courts for different classes and genders of patients. These were enclosed by walls which appeared low on the patients’ side whilst much higher (8ft, 2.4m) on the outer side due to the fall of the ground, like a country house ha-ha, so that views of the surrounding countryside were not obscured. The courts were stocked with a number of animals such as rabbits, sea-gulls, hawks and poultry. They were the forerunner to the use of ha-has in asylum landscapes throughout Britain. Beyond were the more extensive grounds where trusted patients might walk or undertake more physical exercise assisting in the running the small farm or growing produce for the asylum,

The Retreat quickly became a success and additional accommodation was soon required. In 1799 an ancillary five-bay wing and airing court was added at the south-east corner for additional male patients with a more violent tendency. In 1803 a corresponding ancillary wing and airing court was added to the south-west corner for female patients. An 1813 plan by Peter Atkinson shows these ancillary wings and also short ranges on the north side of narrow courtyards; to the east were stables, cow houses and pigsties; to the west were a bake house and a brew house. A small, separate bath house structure had also been built to the south of the airing courts connected to the main building by a long passageway. In 1816 to 1817 this was replaced by ‘the Lodge’ for wealthy male patients. At an unknown date between 1813 and 1827 the south-east ancillary wing was extended by three bays and an additional airing court was built.

In the 1820s The Retreat continued to expand with York architects Charles Watson and James Pigott Pritchett designing additional east and west wings to the north corners in place of the small ranges on the north side of the narrow courtyards. These are shown on a ground plan of September 1827 by Watson, Pritchett and Watson. The north-east wing, thought to have been added in 1824, contained the superintendent’s house and a reading room. The north-west wing, drawn up in 1821 and constructed 1826, contained a wash house, a laundry, a brew house and bake house. A hexagonal entrance lodge is shown on the north-east side beside the road and a new coach house and a triangular stable block was built on the south-east side of the airing courts. A linear range containing a carpenter’s shop, gardener’s cottage and cart shed is shown on the south-west side of the Lodge, together with an additional block on the west side of the south-west auxiliary wing.

Between 1837 and 1839 the main east and west wings of the central block were raised from two to three storeys by Watson and Pritchett.

An 1851 plan by J P Pritchett and Son shows that by this date the kitchen had been moved to a dedicated kitchen range in the north-west wing. In the early 1850s it was agreed by the Trustees that it would be more effective to dismantle and rebuild the east and west wings in their entirety, rather than remodel them and an appeal for building funds was launched. The south-east men’s wing was replaced first with a fire-proofed two-storey and basement L-shaped plan built in 1852 to 1854 to designs by J P Pritchett and Sons of York. The south-west women’s wing was replaced with a second similar L-shaped plan built between 1858 and 1860 to designs by J B and W Atkinson of York. As part of this rebuilding, the coach house and stables and the carpenter’s shop, gardener’s cottage and cart shed to the immediate south of the airing courts appear to have been demolished.

In 1855 the existing Quaker burial ground was superseded by a new burial ground laid out in the far south-east corner of the grounds.

During the late 1850s and through the 1860s various alterations to increase accommodation were proposed by William Williamson, a joiner and attendant at the Retreat, but were not generally executed.

Between 1875 and 1877 the Lodge was replaced by a much larger Gentlemen’s New Lodge with a new bath house and a billiard room, designed by Edward Taylor of York. He had also added a ladies’ Recreation Room on the north-west side of the building shown on the 1874 plan. The entrance lodge was enlarged around this time.

Expansion of the hospital led to the purchase of Belle Vue House in 1878 on a site adjacent to the main building, but separated from it by Walmgate Stray. The East Villa was built in 1881 for male patients to designs by Taylor of York. A single-storey ladies’ lodge known as the West Villa was built attached to the south-west corner of the south-west wing, built in 1889 to designs by Taylor. The York architects’ practice of Demaine and Brierley was commissioned to design a nurses’ home in 1897. It was completed in 1899 in place of the ladies’ Recreation Room. They also remodelled interiors of the older structures and designed the new Recreation Hall constructed in 1907 at the north-east corner of the main building on the site of the superintendent’s house, although the reading room bays of the north-east wing remained and became a board room. In 1908 the passageway between The Lodge and the main block was reconstructed.

By 1915 a separate new medical superintendent’s house had been built to the north of Lamel Hill, later subsumed into Lamel Beeches (now in separate ownership). The new boiler house was shown for the first time on elevations drawn in 1923.

In 1927 the nearby Garrow Hill House (Grade II) was acquired and between 1929 and 1931 it was adapted to accommodate 40 patients as a nursing home for convalescent cases and rest cures. Its opening was delayed through the 1930s however, until there were better economic conditions. Garrow Bank (now the Tuke Centre) was built to the east around the same time. In 1931 a second nurses’ home (now known as Fairfax House) was built on the Belle Vue site, with the original house demolished in the early 1930s and a swimming pool constructed on its site in 1935. At the main site a male nurses’ hostel was built adjacent to the boiler house between 1937 and 1940. By the 1950s it was used as a hotel for convalescent female patients.

In 1952 a Glostar Meteor Jet from RAF Linton on Ouse, north-west of York, crashed through the roof of the Recreation Hall, killing the pilot. The damage to the building was repaired.

Between 1957 and 1965 the Retreat was ‘modernised’ through a substantial upgrading and refurbishment scheme encompassing the entire site. The OS map of 1963 to 1968 shows an extension to the West Villa. By 1970 a large, single-storey extension had been built adjacent to the Recreation Hall, blocking the external north doorway of the hall and resulting in the demolition of the entrance lodge. In the 1990s a staff block was built adjoining the south-west corner of the south-east L-shaped wing and a modern, single-storey extension was also built on the east side of the link corridor to the Lodge (neither of these buildings form part of the listing).

The Retreat became the most influential asylum of its time having gained an early reputation throughout Europe for its humane care and treatment of the insane, influencing C19 asylum design in England, Canada and America. Referred to as ‘moral treatment’ by the Tukes, it was a then radical approach to mental illness which avoided confinement, restraint and the dispensing of drugs. An early visitor, Dr De la Rive from Geneva, who visited in 1798, described The Retreat in a published letter as presenting ‘not the idea of a prison, but rather that of a large rural farm. It is surrounded by a garden. There is no bar or grating to the windows…’. The Tukes’ ethos began a series of reforms and a greater understanding in mental health in the C19 with psychiatry textbooks today still referring to the pioneering importance of the Retreat. In the early C19 it directly influenced the layout and regime of Brislington House, Brislington, Bristol, the first purpose-built private asylum (1804-1806), particularly the provision of an extensive landscape used for therapeutic purposes. That institution was built by Dr Edward Long Fox, also a Quaker. A desire for more humane treatment then led to the Asylums Act of 1808, which was intended to remove the insane from inappropriate settings such as workhouses and provide a dedicated care system in purpose-built county asylums. William Tuke’s grandson, Samuel, was largely responsible for the wide sphere of influence of the hospital through his systematic study of lunacy and his publications, notably the ‘Description of the Retreat’ of 1813. Through the influence of this publication William Tuke positioned himself as a national authority on ethical asylum design, being called to give evidence to the Select Committee on Madhouses which sat between 1814 and 1816. Fox also did much to publicise the approach and thus influence the subsequent building of the county asylums. (Historic England List Entry 2018)

NMR Information

Summary description
The Retreat is a psychiatric hospital built in 1793-97 in York that was designed by the architect John Bevans. It was established by William Tuke, a Quaker, and it remains a Quaker organisation to this day. The hospital was extended in 1800-30 and further extensions and alterations were carried out in the later 19th century and the 20th century. It was modernised circa 1960.Constructed from orange-cream brick, the building has stone sills and flat arches of orange brick to all windows. There are moulded stone cornices to all parts and hipped slate roofs with brick stacks. The entrance façade has a three-storey, five-bay centre block between three-storey, six-bay ranges with two-storey projecting wings at each end. The left wing has been partly rebuilt, while the right wing is of six bays. The central block has a central, pedimented doorcase with Tuscan columns and entablature, a panel door and a radial, glazed fanlight in a round-headed architrave. The ground and first floor windows of the centre block and flanking ranges are twelve-pane sashes whereas on the second floor, they are unequal nine-pane sashes. In the end wings, some windows have been altered to fit doors, and as well as sash windows there are stone-mullioned tripartite windows. Some original windows survive, while others have been replaced, some with casements.Today (2011), the Retreat is described as a 'specialist mental health care provider'.

Full description(
The Retreat was opened in 1796 in Heslington Road, York and was designed by an architect unknown at the time of this record’s amendment. The Retreat was opened by William Tuke, a Quaker and retired tea merchant and was originally supposed to be an environment where The Society of Friends (Quakers) who were experienced mental distress could come to recuperate. Tuke decided to found the institution after Hannah Mills, a Leeds Quaker, died in the squalid and inhumane conditions in the York Asylum. The Retreat back then, and today, has had a central role in the history of psychiatry. The institution’s approach to psychiatric care differed greatly from the often inhumane treatment of patients in psychiatric hospitals throughout England. Care at The Retreat was based on the Quaker belief that there is ‘that of God’ is everyone regardless of mental or emotional disturbance and based their practice on ‘moral treatment’.

The present day Retreat aims to retain these original principles and still retains its strong Quaker ethos. (1) The Retreat Hospital is a grade II listed building. For further details on the designation see the statutory data. (2) The Retreat is constructed from orange-cream brick, the building has stone sills and flat arches of orange brick to all windows. There are moulded stone cornices to all parts and hipped slate roofs with brick stacks. The entrance façade has a three-storey, five-bay centre block between three-storey, six-bay ranges with two-storey projecting wings at each end. The left wing has been partly rebuilt, while the right wing is of six bays. The central block has a central, pedimented doorcase with Tuscan columns and entablature, a panel door and a radial, glazed fanlight in a round-headed architrave. The ground and first floor windows of the centre block and flanking ranges are twelve-pane sashes whereas on the second floor, they are unequal nine-pane sashes. In the end wings, some windows have been altered to fit doors, and as well as sash windows there are stone-mullioned tripartite windows. Some original windows survive, while others have been replaced, some with casements.

At the time of amending this record in 2012, access to information on the designation noted in source 2 above is available via the National Heritage List for England. (3)

The National Grid Reference for the building is: SE6158550961 (4)

Sources
1 World Wide Web page Higginbotham, Peter. 2000. The Workhouse.<http://www.workhouses.org.uk/> [Accessed 18-OCT-2006] The Retreat, 2011, <http://www.theretreatyork.org.uk/about-the-retreat/our-history.html> [Accessed 25-MAR-2012]
2 List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest Default value used to record large numbers of archive items which are not separately catalogued. See Monument Recording Guidelines for details of use. York, 14-Mar-1997
3 World Wide Web page Higginbotham, Peter. 2000. The Workhouse.
<http://www.workhouses.org.uk/> [Accessed 18-OCT-2006] The National Heritage List for England, The Retreat Hospital, <http://list.english-heritage.org.uk/resultsingle.aspx?uid=1257679> [Accessed 25-MAR-2012]
4 Ordnance Survey Map 1:1250, 2008


Historic England, 2018, Grounds associated with the The Retreat Advice Report (Unpublished document). SYO2116.

Historic England, 2018, The Retreat Advice Report (Unpublished document). SYO2115.

Sources/Archives (2)

  • --- Unpublished document: Historic England. 2018. The Retreat Advice Report.
  • --- Unpublished document: Historic England. 2018. Grounds associated with the The Retreat Advice Report.

Protected Status/Designation

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Related Events/Activities (2)

Record last edited

Mar 17 2020 5:08PM

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