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In March 1790 a Quaker called Hannah Mills from Leeds was admitted to Bootham Hospital in York. As was custom practice in those days Leeds Meeting and relatives asked if Friends from York Meeting could visit her. They were refused access. A month later she died.
After her death Friends, including William Tuke, visited this York Asylum and were shocked to see inmates chained up and living in squalid conditions. This led to William Tuke appealing to all Quakers across the country for funds to buy land and build a purpose-built hospital and thus The Retreat was founded in 1792 and opened in 1796.
It became the pioneer of treatment. The moral treatment approach was epitomized by treating the individuals with respect as a whole person in homely and genteel surroundings. Initially, the total cost for Quakers was 8 guineas a week.
If we roll ahead a bit, The Retreat York Benevolent Fund was established in 1919 and its primary purpose was to assist members of The Religious Society of Friends, and those "closely connected with Friends", to meet the cost of treatment at The Retreat or elsewhere where they are unable to meet the full fees payable because they are in "straightened circumstances". The intention in setting up the Fund was "to lessen in many Friends’ families the burden which mental affliction inevitably brings."
By the end of World War I, there were 180 patients, 60% of which were Quakers paying 8 guineas a week. However, a fair proportion of those Quakers were subsidised by their own Meetings and were also on a reduced rate between 25% and 75% of the actual cost.
At this time, many of the men were returning to work and there was a need to get back to reasonable working hours and have a living wage. In addition, it was recognised that there was a need for a pension fund, a new heating system and they were desperate for a new building for nursing accommodation. Combine this with several Meetings stopping paying for the Friends and we get a situation where The Retreat becomes unaffordable.
Again, a national appeal to Quakers was made as well as some very difficult decisions of having to discharge some Friends who were not supported by their Meeting to the County Asylums. In light of this a specific appeal to support those Quakers who could not afford the fees was made and the first donations came in. By the end of 1921 we had £3,359. Over the years we have continued to benefit from the generosity of legacies and donations which enables us to support good mental health across the Quaker network and beyond.