About Us – The Retreat Clinics – York, Manchester & online
To deliver high-quality, sustainable, renowned mental health and wellbeing services, alongside Autism and ADHD services, helping people to live well with themselves so that we all live better together.
As an independent charity, we provide care to people who refer themselves and those referred to us by GPs and other professionals. We can often help when others can’t, enabling people to get their lives back on track.
Our organisation has roots in York’s Quaker community, and we do our best to sustain our Quaker history and heritage.
The Retreat’s journey began on 15th March 1790 when a 42-year-old Quaker widow, Hannah Mills, was admitted to York Lunatic Asylum with “Melancholy”. By 29th April 1790, she had died.
Quaker Friends had attempted to visit her on many occasions during her time at the Asylum but were constantly refused entry. Her death was unexplained, but Friends discovered that it is very likely that she was treated inhumanely and cruelly during her stay. Mistreatment was widespread at the time, with the behaviour of people with mental health difficulties considered something to control and silence, something from which the public needed protecting, using whatever methods required to get the result. It was not uncommon for mental health patients to be shackled and beaten, kept in isolation, and often dying from their treatment.
William Tuke and his family vowed never again should any Quaker be forced to endure such treatment.
With funding from Yorkshire Quakers and other Quaker groups across the country, William Tuke established what he referred to as a “retired habitation”. He aimed to provide Quakers with “suitable companionship and humane care and treatment”. His approach ensured that residents received nourishing food and outdoor exercise, had a purpose via the work they were encouraged to undertake and had the experience of gentle and kind social interactions in beautiful surroundings. The Retreat’s life began, and on 13th July 1796, The Retreat received its first patient.
Patients were treated with humanity within an environment that valued their lives. William Tuke believed in the importance of nature for healing, hence providing beautiful grounds for patients, which still exist and are still used as part of the therapeutic process today.
By 1813, The Retreat’s revolutionary humane approach to mental health care was attracting visitors from around the world, with the publication of ‘Description of The Retreat’ by William’s grandson Samuel Tuke. Other institutions became interested, and when the St Mary’s of Bethlehem (‘Bedlam’) Asylum was being rebuilt, its superintendent visited The Retreat and said, “…the best thing we have seen is something which we cannot take away with us to copy, and that is the atmosphere of your hospital”.
The Retreat in York influenced the revolution in care for York Asylum, and the political influence exerted by William, Henry his son and Samuel his grandson led to significant legal reforms in the care of mental health in the UK and beyond. Every textbook on the history of mental illness mentions the unique part played by The Retreat in the reshaping of attitudes.
This approach to innovation and humane care continues to this day. Although we no longer have an inpatient hospital, we continue to care for the mental health of adults, children, and young people across the UK.
We provide bespoke therapies and diagnostic assessments, tailored to the needs of each person who accesses our services. Across our different locations in York, Manchester, and online, we are committed to finding an approach that works for the individual. We can also provide Autism and ADHD diagnostic assessments, specialist therapy and other forms of support to adults and children who are Neurodiverse.
We are commissioned by the NHS to offer Autism and ADHD diagnostic assessments free at the point of delivery. We also have some a limited number of therapeutic services at reduced fees for those who cannot afford our services. Please contact us to find out more.