“The York Retreat”

Public Asylums

“The York Retreat” was created by the Quakers in York, England, in 1796 as a place where the mentally ill were able to live away from prisons and hospitals.  It featured great gardens and outdoor areas and encouraged its patients to enjoy walks in those gardens.  Patients were treated incredibly well, as they were offered four square meals a day, were encouraged to dress up, and were given tasks to complete such as sewing, reading, gardening, and playing games (Whitaker, 2009).  The founders wanted to shy away from the common treatments that they found to be ineffective:  restraint, chains, whips, and other physical punishments.  Instead, they focused on moral therapy and non-restraint (Brizendine, 1992).

In the first 15 years of existence, 70% of those who were ill for less than 12 months recovered.  Of all the patients viewed as incurable due to having the illness for more than 12 months, 25% were cured (Whitaker, 2009).

A painting of the original York Retreat

A view of the York Retreat, still in use today, taken from the gardens.


Brizendine, L. (1992). Stigma during the medieval and Renaissance periods. In P. J. Fink & A. Tasman (Eds.) Stigma and mental illness, (pp. 59-71). Washington, D.C., US: American Psychiatric Association.

Whitaker, R. (2009). Deinstitutionalization and neuroleptics. In Y. O. Alanen, G. dC. Manuel, A. S. Silver, & B. Martindale (Eds.) Psychotherapeutic Approaches to Schizophrenia Psychoses: Past, Present, and Future, (pp. 346-356). New York, NY, US: Routledge/Taylor and Francis Group.

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