The Retreat: 01904 412551 The Tuke Centre: 01904 430370

Make a Referral



 Hidden for 40 years: Abandoned wing of The Retreat

A psychiatric hospital has revealed its hidden rooms and treasures which have remained untouched for more than 40 years after it was set up as Quaker hospital in the 18th century.

Hidden beneath The Retreat lies a morgue which has been under lock and key since the 1960s as well as cupboards, swathed in dust, containing finely preserved treasures such as a cannon ball and monkey skull, which have been accumulated in the last 200 years of the hospital.

The hospital, in York, was set up by William Tuke, a retired tea merchant, in 1796 after he was appalled at the conditions at York Asylum, where Quaker Hannah Mills died. 

Many of the buildings which make up The Retreat, which functions as a psychiatric hospital today, are listed making many of them difficult to renovate.  This meant some rooms and the items donated from patients and collected from around the world were abandoned and left to accumulate dust for dozens of years.

A room in the basement by the main building contains a huge coal boiler used to heat the entire building with a mass of cogs and pipes stretching into the roof.  The Lancaster boiler, which was installed in 1922, has remained completely out of use since the late 1970s early 80s.

A pin board, dated 1915, features a poem believed to have been written by the boiler room's former workers, along with another note reading 'Into this boiler room have walked the best people in the world, my friends.'

Also left preserved is the hospital's former morgue, which was built in the Victorian era and fell out of use in the 1960s, when undertakers were able to collect bodies quicker than before.The room houses the original marble slab used for bodies and an incinerator.

Another empty building once housed students in the 1940s and 1950s, and still holds exam books from the 1930s.

In the cellars beneath the main building there is a trolley full of film reels, which are likely to have been shown to patients at the hospital. 

Dozens of dusty cupboards contain items such as oxide plaster, baby powder, tools, aprons and boots, which have all been well preserved over the last three decades.Other items found include is a cannon ball excavated from Lamell Hill, a vase found on the site in an excavation in the 1800s, an ostrich egg and even a monkey skull.

'When they were not required there, we had to close the doors and leaving them as they were. It is very difficult to upgrade a listed building to modern standards, especially with grounds being a conservation area.'

Mr Tuke's grandson, Samuel Tuke, is also buried in the grounds of the site. 

Joseph Rowntree, the businessman, is also been buried there.

Article From Daily Mail - 21 October 2014 with 26 more pictures