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c 1800-1965
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The Retreat Archive
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About this work


Background This section comprises papers by or relating to patients, covering four distinct time periods: the early 19th century, the 1850s to 1870s, the early to mid 1880s, and the early 20th century. The relatively small number of early nineteenth century papers, by or about patients, were found in various places, mixed up with other series in the Retreat archive. They have been extracted and gathered here (many of these had already been extracted and studied by researchers on the Retreat in the early to mid 20th century and so were not in original locations). The material from the 1850s to 1870s, comprising letters and papers either written by or about patients, filled approximately four archive boxes. They were found in a very disordered state. Although some of the material was bundled together, there seems to have been no rationale to the bundles: they may merely represent material cleared out of cupboards and drawers at regular intervals and bundled together but not sorted in any other way. The papers from the early to mid 1880s (the majority of which was for 1885-6) filled three archive boxes, and were also very jumbled. The majority of these are letters and writings by patients themselves, or letters sent to them by friends and family. The patients' letters which survive from the 1850s - 1870s and early - mid 1880s, are of two types: those written to the Medical Superintendent (and some patients corresponded with the Medical Superintendent even after discharge), and those written to their friends and relatives. The latter were not posted by The Retreat, presumably because The Retreat doctors thought this was in their best interests; occasionally one can read complaints about non-receipt of correspondence within the letters themselves. Many of the patients' letters, especially in the 1880's cache, were still sealed up in their envelopes. These have now been carefully unsealed. Such letters are clearly recognisable: the envelopes have been unsealed without being torn. A further six boxes comprised 20th century papers, but a large number of these papers related to two individuals and were actually Retreat correspondence files: these have been returned to the series of Correspondence Files on Patients (RET 6/20), (both individuals were patients with "W" surnames). A large quantity of the remaining 20th century material related to "A.D."; there was also a small amount of material for other patients. As well as letters, patients patients produced other writings: poems, accounts of their illnesses, even a cartoon in one case. Clearly, these patients' papers are very interesting and unusual survivals from what must originally have been a larger quantity of similar material.


c 1800-1965

Physical description

40 boxes


The arrangement of papers The papers have been placed under the name of the patient, in an alphabetical order. The dates given will show the particular cache (or caches) of material from which the items came. This arrangement has been adopted because material for some patients appeared in more than one cache. With the sheer amount of material involved it has not proved possible to provide precis of the contents of letters and writings. However, details about the patient have been appended in each case, and unusual items and enclosures have been noted Patient names have been identified if the following criteria have been met: the material is over 100 years old, the patient was admitted over 100 years ago and the patient would now be over 100 years old. Only initials of the patient have been given where these criteria are not met. Some material has proved impossible to identify, and this has been placed together in a roughly chronological arrangement, reflecting the different caches from which they came; any particularly interesting or unusual items have been indicated. There are also some general papers relating to patients and even a few papers relating to non-Retreat patients with whom Retreat staff were involved (other non-Retreat patients are covered in Dr Pierce's case books of private patients, in RET 6/8/4)

Terms of use

Access to some material is restricted under Data Protection Act 1998. Restricted items are at: RET 6/19/1/8, RET 6/19/1/29, RET 6/19/1/30, RET 6/19/1/31, RET 6/19/1/32, RET 6/19/1/43, RET 6/19/1/44, RET 6/19/1/49, RET 6/19/1/65, RET 6/19/1/78, RET 6/19/1/79, RET 6/19/1/81, RET 6/19/1/86, RET 6/19/1/87, RET 6/19/1/88, RET 6/19/1/92, RET 6/19/1/105, RET 6/19/1/116, RET 6/19/1/117, RET 6/19/1/133, RET 6/19/1/143, RET 6/19/1/163, RET 6/19/1/164, RET 6/19/1/172, RET 6/19/1/187, RET 6/19/1/188, RET 6/19/1/189. Also at RET 6/19/2/1/2.

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