Tuke, William (DNB00)

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TUKE, WILLIAM (1732–1822), founder of the York Retreat, came of a family that had resided at York for at least three generations. His great-grandfather, who bore the same name, was among the early converts to the principles of the Society of Friends. His father, Samuel Tuke, married, about 1731, Ann, daughter of John Ward of Dronfield, Derbyshire. William Tuke, the eldest son, was born in York on 24 March 1732.

His father died when William was about sixteen years of age, and the aunt to whom he was apprenticed died when he was nineteen. Consequently Tuke early succeeded to the cares of the family business of wholesale tea and coffee merchants. Although during the greater part of his life he was engaged in mercantile pursuits, he devoted much time to philanthropy.

In 1791 a Friend died in the York County Asylum under circumstances which aroused suspicions of maltreatment. Thereupon Tuke came to the conclusion that there was necessity for an ‘institution for the care and proper treatment of those labouring under that most afflictive dispensation—the loss of reason.’ In the spring of 1792 he brought the need of revolutionising the treatment of the insane before the Society of Friends in Yorkshire. With the aid of his son Henry, of Lindley Murray, and of other Friends, it was resolved in the same year that a building should be erected to accommodate thirty insane persons, and that the inmates should be treated on humane and enlightened principles. In spite of the difficulty of raising the necessary funds, the York Retreat was opened for the reception of patients in 1796. Tuke published a description of the institution in 1813. The inscription on the foundation-stone is the keynote—‘Hoc fecit amicorum caritas in humanitatis argumentum.’ Ferrus, physician to Napoleon I, wrote of the Retreat as the first asylum in England which arrested the attention of foreigners, and, in common with many others, he praised the arrangements and methods devised by Tuke, the abolition of unnecessary restraints, the absence of irksome discipline, the quiet and orderly disposition of the place, and the evident value of industrial employment. Tuke lived to see the complete success of his experiment, not only in York but throughout the country. ‘Unconscious of the contemporaneous work of Pinel in Paris, Tuke struck the chains from lunatics, and laid the foundation of all modern humane treatment.’ At the centenary celebrations of the foundation of the Retreat in 1892 the world of psychiatry united in doing honour to Tuke's memory and in recognising the beneficent work of his asylum.

Tuke was blind for several years before his death, but continued his active and useful work until he was seized with a paralytic attack which proved fatal on 6 Dec. 1822. He was buried in the Friends' ground, Bishophill, York.

According to a contemporary, Tuke hardly reached the middle size, but was erect, portly, and with a firm step. A portrait in crayon by his descendant, Mr. H. S. Tuke, hangs in the York Retreat.

Tuke married (1), in 1754, Elizabeth, daughter of John Hoyland of Woodhouse, Yorkshire; and (2), in 1765, Esther, daughter of Timothy Maud of Bingley, Yorkshire. His eldest son, Henry [q. v.] his eldest grandson, Samuel [q. v.] and his great-grandsons, James Hack [q. v.] and Daniel Hack [q. v.] were all active in works of philanthropy.

[William Tuke, a memorial of York monthly meeting by Lindley Murray, 1823; Journal of Psychological Medicine, 1855, by Dr. D. Hack Tuke; Memoirs of Samuel Tuke, 1860; History of the Insane in the British Islands, by D. Hack Tuke, 1882.]

A. R. U.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.268
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

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303 ii 13 Tuke, William: for Yorkshire read York