1998: From the Archives 3

Craig Fees, ‘From the Archives 3’, THERAPEUTIC COMMUNITIES: The international journal for therapeutic and supportive organizations, 19:3 (1998)

 

In ‘From the Archives (2)’ (Therapeutic Communities 19:1, pp 65-66) I shared the discovery made while listing the Cassel Hospital archives that Maxwell Jones and Tom Main had both applied for the post of Medical Director of the Cassel in 1946. Tom Main (of course) won, and I wondered what influence the outcome of this particular competition had on the future relationships of the two men.

Recently, the Archive has transferred the old author/subject card catalogues of the Cassel library’s collection of reprints and unpublished papers onto computer. It may not be at all related, but of the 860-odd items in the collection only two – surprisingly – are by Maxwell Jones; and until we had played about with the computer database even that much was unknown. While he is the lead author on “Some common trends in British and American hospital psychiatry” (1963), for example, the paper was card-catalogued under the name of co-author Joy Tuxford. The other publication – A report on social psychiatry: A therapeutic community at the US Naval Hospital, Oakland, California, Naval Medical Research Institute Research Report, (1958) (which does not appear in the official Maxwell Jones bibliography in International Journal of Therapeutic Communities 12:2/3, 1991) was naturally catalogued under lead author Harry Wilmer, with Maxwell Jones sandwiched between co-authors Dennie Briggs and Robert Rapaport. Wilmer, by the way, is represented in the collection by fourteen papers, Briggs by five and Rapaport by six. Jones, as I say, by two.

Tom Main, not surprisingly, is represented by over sixty papers in the Cassel’s collection. A number of these are unpublished, and there are some which do not appear in the bibliography of his works in The ailment and other psychoanalytic essays (Free Association Books, 1989). The collection is full of hidden treasures.

Maxwell Jones, of course, was Director at the Henderson Hospital. The Henderson’s library also has a strong reprints section. How strong is Torn Main’s presence there?

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Jones and Main were both born in South Africa, coming to Britain as young children. In his last recorded interview Jones spoke of the extraordinary environment there; of “the insecurity of being a white child in a black town on the edge of the Kalahari Desert” (T)CF6 (1990) – a metaphorical position which many would say stayed with him throughout his life. Bertram Mandelbrote – who opened up the Coney Hill and Horton Road mental hospitals in Gloucestershire before becoming Physician Superintendent and initiating the exciting therapeutic community years at Littlemore in Oxford – was, of course, born and raised in South Africa (“You went down into the bowels of the earth and you saw cockroaches and all sorts of things. There was one ward which was quite sub-human. The people, all of whom were regarded as being highly dangerous, were shut up in cages which were six by six… The staff were so frightened of these patients they would lift this sliding door and push the food in…” Bertram Mandelbrote, going into the hospitals for the first time in Gloucestershire; (T) CF138 (1995)).

David Cooper of Villa 21 fame was South African. David Clark very nearly was – had his father not suddenly been offered a Chair in London, luring him away from the University of Cape Town, David Clark would have been born as well as having been conceived there (see: Alfred Joseph Clark, A Memoir by David Hazell Clark (1985)). Is this South African presence a feature of 20th century British life, an artefact of the course the Archive’s oral history and survey projects have so far taken, or is it something which has a genuine meaning in the history and development of therapeutic communities in Britain?

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Scattered down a farm in the north Essex countryside are the remains of the pre-war therapeutic ‘Q-camp’ which David Wills describes in The Hawkspur Experiment. The long wooden meeting hut – a photograph of which is on the Archive’s web-site – is filled with the detritus of fifty years of farming and the accretions and alterations of changing use: pig house, storage shed. It is dark and damp, with the smell of machine oil and grain and old dirt and timber and no obvious reminder of the hard and joyful pioneering work which went on there.

 

The camp’s office-with-an-apartment-above, designed and built by a young Arthur Barron (several years before he was blacklisted for daring to work in this therapeutic community way with disturbed and delinquent young people, and turned to the Anna Freud training which transformed his life) is still at the top of the hill as you come down into what was the camp. It has lost any trace of the distinctive red colour which used to mark it, and it too has been knocked about, filled with the broken glass and rotting wood of its own decay and the bags and bits thrown into it over the years.

 

It is late winter and I am video-recording Chris Beedell and Ted Barron, two men of huge character who have never met before, and who are climbing over the weeds on this inspirational ground where both had lived and worked with Arthur Barron and the difficult and disturbed boys of the second Hawkspur Camp. This had flourished about the time of the Northfield Experiment; before the term ‘therapeutic community’ had come along, though it very much was one. Archives are not dust and decaying paper, but the experiences of people: and we finish with Chris Beedell and an a capella folk song in Thaxted Church, where Chris used to play in the church orchestra and the Hawkspur boys danced, presumably with the blessing of the then communist Vicar.

London is filled with blue plaques to mark sites where significant people lived and great things happened. What about here: What form would a marker take here. What path would a heritage trail of the therapeutic community movement follow?

 

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In ‘From the Archives 2’ I said that A.T.M. Wilson had been at Northfield Military Psychiatric Hospital with Tom Main before joining Main’s work at the Cassel. Tom Harrison has kindly noted that Tommy Wilson was one of the few Tavistock people who had not been through Northfield, and I apologise for the mistake.

Craig Fees

Craig Fees is Archivist for the Planned Environment Therapy Trust Archive and Study Centre, Church Lane, Toddington, Cheltenham, Glos. GL54 5DQ, United Kingdom. All quoted archival sources are from publicly available collections held by the Planned Environment Therapy Trust Archive and Study Centre.