Craig Fees, “From the archives [#1]”,

Therapeutic Communities 18:4 (1997), 310-311


Just before Christmas 1940 the clinical records of some 57 voung men were packed into a wooden crate and put onto a train at Oxford, along with the administration and correspondence files of Hawkspur Camp for Men, one of the earliest intentional therapeutic communitiein England. They had survived four years of life in a .therapeutic camp in rural Essex, had been moved to the old workhouse in Bicester, near Oxford in the early months of the war, and were now being sent to rural Scotland for safe keeping. Outside Birmingham the train was bombed and set on fire. Not very much later the headquarters of the parent Q-Camps organisation in London was destroyed in a bombing raid.


In the event the burned wooden case and soaked records of Hawkspur Camp were pulled out of the bombed train by Birmingham salvage crews, dried and re-packed, and ultimately found their way up to safety at Barns House near Peebles in Scotland, where David Wills was establishing a therapeutic community for unbillettable boys. When he died in 1980 the Q-Camps/Hawkspur archives were still among his voluminous personal and research papers, part of an immensely important collection which documents a significant part of this century’s pioneering therapeutic community work particularly with children and young people, whether it be surviving documents of the Little Commonwealth, reflections of the early Donald Winnicott’s work for the Bicester Q-Camps (Marjorie Franklin to David Wills, 24/12/1940: “I doubt if Winnicott is replaceable. Psychologists are common - geniuses rare!” SA/Q 35.2), or his own diaries, photographs, unpublished manuscripts, and letters containing references and reflections from an extraordinary range of friends and workers in the field.


Oddly enough, when David Wills died in 1980 his executors could not find any place which was willing to take these papers, so the Planned Environment Therapy Trust (of which he was a founding trustee) created one. The Planned Environment Therapy Trust Archive and Study Centre was founded in 1989 specifically to provide a good and stimulating home for the archives of people, places and organisations involved in therapeutic community, and this new, regular feature in Therapeutic Communities - ‘From the archives’ - is an attempt to share some of this material with the people to whom, through their work and commitment to the field, it in a sense belongs. There are now over fifty collections in the Archive, which range from single items to a great many boxes, and which include films, videos, photographs, gramophone discs, computer discs, paintings and the full range of conventional archives in paper: diaries, journals, letters, case files. These are supported by a specialist library, and an active oral history programme. I hope, in the issues to come, that I can bring something of the rich diversity of these holdings to the readers of the journal.


 Continuity and the conflict of origins 1


When David Wills published his experiences as the Q-Camps Chief in The Hawkspur Experiment in 1941, A.S. Neill wrote that it reminded him of Homer Lane and the Little Commonwealth: “Just read the H. Exp, with much delight and appreciation. Took me back to my first visit to the Commonwealth in 1917....Your place sounds awfully like the L.C. but I think you are less inclined to show only your good apples on top than Lane was…” (A.S. Neill to David Wills, 27/11/1941. PP/WDW 3B2/1C).


In the 1950s an as yet unidentified friend wrote to him of a conference in which ‘Hawkpur came up in connection with Dr. Maxwell Jones and his rehabilitation unit. I was sitting next to Ben and at the end he said “It’s just Hswkspur all over again.” Ben was quite indignant at the idea of Maxwell Jones’ methods being handed to us as something new’ (undated letter to David Wills, PP/WDW 2 Uncertain).


Continuity and the conflict of origins 2


In describing the origins of the Northfield Experiment in his Introduction to Group-Analytic Psychotherapy(William Heinemann, 1948, p.18) Sigmund Foulkes speaks of Phase A, in which “Iwas able to extend a group oriented approach as far as my own territory reached ...” and goes on to say that “For this period owe a debt of gratitude to my the then C.O., Lt.-Col. Denis Carroll, for his active interest and support.” Indeed, Dr. Tom Harrison, in an unpublished manuscript held at the Archive, suggests that “The first step in the earliest phase of the Second Experiment was a series of organisational changes (probably initiated by the Commanding Officer, Denis Carroll)...” who was Commanding Officer at Northfield from March 17, 1944 until the end of December 1944 or the beginning of January, 1945.


Denis Carroll was the chairman of the Q-Camps Selection and Treatment Committee. In an unpublished typescript Dr. Marjorie Franklin, the Hon. Secretary of the Q-Camps Committee, speaks of: “...the real start of Q-Camp (alias Hawkspur) to the bare bones of which David Wills, in collaboration with Denis Carroll, was to give life of a lasting quality as an expression of some of the ways in which planned environment therapy can be used.” Adding “...To the early workers the whole Q-Camp project was an important pioneer enterprise I refrain from using the word ‘experiment’ because of Dr. Carroll’s objections to that word being applied to Q which he said had already justified its value and ceased to be experimental.” (“Paper for Planned Environment Therapy Discussion Group, March 19th1971”, ts).


At Carroll’s suggestion a small monograph, Q-Camp: An Experiment in Group Living with Maladjusted and Anti-Social Young Men,was published in 1943. According to Franklin, Carroll’s commanding officer at Northfield “read the first edition of the book and commented favourably on it as ‘what we ought to do here’.” (“Planned Environment Therapy Trust, its origins, and ‘those others’ and about learning from success (especially successful achievement of the persons under stress)”; ts.). She elaborated, in a footnote to the 1966 edition: “During the war Dr. Carroll was in charge of an R.A.M.C. psychiatric hospital. He told, with humour, how his Colonel showed him the newly published ‘Q-Camp’ ... and advised Major Carroll to use the methods! Perhaps Q’s influence was more widespread than we knew.”


David Wills commented in 1975: “Marjorie Franklin developed these ideas in collaboration with the late Dr. Dennis [sic]Carroll, who took them with him to Northfield Hospital during the war. Much has been written about concepts - such as the idea of the therapeutic community - deriving from that fertile breeding ground, but so far as I am aware none of those writings makes any mention of Dennis Carroll, much less of Marjorie Franklin.” (PP/WDW 3A/10.46). Indeed, how much do any of us know of those ‘various sources, which had sprung up independently’ whose ‘happy confluence’, in the words of Sigmund Foulkes (cited above), eventuated in the Northfield Experiment and the ‘therapeutic community movement’ which blossomed after the war?