Dalrymple House
Uxbridge Road, Money Hill, Rickmansworth, Herts WD3 7AR
Medical dates:

Medical character:
1884 - 1935

(male inebriates)

Following a public meeting at Mansion House in 1882, the Homes for Inebriates Association decided to establish a Home as a licensed charitable institution with a view to giving a fair trial to the Habitual Drunkards Act, 1879.  For this purpose, the Association purchased The Cedars, a large stucco house situated on a 5-acre site with a finely wooded terrace overlooking the River Colne in the district of Money Hill.

In 1883 a license to admit 16 males under the Act was granted to Dr R.W. Braithwaite, the Medical Superintendent (increased to 20 males in the following year).

The Dalrymple Home for Inebriates opened in 1884 under the direction of the Homes for Inebriates Association.  It was named after Dr Donald Dalrymple, M.P. for Bath, who had taken a great interest in the reclamation of inebriates and had tried to pass a Bill through Parliament in 1870.  He was unsuccessful, and died prematurely in 1873, but the British Medical Association took up his campaign and set up a committee to continue his work.

Dr Dalrymple's widow donated £1,000 towards the establishment of the Home, which had 16 beds.  It was well-furnished and, as well as fairly good-sized bedrooms, contained a kitchen, a spacious Dining Room, and a Drawing Room overlooking a garden and a tennis lawn, with verdant countryside beyond.  For indoor activities there were a Billiard Room, a Bowling Alley and a Gymnasium.  In the grounds were several out-buildings intended for workshops and places where patients could find an occupation.

The Home would not be run for profit and any surplus funds would be spent on improvements to the property for the benefit of patients.

Patients were to be admitted either under the provisions of the Act, which bound them to remain for one year, or on a voluntary and private arrangement on payment of one and a half guineas (£1.58), or more, a week.  As with voluntary hospitals, those suffering from insanity, tuberculosis or infectious diseases were not admitted.

Within a week of opening, the Home had received six applications - and accepted them all.  Three of these were under the Act, with the stringent provision that the dipsomaniac himself and two witnesses had to made formal deposition before a magistrate.  The other three were private patients.

By 1890 some 201 patients had been admitted, 183 of whom had been discharged.  Of these, 88 were doing well, 5 had improved, 57 had not improved, 1 was in an asylum and 7 were dead (the remainder had not been traceable).

It had been found that the gradual reduction of alcohol was not beneficial to patients who presented as uncomplicated cases.  Appetite and sleep were restored much sooner when the alcohol supply was cut off suddenly and completely.  The desire for food and enjoyment of meals was regarded as a fair test of recovery from alcoholic excess; it was unusual when a patient did not eat his breakfast on the second morning, although for weeks or months before admission he had been unable to consume this meal.    However, occasionally the use of alcohol was permitted for the first few days of a patient's arrival, but only by special medical order.

Breakfast was served at 09.00, luncheon at 13.30, tea at 16.00 and dinner at 19.00.  (If these mealtimes were strictly adhered to, this meant there were 14 hours between dinner and breakfast - a long time for recovering addicts.)

Treatment consisted of cultivating self-control, strengthening will power and determination, and in making the patient realize that part of the cure was in his own hands.  This required total abstinence from alcohol, and also from drugs.

In 1891 some 115 patients were admitted, 124 in 1892 (when the number of beds was increased to 20) and 129 in 1893.

In 1905 some 59% of former patients were recorded as doing well in recovery; 20% had improved, while 21% had not.

During 1909 some 51 patients were admitted, of which only 19 had entered under the Act.

On 31st January 1910 the Home contained 19 patients under treatment.

By 1910, when the Home had been open for 26 years, 935 patients had been discharged.  Of these, 414 had been received under the Act and 521 were private patients.  It was believed that the longer the duration of treatment, the greater were the chances of success.   Some 145 of the 935 had stayed for one year, 23 for between 12 and 6 months, 119 for six months, 7 for five to four months and 114 for three months (it is not stated how long the remaining 6 patients stayed!).  Private patients tended to stay more briefly - 333 for three months or less, 16 for four months and 100 for six months; only 72 remained longer than six months.  Although private patients could terminate their stay at any time, those admitted under the Inebriates Act were obliged to remain until the expiration of the period signed for (not exceeding two years).

The commonest age of admission was between 30 and 40 years of age, the next commonest between 40 and 50, and the third between 20 and 30.  Those with complicating diseases, excluding habitual constipation, tended to suffer from  alcoholic neuritis; cirrhosis of the liver affected few patients.

In 1913 the Home charged 3 to 4 guineas (£3.15 to £4.20) a week.

During WW1, when discharged from the Home in 1917, 9 patients immediately joined the Army.  During that year, 47 patients were admitted, of whom 38 were alcoholics and 9 drug addicts.

In 1918 the average length of stay was from 5 to 6 weeks (at least 3 months was considered necessary by the medical staff).  The average age of the patients was 36 years.

During the period 1884-1919 some 1,331 cases had been admitted, of whom 546 were under the Inebriates Act and 785 were private patients.  (Patients admitted under the Act were preferred by the medical staff as they were compelled to stay at the Home for a longer period.)

In 1919 an increase in the number of admissions of ex-Army men was noted (but not of ex-Navy personnel).

By 1921 the average length of stay was 21 weeks.  Each patient was studied individually and treated
 appropriately.  Alcohol was given at first to those who required it but, after two or three days, it was rarely demanded.  Drug addicts were given a gradual reduction in their drug.

In 1922 some 79 patients were admitted, 55 of whom were private patients and 24 were under the Act (9 were drug addicts), including a number of meths drinkers.  The Medical Superintendent had, in fact, noticed an increasing incidence of methylated spirits drinking among his new patients, presumably because they were unable to buy potable spirits due to lack of funds or restricted hours of sale.  Methylated spirits - an alcohol 'denatured' with 10% wood naphtha and 0.25% petroleum oil - was used in the Home, but had been doctored with tartar emetic and marked 'poison' to help patients overcome the temptation to indulge in secret drinking of the stuff (it was very rare for a patient to sample this mixture and unheard of for him to try it again).

In 1923, of the discharged patients, 40% were found to be doing well, while 16% had improved.  Some 22% had not improved and nothing was known of the remaining 22%.

In 1924 electric lighting was installed in the Home and building work, which had been delayed by frosts, began to progress on new bathrooms and WCs.  During that year 72 patients had been admitted - 55 as private patients and 17 under the Act.  The average length of  stay for private patients was two and a quarter months, while those under the Act stayed for three and a half months.

Occupations, hobbies and games were encouraged.  The Home had a Reading Room, which was well supplied with newspapers, a large Library and a Billiard Room with a full-sized table.  A Concert Room was equipped with an organ and a piano.  There was also a large workshop where patients could find congenial employment, and a Dark Room for photography.  For outdoor sports there were an asphalted tennis court, a full-sized croquet lawn, facilities for quoits and for golf practice (putting and approaching, etc.).  The lawn sloped down to the bank of the River Colne, and there was an island between two stretches of river in front of the house, approached by a wooden bridge.  The patients could indulge in fishing, boating and sailing.

After 2 to 4 weeks residency, patients were given parole to leave the grounds.

The charge per resident had risen to £81 18s 0d (£81.90) for a 13-week stay, i.e. 6 guineas (£6.30) a week.  If a patient did not wish to commit himself for such a long period, the charge was £8 18s 6d (£8.93) for the first week, £7 17s 6d (£7.88) for the second week, £6 16s 6d (£6.83) for the third and fourth weeks, 6 gns (£6.30) for the fifth to ninth weeks and 5 gns (£5.25) for the tenth to thirteenth weeks - a total of £82 19s 0d (£82.95) for 13 weeks.  After the first quarter, the charge was 6 gns (£6.30) a week, payable in advance.

In 1925 there were no admissions for drug addicts, as the Dangerous Drugs Act, 1920, had made drugs more difficult to obtain.  However, patients were admitted who had been the victims of adulterated whisky, which had resulted in an increased incidence of partial blindness, loss of memory and a delusional condition.

In 1926 the asphalt tennis court was broken up and a full-sized modern hard court laid down in its place.  In 1927 domestic offices were built.

During 1928 and 1929 the average stay for patients under the Act was five and a half months, while private patients remained for seven weeks (although one patient had stayed for nine years!).  The charge for the first week was 8 gns (£8.40) and, for subsequent weeks, 6 gns (£6.30).

At the beginning of the 1930s few heroin or morphine addicts were admitted; most patients were alcoholics, often ill on arrival.

The Home closed in 1935.

Present status (March 2012)

The house, located on the southern side of the junction of Park Way and Uxbridge Road, has been demolished.  Its site was redeveloped in the 1950s for new housing.

Site of Dalrymple House

Suburban housing on Uxbridge Road now occupies the site (above and below).

References (Accessed 18th November 2013)

(Author unstated) 1881 Dalrymple Home for the treatment of inebriates.  British Medical Journal 1 (1064), 824-826.

(Author unstated) 1884 Dalrymple Home for Inebriates.  British Journal of Psychiatry 29, 615-616.

(Author unstated) 1885 The Habitual Drunkards Act.  British Medical Journal 2 (1287), 406-407.

(Author unstated) 1885
The Dalrymple Home for Inebriates.  British Medical Journal 2 (1291), 609.

(Author unstated) 1894 Retreats for inebriates.  British Medical Journal 2 (1763), 832.

(Author unstated) 1906 The Dalrymple Home for Inebriates.  British Medical Journal 1 (2370), 1299.

(Author unstated) 1908 The Dalrymple Home for Inebriates: an interesting report.  Lancet 171 (4423), 1645.

(Author unstated) 1910  Dalrymple House, Rickmansworth, Herts.  British Medical Journal 2 (2605), S432-S433.

(Author unstated) 1912 Reflections from a Board Room mirror.  British Journal of Nursing, 29th June, 517.

(Author unstated) 1913  Inebriety and drug abuse.  Dalrymple House, Rickmansworth, Herts (advertisement).  The Practitioner 90, 25.

(Author unstated) 1918 Medical News.  British Medical Journal 1 (2997), 659.

(Author unstated) 1924 The rescue of drug addicts.  Lancet 204 (5265) 180-181.

(Author unstated) 1925 The treatment of chronic drunkards.  Lancet 205 (5308), 1091.

(Author unstated) 1930 A statistical study of alcoholism.  British Medical Journal 2 (3631), 221-222.

Berridge V 2004 Punishment or treatment?  Inebriety, drink and drugs, 1860-2004.  Lancet 364 (Suppl. 1), 4-5.

Kerr N 1882 The Dalrymple Home (letter).  British Medical Journal 2 (1133), 541.

Lord E (undated) Newsletter 62.  Dalrymple House, Rickmansworth, and the treatment of inebriates. Rickmansworth Historical Society.

Parliamentary Papers 1910  Report of the Inspector under the Inebriates Acts, 1879 to 1900, for the year 1908.  London, H.M.S.O.

Personal communication:  Geoff Saul, Rickmansworth Historical Society.

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