Treatment & daily life

What was daily life like for patients in Temple Lodge? What sort of treatment would they have received? Unfortunately, no treatment records exist for Temple Lodge, if they ever did, but information about inebriate retreats and reformatories can be found in sociological and medical publications, so it is possible to generalise from information about comparable institutions. The reason for the minimum 12 months stay was because “successful rehabilitation required continuous paternalistic guidance and control” and enforced abstinence (Inspector of Retreats, 1881).

Having agreed to enter Temple Lodge for at least a year, new patients would have understandably been apprehensive about the patients they would be living with. One former patient of a church-run inebriate retreat recalled “Weird pictures had been in my mind as to the kind of women I should have to live and work with. The reality was very different from my imaginings. They were just ordinary women…wives and mothers, nurses, shop-girls, servant maids, middle class women, and a few women of the upper classes. All seemed to have drifted into alcoholic or drug habits through illness, overwork, or bad environment” (Ex-Patient, 1926).

It was considered essential to remove inebriate people from their usual environment to remove unhelpful external influences which might threaten treatment (Inspector of Retreats, 1881). Most Temple Lodge patients were many miles from home. Visiting from such a distance would have been time-consuming and costly, and not possible for poorer families. For those who were not able to read or write, keeping in touch would have been difficult. The break from their previous lives would have almost certainly have caused the women to have felt very isolated, especially in the early stages of their stay. To keep their spirits up, during the winter months, patients were entertained with concerts, lantern lectures and even tableaux and dramatic performances” (Thompson, 1913).

Unlicensed retreats were beyond the reach of the Inebriates Act, and treatment may have varied greatly. One thing that all regimes appeared to have agreed on is that “medical treatment can assist men in carrying out their intention to become sober, but it cannot create that intention. At the outset, what must take place is a change in the alcoholic’s character” (British Journal of Inebriety, 1906). When first admitted to Temple Lodge, patients were not allowed out. Later, they were accompanied by another patient or a member of staff. There is a conflict in that the person being deprived of their liberty also had to pay for the privilege. Dr Branthwaite (1893) commended homes for their ‘healthy’ environments and their ‘pure and elevating moral atmosphere’, which promoted ‘repentance, self-control and endeavour after a better life’ among patients.

The Church of England Temperance Society (CETS) felt that secret of their homes’ success was “reliance on the spiritual influence…The CETS knows that in a ‘knowledge and love of God, and of His Son Jesus Christ Our Lord,’ lies the hope of the inebriate. When this is fully grasped, there is no longer such a thing – so far as simple inebriety is concerned – as a hopeless case” (Thompson, 1913).

The Chapel in Temple Lodge

There is no evidence of any psychological therapy being offered – perhaps the Victorians did not think it would be effective if current thinking was that inebriety was a disease, a choice or a moral vice. Treatment was simply a combination of withdrawal, abstinence and religion. Patients were fed a ‘simple, unstimulating diet’; in some homes this was a vegetarian diet as meat was thought to fuel immoral desires including alcohol (Kerr, 1880 in Morrison, 2008). Salvation Army homes believed that “the practice of vegetarianism is a wonderful enemy to the practice of alcoholism. The vegetarian, it seems, conceives a bodily distaste to spirituous liquors” (Haggard, 1910). The approach didn’t change over the years. One former patient observed in 1926 “The method of treatment was the provision of rest of body and mind, good food, and general hygiene” (Ex-Patient, 1926). Daily life centred around prayers and piecework.

The ex-patient quoted above described the daily routine in her church-run inebriate home:
6am – Inmates to be called
7am – Chapel
8:20 am – Breakfast
9am – Matins
9:30 – Work: housework, needlework, laundry
1pm – Dinner
2pm – Work
5pm – Tea; then recreation and time for private work
7pm – Evensong, with a service on Fridays
8pm – Supper
9pm – Compline (Night Prayer); then lights out, silence until the following morning

None of the CETS homes had servants, all chores were undertaken by the patients. “Work” also included embroidery, producing fancy goods to be sold at sales of work to raise money. Work-room patients were occupied in fulfilling orders for “house, table, and personal linen of all sorts” (Thompson, 1913). Kitchen patients performed all the domestic duties of the home.  Some of the large reformatories took in laundry (McLaughlin, 1989) and it is possible that Temple Lodge did too. There also seems to have been some in-house vocational rehabilitation; through chores, patients learned how to be servants and were often found positions in service when they left. Having achieved sobriety, some patients became staff.

A survey published in the BMJ of women discharged from Farmfield Inebriate Reformatory found that out of the first 600 cases committed to Farmfield 19 per cent were doing well, 27 per cent did well for a considerable period, 45.5 per cent relapsed and the remainder could not be traced, or were living unsatisfactory lives (British Medical Journal, 1911).


Ex-Patient (1926) British Journal of Inebriety, July 1926
British Medical Journal, 22 April 1911 “The Treatment of Inebriates”, p.962
Inspector of Retreats (for Habitual Drunkards), (1881) HCPP, First Annual Report, 1881 [354], XXIII, p. 503
McLaughlin, Patrick M (1989) Responding to Drunkenness in Scottish Society: A Socio-Historical Study of Responses to Alcohol Problems
Morrison, Bronwyn (2008) ‘Controlling the “Hopeless”: Re-visioning the History of Female Inebriate Institutions, c.1870–1920’, in Helen Johnston (ed.), Punishment and Control in Historical Perspective (Basingstoke, 2008)
Thompson, Gerald A (1913) The Church of England Temperance Society’s Homed for Inebriates, The British Journal of Inebriety, 1913