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Happenings and goings on in the Archive and Study Centre: Events, researchers, discoveries, additions. For latest articles added to the Archive and Study Centre section of the website, click here.

Finchden: August 16-18, 2016

What is more special than a piece of music, composed 50 years ago, never before played in public by the composer: not only played by the composer but recorded during an Archive Weekend? Talk about privilege. Mind you, it helps to have a keyboard in the Archive (Don't all archives?).stephen img 3902

This was a Weekend that required considerable advance preparation. 59 boxes of a 2001 accession had to be brought out, re-sorted and re-listed to begin the process of opening them up for scanning and transcribing: 165 scans came out of the Weekend!

And there was the box of reel to reel audio tapes which Alan Wendelken had recorded, brought by Claire in 2015: If box labels were to be believed, they contained recordings of at least two people who were planning on coming to the Weekend, and music from Finchden, some of it played by Syd Hopkins ("Mr. God, This is Anna"), as well as another with George Lyward himself. Labels are notoriously unreliable guides to content; so in the run-up to the Weekend we digitised a total of fifteen: Mostly discovering accuracies, and also off-air and off-disc recordings of music and speech.

Two individual oral history recordings and one group discussion were recorded. Boxes and boxes of photographs were brought out, and a considerable number have been identified.

We listened to George Lyward together; and one of us listened to our discussions with Alan Wendelken, recorded by Alan 50 years ago.

Thanks to the generosity of Claire and of George Lyward's son John, you can listen to George Lyward, too: and well worth it. Mr. Lyward's Introduction to Finchden Manor.



Accompanying one of the reel-to-reels which proved to be an off-air recording:

pp awn rr 12 document 001


And one of the 165 scans (1951):

finchden review 1 1951 cover


This is a digitisation of PP/AWN/RR/02, a reel to reel recording made by Finchden Manor old boy and staff member Alan Wendelken and held in the Archive and Study Centre as part of the Alan Wendelken Collection. As it nears the end of Side 1 the dictation tape begins to slow down, distorting the sound; but it resumes at normal speed on Side 2. The recording is presented here thanks to the generosity of Claire Wendelken and John Lyward (for his thoughts, see below).


george lyward pp-awn


Having listend to this recording, Mr. Lyward's son John writes:

"My first reaction on hearing him speak was to think how unlike him it sounded.  He was an excellent impromptu speaker, but he was clearly reading from a script and particularly at the beginning it lacked the flow - and smile - of his normal 'lecture' delivery. The content, of course, was excellent if somewhat dense."

It is presented here because the content is excellent, and timely.

There are many photographs by Alan Wendelken in the Alan Wendelken Collection, and it is difficult to find one where George Lyward is not either smiling or laughing, either overtly, or in the eyes. This one comes very close, and is graced by a cat.

John Lyward and PETT would be grateful to anyone willing to transcribe the talk into text. If you can (indeed, if you have already done it), please get in touch with Craig Fees.


For more on George Lyward and Finchden Manor, see Mr. Lyward's Web Page




Photograph by Alan Wendelken.

dennies desk


In a personal communication to me (Craig Fees, Archivist for the Planned Environment Therapy Trust), the late and genuinely great psychiatrist and analytical psychotherapist Harry Wilmer once indicated that he rated Dennie Briggs as a practitioner higher than Maxwell Jones, both of whom he had known and worked with. Dennie for his part held Max in very high esteem, in a professionally and personally entertwined life which ultimately resulted in Dennie's "A Life Well Lived: Maxwell Jones - A Memoir", published by Jessica Kingsley in 2002 (see here). Here is the publisher's description:

Beginning with their first meeting in 1956 and ending with Maxwell Jones' death in 1990, A Life Well Lived follows the growth of a friendship between two key figures in social psychiatry and tracks the evolution of therapeutic communities from their experimental beginnings to the established practices that exist today. As a close friend and frequent collaborator, Briggs is able to recount in detail Jones' revolutionary work in mental hospitals, prisons, communities and schools, and offers a rare and engaging insight into the mind of one of the most important pioneers in the therapeutic community field.

Underlying the Memoir was a long dialogue between Max and Dennie, and a long effort by Maxwell Jones himself to write his autobiography. How do I know this? Because Dennie and Max carried on a great deal of their dialogue on recordings, and because Dennie has passed his copies of the recordings - some going back into the 1960s - to the Archive, where they are in the process of being catalogued and digitised.

The reel to reel and audiocassette tapes are just part of a 44 box consignment of archives and memorabilia which was picked up from Dennie's home in the San Francisco Bay Area on April 13th 2016,  left American soil on May 26th via the Port of Los Angeles, was devanned from the ship at Southampton, England, on June 29th, and delivered to the Archive on July 5th, a week shy of three months after heading out of Dennie's front door:  with many paperwork adventures punctuating the trail. Correspondence between Dennie and the Archive shows that the journey actually began much earlier - as long ago as 2011: It takes a long time to contain a rich and varied personal and professional life, and then to hand it over to someone else's care; and it takes a special courage and generosity to do it while you are still alive and kicking and able to enrich the collection further through a dialogue with the cataloguing archivist, and with any researcher courageous and insightful enough to come along and to engage with the material as it emerges from its boxes. 43 boxes and a mailing tube, to be accurate.

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Even speaking as an archivist who has taken in many remarkable collections, this one is breathtaking: Maxwell Jones, in full flow, discussing and debating with social work students at North London Polytechnic in 1972 (!), and in 1966 seminar with teachers (!); a 1955 recording at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Oakland, California (!); a Chino, California, prison therapeutic community community meeting from 1961 (!); a spoon from the mess when Dennie first joined the Navy; the first watch, given to him by his father; working notes and papers of all kinds; books and cuttings; photographs and slides; objects and ephemera; blueprints, diaries, and posters....

Stay tuned. Better yet, tune in to Dennie. Come by and visit, and engage. Help us to explore and add understanding to these precious and often mysterious things through a dialogue about his collection with Dennie himself. And don't miss his own website and blog:

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BELOW: Dennie Briggs with boxes. Note the gradually depleting collection of audiocassettes in the rack behind him. Multiply the stack of boxes his hand is resting on by five, and then take away one: That is the mountain of personal and professional material Dennie has saved and sent on.

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See Dennie' Website and Blog HERE

For a bit on Harry Wilmer, SEE HERE


Introducing a 7" reel to reel audio tape from the Dennie Briggs Collection, accession number 2016.055/03/21/rr/01



Back of tape box

2016 055 03 21 rr 01 back

3-3/4 ips Mono

U.S. Naval Hospital, Oakland, California

2. Staff Meeting by Dennie Briggs
October 17, 1955

Background: Dr Wilmer is away. Dennie Briggs substitutes in the community meeting for hium. Dr Bolen presides at staff meeting.

000Group opens with leadership and how to deal with psychotic officers (Navy physician and Marine Lieutenant). Themes: old vs new navy (technology, new roles for personnel); respect.

0255 Seating arrangements.

0360 Theme of latent homosexuality of marine officer being played out on the ward by his behavior. Losing one's self-respect or pride and "place" (i.e., in the new navy).

Summary: Trying to find oneself in the changing social structure of the country as well as the navy. Have not yet defined new roles in navy or in society; need to tolerate ambiguities and uncertainties. Dennie gives example of AWOL medical patient being apprehended the previous night while he was OOD and the authorities wanting him confined on Ward 55.

490 Ends.





Front of tape box

2016 055 03 21 rr 01 front

 3-3/4 ips  Mono [Master 02]

U.S. Naval Hospital, Oakland, California

1. Staff Meeting by Harry A. Wilmer, MD
October 18, 1955

Background: Dr Wilmer has been away for the first time since the therapeutic community was established. Dennie Briggs replaced him as group leader. Dr Bolen (psychiatric resident) presides at staff meeting. The Pacific Fleet Combat Camera Group are present filming the community for one month. Note: (They are later all killed in an air crash).

0015  Discussion of seating arrangements and staff checks on reality (Dr Wilmer sees the ward as different from when he left it). Continuity of daily community meetings.

0130  Group opened with seven minutes of silence; reactions to Dr. Wilmer's absence. Importance of patients and staff present on time at community meetings. How do you handle an omnipotent, sadistic member? Leadership: Effects of psychotic officers on the group: how do they recuperate?

Theme: Some things in life one never gets answers to.

0415 Ends.



Explanatory note attached to box by Dennie Briggs, 2016

2016 055 03 21 rr 01 note

U S Naval Hospital Oakland California. October 1955.

Two staff meetings of Harry Wilmer's Therapeutic Community

1. Dr. Wilmer is away for the week. Dennie substitutes for him in the community meetings. Dr Bolen, a psychiatric resident leads staff meeting

2. Dr Wilmer returns.


Note: On the September 19th tape, Dr Wilmer "OKs" the tapes' release.