- 1660-1946 (Creation)
Level of description
Extent and medium
0.45 cubic metres
Name of creator
The Tuke family owned a tea and coffee business in York, and this is where the main branch of the family remained. However, branches of the family were spread across England and Ireland: Sarah Grubb (née Tuke) moved to Clonmel, Ireland, in 1787 where she died in 1790 and Elizabeth Wheeler (née Tuke) and her family lived at Hitchin, Hertfordshire. William Alexander, Ann Alexander (née Tuke)’s husband, was a trader in corn and flour in Suffolk, but in 1808 the Alexanders moved to York, initially running the Trinity Lane School and in 1812 setting up a printing and bookselling business, which was taken over by the Sessions family in 1826. The Copsie family, the family of Henry Tuke’s wife Mary Maria, hailed from Norfolk: John and Favilla Copsie were farmers in Wacton, but the family also seem to have inherited property in Whitwell from John Copsie’s sister. The Hipsley and Priestman families both lived in Hull, at properties named Bellefield and East Mount respectively. Samuel Tuke’s children lived in a York, Hitchin, Scarborough, Sunderland, Newcastle, Saffron Walden, London, Falmouth and Torquay.
In addition to their business concerns, the family were also members of the Society of Friends (Quakers), active in the York Monthly Meeting and regular attendees of Quarterly and Yearly Meetings. Esther Tuke (née Maud), Sarah Grubb (née Tuke), Henry Tuke, Elizabeth Wheeler (née Tuke), Ann Alexander (née Tuke), Esther Priestman (née Tuke) and Samuel Tuke were all ministers, and William Tuke, Mabel Hipsley (née Tuke) and Maria Tuke acted as elders. Esther Tuke (née Maud), Henry Tuke, Sarah Grubb (née Tuke) and Ann Alexander (née Tuke) were all given certificates by their Monthly Meeting to travel around the UK as itinerant ministers, with Sarah also travelling to continental Europe, Henry to Ireland and Ann to Ireland, America and Europe. Henry and Samuel Tuke were notable religious writers, and Samuel Tuke also acted as editor of the Annual Monitor, taking over from its founder, his aunt Ann Alexander (née Tuke), who had established the Quaker journal in 1808.
The Tukes were involved in a range of philanthropic work, some linked to their Quaker faith but also broader reforming campaigns. William Tuke founded The Retreat asylum for Quakers in York in the 1790s, and the Retreat’s moral and humane treatment of the mentally ill became a template for the wider reform of asylums. The family continued to be involved in the administration of The Retreat into the nineteenth century. William and Samuel Tuke were also involved in the campaign to reform the York County Asylum in 1813-1815, and their work at The Retreat led them to be consulted by other asylum reformers: Samuel Tuke was involved in the design for Wakefield Asylum and published ‘A Description of the Retreat’ in 1813. He also visited a number of asylums in Paris on a visit to the city with his sister Maria in August 1824.
The Tukes were also involved in the foundation and management of several schools in Yorkshire. William Tuke and Esther Tuke (née Maud) were involved in the establishment of Ackworth School, a Quaker school founded in 1779 by John Fothergill, and members of the family served as committee members, visitors and examiners there. Esther Tuke (née Maud) went on to found a school for Quaker girls in York, the Trinity Lane School, in 1785. The staff at Trinity Lane School included three of William and Esther’s daughters, Elizabeth, Ann and Mabel, and members of the family served as superintendents until the school’s closure in 1814. Lindley Murray, an American Quaker who had moved to England in 1784 with his wife Hannah, was a close friend of the Tukes and was asked to compile a grammar for the Trinity Lane School, which was published in 1795 and became widely popular, earning him the title of ‘father of English grammar’.
Sarah Tuke (née Grubb) established the Suir Island Girls’ School near her home in Ireland, and the Tukes were involved in the establishment and/or administration of a number of other schools in York, including the British Girls’ School for non-Quaker girls (1812-1896), Bootham Boys’ School (1829-) and its predecessor run by William Simpson in the Retreat’s Appendage on Lawrence Street (1823-1828), Hope Street Boys’ School (1827-), and the Mount School (1835-).
The Quakers were significant supporters of the anti-slavery campaign, and York Quakers, including William Tuke, Henry Tuke, Lindley Murray and Samuel Tuke, supported William Wilberforce’s candidacy for Yorkshire in the 1807 General Election against Henry Lascelles, son of the 1st Earl of Harewood who had extensive plantation holdings in the Caribbean. The Tukes were also members of the Anti-Slavery Society, with a York branch established in 1823, and were active in the Bible Society movement, with Henry Tuke founding the York Auxiliary branch of the Society in 1813. They shared the wider Quaker and Evangelical concern for prisoners, temperance and vice. Samuel and Maria Tuke both visited Newgate Prison and were active in York’s Penitentiary Committee. And in 1822 Samuel Tuke founded a Vagrancy Office in York.
The Tukes were also active in their local community in York through involvement in local and parish government, philanthropy and the provision of financial services and public utilities. In 1845 James Hack Tuke accompanied the Quaker minister and philanthropist William Forster on a tour of North America, and he travelled to Ireland in December 1846, September 1847 and February 1848 at the height of the Great Famine, publishing observations of what he had witnessed. His elder brother, Henry Tuke Jr., also acted as a companion to William Forster, accompanying him on missionary work in France in 1844. Their brother William Murray Tuke was particularly interested in family history, and many of the family history materials within the collection were accumulated by him: he contributed to Joseph Foster’s Pedigrees series.
Immediate source of acquisition or transfer
Content and structure area
Scope and content
System of arrangement
The collection has been split into: Correspondence Personal papers Financial papers
As many of the members of the Tuke family share the same forenames, it has been necessary to distinguish them applying standardised names in this catalogue. Other versions of the name may be used in the materials themselves.
At the lower levels of the structure the papers are frequently arranged by individual family members, and these are arranged roughly in the order a family tree might take, by generation, with the Copsie family at the end of the arrangement.
Conditions of access and use area
Conditions governing access
Conditions governing reproduction
Language of material
- Ancient Greek
Script of material
Language and script notes
Physical characteristics and technical requirements
Allied materials area
Existence and location of originals
Existence and location of copies
Related units of description
William K. and E. Margaret Sessions, 'The Tukes of York' (York, 1987)
Sheila Wright, 'Friends in York: The Dynamics of Quaker Revival 1780-1860' (Keele, 1995)
Subject access points
- Religion » Religions » Quakerism
- Politics and government » Political movements » Protest movements » Human rights movements » Anti-slavery movements
- Educational institutions » Schools » Church schools
- Information sources » Documents » Diaries
- Information sources » Documents » Personal papers » Family records