Naturopathy in the UK

By the beginning of the 1900s, the first steps in the development of Naturopathy in Britain were taking place. Although one hydropathic establishment was built by John Smedley in Matlock, Derbyshire in 1853, it was not until the period 1900-1914 that activity in England increased significantly. By 1900, Bernarr Macfadden, who had established a great reputation in America as a health culturist, had opened a publishing office in London. He had published many health books in the US, including a ‘Encyclopedia of Health Culture’ and established an English edition of his American ‘Physical Culture’ magazine. His books were so well received in Britain, that he came over in person and in about 1909 he opened a health sanitorium on the sea front at Brighton. This was able to accommodate about 50 patients and saw some remarkable cures of chronic disease without the use of drugs. Milton Powell, who wrote an early history of the nature cure movement, also had his interest in Nature Cure aroused by Bernarr Macfadden’s magazine and Encyclopedia. He worked in the Brighton Sanitorium from 1909-1910. After Milton Powell was demobilised in 1919, he began to practice in a small Nature Cure Health Home in Northampton.

Unfortunately, World War I forced the closure of the Brighton health home in 1914 and Macfadden returned to the United States. Fortunately for those in Britain, he returned after the War and opened a health home at Orchard Leigh in the Chilterns. One of Macfadden’s graduates from his American training college was Stanley Lief , who would take charge at Orchard Leigh and in later years played probably the most important role in spreading Nature Cure in Great Britain.

Stanley Lief was born in Russia, and, at an early age, was diagnosed as suffering from an incurable heart condition, and was given about five years to live. His parents decided to move to South Africa, hoping the climate would benefit him, and indeed there was some improvement. As a youngster, he read a magazine, published in England, about physical exercise. He carried out the exercises, with some improvement in his strength. One day, he was given a copy of an American magazine, published by Bernarr McFadden, about Nature Cure, osteopathy and physical culture. Lief carried out all the dietary instructions as well as the exercises, and by the age of sixteen was a healthy young man. Lief was so impressed by the philosophy and benefits of Nature Cure that he went to the United States to study naturopathy and osteopathy at McFadden’s college. He did so well that McFadden asked him to take the practitioner’s course and then work for him. When McFadden opened Orchard Leigh in Brighton, Lief came to England to run it.

After the First World War, Lief started a private practice in London, and built up a good reputation, in spite of the opposition from medical practitioners who tried to stop him from practising. With the help of friends, he set up and became the Director of the Nature Cure Resort at Champneys at Tring, Hertfordshire. After the Second World War, Lief published a magazine, “Health for All”, which allowed him to pass on his knowledge and message to those who could not attend his clinic. With his colleagues, he formed a college in 1949 called the British College of Naturopathy, and lectures were held in different venues, while funds were sought for a permanent site. In 1957, a grateful patient, Hector Frazer, donated the building now known as Frazer House, and Stanley Lief became the first Dean of the College at its new address. Not content with his work in Champneys, at the College, and as editor of Health for All, Lief travelled all over the country giving lectures on Nature Cure. Stanley Lief died in 1962, at the age of seventy two, while on holiday in France. However, he will always be remembered as the man who brought naturopathy to England, and who did more to popularise the philosophy and practice of Nature Cure in the United Kingdom than any man, before or since.

James Thomson also played an important part in the development of Nature Cure in Great Britain: he had trained in Dr Lindlahr’s Chicago Sanitorium and came back in 1913 to open what was to become a busy practice in Edinburgh. He also opened the first training college in Britain, the Edinburgh School of Natural Therapeutics, in 1919, which provided a 4-year course. This remained open until 1964, four years after his death. In addition to his practice in Edinburgh, in 1939 he opened a health home at ‘Kingston’, which initially accommodated 30 patients and was later expanded to 45. Graduates of the college formed the Incorporated Society of Registered Naturopaths, which exists to this day.