By Royal Appointment

In 1865 the Hospital moved away from South Parade, selling No. 3 for £2,800 (property inflation was not just a 20th century phenomenon) and buying instead No. 24 St. John Street, a house that nevertheless required considerable extension, alteration and refitting. The number of inpatient beds was doubled from 25 to 50. It was felt appropriate to seek Royal status, and in due course the Home Secretary confirmed Her Majesty's approval. Henceforth it would become The Manchester Royal Eye Hospital.

The Royal Eye Hospital in St. John StreetThe Royal Eye Hospital is shown here in St. John Street, late in the nineteenth century. It is the tallest building on the right side of the street, near the far end. St. John's Church, still there in this photograph, was demolished in the early 20th century. The building occupied by the Royal Eye Hospital still stands, and has been used, as so many others in the street, for private medical practice.

The hospital at St. John Street served well for nearly twenty years, but throughput increased inexorably and in 1879, four cottages behind No. 24 in Artillery Street were purchased for expansion to 65 beds. Predictably this proved inadequate, and the medical staff proposed the need for a further increase of inpatient space to 100 beds, which could only be achieved by a substantial new build, and owing to the space needed, outside the city centre.

After investigation, a site south of the city in Chorlton-cum-Medlock was decided upon, at that time a well-to-do residential area. A special appeal obtained funds for the purchase of land, and a design of the architects Pennington & Bridgen was chosen, and the hospital was opened for business in 1885.

The hospital opened in new premises in 1885

The hospital is seen here shortly after its opening. The House Staff, including House Secretary, nurses and House Surgeons, together looking after 100 inpatients, gathered for a photograph in 1895.

The outpatient entrances (one for men, one for women) were on Nelson Street. However, for many years after its opening, 24 St. John Street was retained as an additional outpatient facility in town. During this period, the Manchester Royal Infirmary Board was becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the position and facilities of the old hospital in Piccadilly, and were themselves looking for land for new premises. They chose to move next door to the Royal Eye Hospital in 1906, purchasing all adjacent land and thus effectively preventing Eye Hospital extension (which was again becoming necessary). Hard negotiation followed, ending in the Royal Infirmary releasing a band of land to the south of the Eye Hospital on the Oxford Road Frontage, in exchange for the handing over of all clinical eye services, and undergraduate ophthalmology teaching from the Infirmary to the Eye Hospital. This transfer of responsibility and lectureships, together with the building of teaching facilities, represented the final acknowledgement by the MRI, some 92 years after the creation of the Eye Hospital, that it was the latter which was the natural centre for ophthalmology care and education, and at this time ophthalmology effectively ceased at the MRI. The Eye Hospital extension was completed in 1910, creating the frontage so well known to alumni today:

The main hospital building