Demand grows and addresses change

The uncovered need for specialist eye care was so great that within only a few months of its opening, Wilson declared to the Board that he alone could no longer cope with the workload. In due course the second post of Honorary Surgeon to the hospital was appointed, and filled by Samuel Barton. He would go on to become one of the most long-serving members of the Honorary Medical Staff. Together these two doctors serviced the patients of the Eye Institution without fees, and later in 1815 the first annual report was composed. A brief summary of activity in the minute book showed:

1815 Summary of Activity

The minute reads:

Discharged cured  702

Relieved 97

Incurable 18

Remain on the books 188

Total 1005


This, the first record of patients treated, was the beginning of an inexorable rise in numbers during the following decades, accompanied by constant efforts to generate enough revenue to support their care. At the end of 1815 a full annual report was published, showing that the newly-founded Eye Institution had already treated 1885 patients, more than three times the number treated at the Manchester Infirmary (whose surgeons would continue to offer eye care for nearly 100 years after the formation of the Eye Institution, in competition with it). The report incorporated a breakdown of the eye diseases treated, giving a fascinating insight both into the prevalence of various conditions at the time, and into the methods of diagnosis:

Breakdown of the eye diseases treated

The total benefactions during 1815 were £195, but unfortunately the expenditure was £202, resulting in published appeals for greater support. Patient numbers gradually increased, and ultimately became too difficult for two surgeons to deal with, and a third, John Windsor, was appointed in 1818. The premises too became inadequate, firstly alterations were necessary, secondly larger premises were sought. In 1822 the Eye Institution moved to rooms within a new house at No. 35 Faulkner Street.

In May 1827, after serving the Manchester Eye Institution for 13 years, William Wilson resigned his position at the Eye Institution. Messrs Barton and Windsor did not however want a third surgeon, and instead arranged for the appointment of two Assistant Surgeons, who would provide a greater part of the care necessary. This arrangement, of two Honorary Surgeons and two Assistant Surgeons, continued for some years. During this period the available rooms in the house in Faulkner Street again proved inadequate, and the Eye Institution moved to No. 7 Princess Street, again simply a small house, used for hospital purposes. The next expansion, in 1835, would be to take in addition a front room at No. 13 Princess Street, and in due course the whole hospital moved over to this address.

The rather peripatetic nature of the Manchester Eye Institution in its first twenty years was problematic, but very gradually the funding became more secure and in 1838 the Board considered for the first time that it was possible to purchase a house. This was at No. 3 South Parade, one of a row of houses facing the Church of St. Mary. It was bought for £1,333, with an £800 mortgage. The suitability of this and adjacent premises as small hospitals was clearly not just noted by the Board of the Eye Institution - next door would be the Lying-in Hospital for Women, which would later take the name of the church opposite, and become Saint Mary's Hospital.

Manchester Eye Institution at Saint Mary's Church