Manchester Institution for Curing Diseases of the Eye

William James Wilson


The founder of the institution now known as the Manchester Royal Eye Hospital was William James Wilson. Born in Leeds, after qualifying in medicine he was apprenticed to surgeons in Lancaster, Chester and London, where he developed an interest in ophthalmology. He became a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1813 and moved to Manchester to set up practice.

Inaugural announcement

At the time, the only provider of eye surgery was the Manchester Infirmary, and the surgeon best-known locally for his eye expertise had recently died. The precedent of specialist eye hospitals had been set elsewhere, with institutions in London, Exeter and Bristol already in existence for a few years.

Wilson canvassed local opinion, and having gained support, arranged an inaugural meeting at which the supporters gath

Premises were now needed, and one of the supporters of the Institution owned a house "near the top of King Street" which had some spare rooms. These were rented for the sum of £25 per annum, and the Manchester Eye Institution was open for business. Financial support was provided firstly by annual subscription from those who would become Governors and Trustees, and secondly from donations. The history of the Eye Institution's first decades would be a story of constant striving for enough funds to support an organisation which became immediately popular amongst patients, the cooperative societies and workhouses who often funded them. A 'collector' was appointed, whose task it was to ensure that the subscriptions were collected and accounted for. This was a full-time occupation, mostly on horseback.ered to declare open the Manchester Institution for Curing Diseases of the Eye. The meeting was held on Trafalgar Day, October 21st 1814, the 9th anniversary of the famous battle. The inaugural announcement was published: