Manchester Royal Infirmary

  • Reference
      GB 133 SPH/3
  • Dates of Creation
  • Physical Description
      9 items

Scope and Content

This subfonds contains an eclectic variety of documents relating to public health provision at Manchester Royal Infirmary. It contains archival records relating to the provision of services for venereal disease, material relating to surveys of laboratory provision in Manchester and the North West of England, archival records of the Pathology Department relating to its building and equipment, and typescript extract books compiled by Stirland covering various aspects of public health work in the Infirmary but concentrating on staffing and administration.

Administrative / Biographical History

The clinical laboratory at Manchester Royal Infirmary provided similar services to the Public Health Laboratory, such as bacteriological investigation and chemical testing, but provided them primarily for patients of the Infirmary rather than for public health purposes. When the laboratory was founded by Dreschfeld in 1898, it was a very small concern, providing basic laboratory services for the Infirmary. The laboratory grew and was soon undertaking complex pathological and bacteriological investigations, managing blood transfusions and providing an x-ray service. At the time it was very unusual to have an entirely hospital based clinical laboratory. The MRI Clinical Laboratory was one of the first in the country to provide routine tests for diabetes for clinicians and in the 1920s the number of tests conducted by the Laboratory grew dramatically. In 1899 William Fothergill was appointed director of the laboratory, he was followed by George Loveday and Ronald Fairbrother before Stirland was appointed in 1962. Links between the Clinical Laboratory and the University strengthened in the 1930s with the appointment of Loveday to the University as Reader in Clinical Pathology, and appointment of professor of bacteriology at the University (at the time Maitland) as consultant bacteriologist to MRI, although he would not be director of the laboratory.

In some periods there was significant tension between the professor of bacteriology and the director, reflecting the different priorities of clinical and academic medicine. The MRI clinical laboratory and department of pathology investigated cases treated at MRI and St Mary's Hospital. It also conducted some research, especially for the development of diagnostic techniques and therapy. Some investigations were passed to the Public Health Laboratory, including Wasserman investigations and inoculation of animals. From the 1930s, when the Private Patients Hospital was opened at MRI, the hospital provided laboratory investigations for private cases, and also undertook work for other hospitals. This work however decreased when the Public Health Laboratory Service was opened at Monsall Hospital in 1948. In 1944, the Clinical Laboratory was established as the University of Manchester Department of Clinical Pathology as part of the nationwide Hospital Pathology Service, and in 1948 was officially named as a regional centre for the Pathological Laboratory Service. This marked the formal division between clinical/hospital pathology and public health bacteriology.

The Department of Clinical Investigations and Research (DCIR) was established under the joint control of the University and the Infirmary in 1925. While the Clinical Laboratory of MRI had a primarily diagnostic role, the DCIR had a research based role and conducted special investigations. Separated from the clinical laboratory who undertook routine work, the Department was able to concentrate on more experimental research and gain funding from the MRC. The major success of the DCIR was the haematological research conducted by John Wilkinson, the Director, in the 1930s. The Department of Clinical Investigations and Research terminated in 1947.


This section has been organized into the following four series:

  • SPH/3/1 Venereal Diseases
  • SPH/3/2 Laboratory Surveys
  • SPH/3/3 Pathology Department Records
  • SPH/3/4 Typescript extract books