Stirland Public Health Collection

  • Reference
      GB 133 SPH
  • Dates of Creation
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      1.5 linear metres  41 items
  • Location
      Collection available at University Archive and Records Centre, main University Library.

Scope and Content

Many papers relating to the Public Health Laboratory were accumulated by Hugh Bethune Maitland for a history of the Public Health Laboratory in Manchester, and were transferred to Dr Stirland when Maitland moved abroad in the 1960s. Stirland produced a number of volumes of typescript copies and photocopies of these papers and from various other sources, including the Department of Bacteriology at the University of Manchester, and Manchester Royal Infirmary pathology and bacteriology services. This collection comprises largely of these copies, but also includes original archive and printed material: Delépine's reports, some original material of Stirland's relating to the Department of Bacteriology, family papers of Delépine, and a bound volume relating to Venereal Diseases regulations at Manchester Royal Infirmary.

The Stirland Public Health Collection contains a wealth of information about the Manchester Public Health Laboratory under the directorship of Delépine. This information gives an insight into the development of bacteriological services in a large city, and the relationships between universities, hospitals and local authorities in providing public health services. Material in the collection is primarily administrative rather than scientific, but can still illustrate the changing nature of laboratory work during this seminal period. There are papers relating in particular to the physical nature and financial arrangements of the Public Health Laboratory. There are also papers relating to the Venereal Diseases Regulations of 1916 and relating to surveys of laboratories in the 1940s; these papers were created within the Manchester Royal Infirmary, but demonstrate scientific and administrative interaction between the hospitals, the Public Health Laboratory and local and central government. This Collection also includes family papers of Professor Delépine, which provide information and evidence about his immigration to England and later naturalisation. For the period after the death of Delépine in 1921, the Stirland Public Health Collection has less consistent coverage. Most later material comprises typescript and photocopies created by Stirland, from archives of the University Department of Bacteriology and Manchester Royal Infirmary, although there are original documents relating to the physical property of the Department of Pathology at MRI. The copied material tends to be eclectic in nature, comprising extracts from minutes and reports of various committees, and influenced by Stirland's aim to write a history of public health laboratory services in Manchester, and his personal views on staffing and infection control. The copied material includes interesting information about the administration of public health (staffing and finances), developments in bacteriological techniques, outbreaks of disease.

Administrative / Biographical History

This collection comprises material gathered together with the intention of publishing a history of public health in Manchester and the University of Manchester Public Health Laboratory. Material in the collection has come from a number of individuals and institutions, brought together by Maitland and consolidated by Stirland. Detailed administrative and biographical histories for the main bodies concerned (Public Health Laboratory, MRI Clinical Laboratory, Delépine and Stirland) are given in the headers for the appropriate subgroups. This history gives a brief introduction to the main theme of the collection, namely the development of laboratory medicine, in particular public health bacteriology in Manchester.

In the nineteenth century, Manchester was the epitome of a large industrial city, with poverty, crowding, and pollution, with the consequent public health problems. John Leigh, Medical Officer of Health from 1868 to 1888, had initiated many sanitary improvements, but Manchester still had a poor record for infectious disease. The late nineteenth century saw the development of bacteriological techniques for the diagnosis and prevention of disease. The subsequent growth of laboratory work led to increasing involvement of universities and hospitals in public health work. In Manchester, the development of laboratory sciences (including pathology, bacteriology and chemical analysis) led to the foundation of two main laboratories, the University of Manchester Public Health Laboratory founded by Delépine and the Manchester Royal Infirmary Clinical Laboratory.

This Collection focuses on the Public Health Laboratory, which was the main laboratory for the provision of public health bacteriology and education. The Clinical Laboratory at MRI clinical laboratory was primarily engaged with providing laboratory services within the hospital, but was later involved with public health initiatives of local authorities, in particular the Venereal Diseases Regulations of 1916 and the Blood Transfusion Service from the late 1930s. Both laboratories were involved, to varying extents, in routine laboratory tests, special investigations and research. The Public Health Laboratory concentrated on bacteriology for public health (such as epidemics and hygiene) while the MRI Laboratories concentrated on hospital work, encompassing diagnostics, sterilisation, blood transfusions and antibiotics.

The influences of the University, the Infirmary and the local authorities can be seen throughout the history of both laboratories. Although independent of each other, the laboratories worked together, and often the staff of the University were given honorary appointments at the Infirmary and vice versa. However, attendant on this close relationship was the tension between academic and clinical priorities: Laboratory medicine had to negotiate a often difficult course between these two approaches. Delépine at the Public Health Laboratory was anxious to provide a solid academic basis for bacteriology, the mass of routine work made this difficult, but provided necessary income. The situation was further complicated in the period surrounding World War II, when the Emergency Medical Service attempted to create a regionalised laboratory service. This Collection represents this move from regional provision by the University to a national scheme for public health, with the Public Health Laboratory Service at Monsall Hospital.

The core of this Collection was created by Hugh Bethune Maitland, an eminent microbiologist and professor of bacteriology and director of the Public Health Laboratory at the University of Manchester from 1927. Maitland had qualified in Canada as a doctor and biologist, and worked at the Lister Institute before coming to Manchester. As professor of bacteriology, Maitland continued to promote the academic basis of clinical pathology and bacteriology. He began to collect material for a history of the Manchester Public Health Laboratory, but after retiring in 1962 went to Malaysia leaving the material in Manchester. Maitland died on 13 January 1972.


The Stirland Public Health Collection is an artificial collection defined by its subject. It has thus been impossible to arrange by archival provenance. The arrangement is instead based on Stirland's arrangement of the material, which can be noted in different coloured bindings of the photocopy volumes. The collection is organized into four sub-fonds: Public Health Laboratory, MRI, Delépine and Stirland. Within these subfonds an attempt has been made to separate different provenances, for example, reproductions created by Stirland and original archival material.

Access Information

There are some patient health records in this collection which are subject to a hundred year closure period. Other records containing personal information may be subject to access restrictions under the Data Protection Act.

The collection includes material which is subject to the Data Protection Act 1998. Under Section 33 of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA), The University of Manchester Library (UML) holds the right to process personal data for research purposes. The Data Protection (Processing of Sensitive Personal Data) Order 2000 enables the UML to process sensitive personal data for research purposes. In accordance with the DPA, UML has made every attempt to ensure that all personal and sensitive personal data has been processed fairly, lawfully and accurately. Users of the archive are expected to comply with the Data Protection Act 1998, and will be required to sign a form acknowledging that they will abide by the requirements of the Act in any further processing of the material by themselves.

Open parts of this collection, and the catalogue descriptions, may contain personal data about living individuals. Some items in this collection may be closed to public inspection in line with the requirements of the DPA. Restrictions/closures of specific items will be indicated in the catalogue.

Acquisition Information

These paper were a bequest to JRUL from Robert Mandell Stirland following his death in 2002.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.

A number of items within the archive remain within copyright under the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988; it is the responsibility of users to obtain the copyright holder's permission for reproduction of copyright material for purposes other than research or private study.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the archive. Please contact the Head of Special Collections, John Rylands Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester M3 3EH.

Custodial History

Many papers relating to the Public Health Laboratory were accumulated by Hugh Bethune Maitland, during his 35 years at Manchester, with the intention of writing a monograph about Sheridan Delépine and the relation of his work to the public health effort in Manchester. When Maitland retired from his chair of bacteriology and moved abroad in the 1960s, these papers were transferred to Robert Mandell Stirland, lecturer in bacteriology and consultant bacteriologist at the MRI. Stirland produced a number of volumes of typescript copies and photocopies of these papers and from various other sources. Most of the original archive material was returned to 'source', but some remains in this collection. Also contained in this collection are personal papers of Delépine/family which were given to Stirland by Thomas Griffin, a great-nephew of Delépine, in the 1970s and a volume relating to venereal diseases in 1916 which Stirland 'rescued', probably from MRI, in 1991. The collection remained in the possession of Stirland until his death in 2002.

Related Material

The Manchester Medical Collection contains various files which are related in subject matter to this collection, including biographical and publications files for Delépine and Stirland at MMC/1 and MMC/2, files on public health at MMC/14 and on outbreaks of disease in Manchester and Salford at MMC/15, files on MRI at MMC/9/9 and a small amount of material relating to the Public Health Department of the University of Manchester at MMC/5/7/13/13. Other collections relating to Public Health in UML include the archive of the Society of Medical Officers of Health, North Western Branch, ( NWH) and the archive of the Association of Certifying Factory Surgeons (CFS).

Location of Originals

Many of the items in this collection have been copied from original archival material. It is unlikely that the archive of the Public Health Laboratory has survived, the MRI minutes from which extracts have been taken are held by the Manchester Royal Infirmary.

The University of Manchester Archives holds the originals of many University documents copied by Robert Stirland.


Helen Valier, The Politics of Scientific Medicine in Manchester c.1900-1960, (University of Manchester PhD Thesis, 2002)  is a detailed account of the rise of laboratory medicine in Manchester.

Geographical Names