Dalton Hall was established in 1876 as the Friends Hall in temporary accommodation in three newly-built houses in Lloyd Street, Greenheys, Manchester. An all-male hall of residence, it was begun as a social experiment by the Society of Friends (Quakers) for students at Owens College (now The University of Manchester). As such, the Hall is the oldest continuously existing student residence in Manchester, although it was preceded by the short-lived Church of England Hall, 1870-1875 (which was later refounded as Hulme Hall). It was owned and administered by the Preparatory Committee of the Manchester Meeting of the Society of Friends, although run on non-sectarian lines. The Hall opened in October 1876 with nineteen students, fourteen of whom were Quakers.
The venture was deemed successful and the decision was made in 1879 to move to a larger and permanent building in Conyngham Road, Victoria Park. This building, designed by Manchester architect, G. T. Redmayne, was officially opened on 3 July 1882 and was renamed Dalton Hall after John Dalton the famous chemist who had been a member of Manchester Meeting.
The Hall was governed by a committee of eleven members of the Preparatory Committee, known as the Schools Committee. In 1879 the School Committee was renamed the Education Committee and was given charge of all the education establishments and endowments belonging to the Meeting. In 1910 the Education Committee, which had been relieved of the administration of the School Fund, was re-named the Dalton Hall Committee. After the First World War, representatives of the Central Education Committee of the Society of Friends and the University sat on this committee. Internally, the Hall was managed from 1876 by a Finance Committee, which later became the Finance and Executive Committee, and was eventually known as the Executive Committee. Day-to-day running the of the Hall was in the hands of a Principal.
The Hall did not provide only accommodation for its students; from its beginnings it offered students support with their studies. A system of resident and non-resident tutors grew up in the 1880s, and continued to be an important feature of the Hall's services into the twentieth century ; for example, in the University Calendar for 1951-52, Dalton Hall offered its residents "friendly oversight, tutorial assistance, and other educational and social advantages of College life".
With growing student numbers, the Hall built new accommodation; in 1893 twelve new rooms were added. In 1892, Eaglesfield House (named after the birthplace of John Dalton) was acquired, and was redeveloped as a student annexe in 1901. In 1911 it was let as a nursing home due to falling student numbers, but was reoccupied in 1922 due to pressures on accommodation from men returning from the War. In 1926 Neild House adjoining the Hall's main building had been furnished as a second annexe but this was replaced in 1935 by a new wing added to the main building named Neild Wing.
At a very early stage the student body had organized itself into a Students' Association. The Hall was notable for the degree of autonomy it permitted its student members in organizing their affairs. In 1902 a Students' Council was set up (later renamed the Hall Council) as an executive body of the Students Association. It met fortnightly with the Senior Student as presiding officer, together with the Secretary and Treasurer of the Association, the secretaries of various Hall committees, and three representatives elected by the General Meeting. In 1926 a liaison body between the Hall Council and the Principal was set up called the House Committee. It consisted of the Principal, the tutors and four student representatives and it met fortnightly after the Hall Council. The Hall had numerous committees for social, cultural and sporting activities, the secretaries for which were also elected by the General meeting. The students held a dramatic performance every year from 1932, and published a magazine, The Daltonian.
The Hall also built up close relations with its alumni. An Old Students' Association was formed in 1882, and assisted with appeals, held annual reunions and published an annual bulletin.
The finances of Dalton Hall were never particularly robust and by the 1950s it was facing acute financial problems (in common with Manchester's other independent halls). It had relied a great deal on help from the Manchester District Meeting, which was now facing its own financial problems. This coincided with the University's plans to significantly increase the number of residential places for its students. Unfortunately, independent halls of residence were not eligible for grants for capital building projects from the University Grants Committee. Although the University tried to negotiate some financial assistance from the U.G.C., it was concluded that University ownership was the only effective means for the halls to get new money. On the 1 August 1957, the Hall was transferred to the ownership and control of the University.
The assumption of University ownership brought changes to the Hall's government. A new University committee, Dalton Hall Committee, was established (including many former members of the old Hall Committee), and in 1969, another University committee, Dalton Hall Council was set up to provide more general oversight for the Hall.
Once the transfer had been effected the University was able to improve the existing facilities and provide new accommodation. In October 1961 a new building called the Graham block was opened to accommodate for forty four students and a tutor. A new and larger dining hall with a modern servery and kitchens was built as an extension of the main building, overlooking the gardens.
From the mid-1970s, the Hall began a close association with Ellis Llwyd Jones Hall, concluding in the merger of the two halls in 1987. Ellis Llwyd Jones Hall had been founded in 1919 as a female hall of residence, and was located in Old Trafford, Manchester. In 1976, its site became subject to a compulsory purchase order, necessitating the search for a new location. Eventually it was agreed to relocate to a site adjacent to Dalton Hall, occupying the former Sunnyside Nursing Home and taking over Dalton's Graham Wing, which was renamed the Fiddes building. A new building called Ewings containing 57 study bedrooms was built between Sunnyside and Anson Road, together with a new dining hall and kitchen. The basement and ground floor of Eaglesfield was converted to form a joint amenity for the Halls, with study bedrooms for Dalton Hall located above. A new study bedroom block was built between Eaglesfield and the main Dalton building to accommodate Dalton students displaced from Graham and Eaglesfield. This was named the Graham block, and opened in 1981. In 1987, Dalton and Ellis Llwyd Jones Hall began the process of amalgamation, with a unified administration being introduced in 1989, together with a new name, Dalton-Ellis Hall.
Further building projects were undertaken in the 1990s, with the opening of the Sutherland building and the self-catering Pankhurst Court in 1994.
Principals of Dalton Hall 1876-2009:
- Theodore Neild, 1876-1897
- John Graham 1897-1924
- George 'Jock' Sutherland 1924-1958
- Peter Bromley 1958-1965
- Edward Fox 1965-1976
- A.D.Yates 1976-1980
- Timothy Stibbs 1980-present