House of Recovery

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 133 MMC/9/47
  • Former Reference
      GB 133 J b 44
  • Dates of Creation
  • Physical Description
      15 items

Scope and Content

Most of the documents concern the history of the House of Recovery.

Administrative / Biographical History

The House of Recovery, opened in 1796, was England's first general fever hospital and provided a model for later fever hospitals. Typhus fever was a major threat to public health in Britain, however there was little provision for treatment of fever patients. Fever patients were not admitted to Manchester Infirmary as in-patients, although in 1781 provision had been made for them to be seen at home. In 1790, a ward at was built at the Infirmary to accommodate in-patients who had been found to have a fever, but fever patients were not admitted directly. By 1795 there was increasing incidence of typhus fever due to the collapse of the cotton trade and a lack of food, resulting in fears of an epidemic. Charitable attempts to help the sick poor were made, but these were insufficient. As the Infirmary would not admit fever patients, Infirmary physicians instead pressed for a Fever Hospital or House of Recovery as a scientific way of addressing the problem. A Board of Health was set up which researched the problems and publicised information. The Board called a meeting where it recommended the immediate establishment of rooms for the reception of people with infectious diseases. The new hospital would be named 'The House of Recovery' a name signifying hope to patients, in an attempt to alleviate fear. The Board leased four houses next to the Infirmary from them in May 1796 and quickly opened the House of Recovery; it was the first institution to be set up in England specifically to stem a fever epidemic. There was great controversy from the beginning with strong opposition from local landowners who tried to close the hospital or force it to move further from the town. However, the Board of Health disagreed with the prevailing notion that fever was extremely contagious and could not be treated outside strict isolation; it claimed that with adequate ventilation and cleanliness contagion could be minimised.

However, the hospital was a success, and was generally given credit for stemming the epidemic in 1796 when it admitted 371 patients. The House of Recovery, also known as the Fever Hospital, was managed by the Board of Health, but worked closely with the Infirmary. A major fever outbreak in 1801 caused huge problems as there was not enough space at the Fever Hospital and the Infirmary. Physicians argued for new wards at the Infirmary. This plan was opposed, and instead a new House of Recovery on junction of Aytoun Street and Chatham Street was built in 1803 with 100 beds. The House of Recovery had gradually become accepted in Manchester. However, by the mid-nineteenth century a number of factors had made the position of the hospital untenable. MRI was wanting to expand and use the property where the Fever Hospital was located. Also, the introduction of the New Poor Law, which put responsibility for fever cases with the Board of Guardians, called into question the future of the Fever Hospital. During a fever epidemic in 1847, Manchester Board of Guardians had to take over temporary premises to relieve the Fever Hospital. The epidemic left the Hospital short of funds and it asked the Board of Guardians for payments for pauper cases taken by the hospital. However, the Board of Guardians decided instead to build new wards at their workhouse and withdrew their subsidy to the Fever Hospital. The number of patients and the income of the Hospital were both dramatically reduced. An Act of Parliament of 1852 allowed the Infirmary to take over the House of Recovery and sell its building; the House of Recovery was closed in 1855. Manchester was left with little provision for patients with infectious diseases until 1871 when Monsall Hospital was opened.


Povey, W. P. 'The Manchester House of Recovery, 1796: Britain's first general fever hospital, the early years'Transactions of the Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society Vol. 84 (1987).