There was a considerable increase in the number of cases of eye disease in England in the early nineteenth century, possibly due to the return of troops from the Napoleonic War, giving rise to the development of specialist eye hospitals. The Royal Eye Hospital was originally established in 1814 as the Manchester Institution for Curing Diseases of the Eye. William James Wilson as appointed surgeon and governor of the institution and premises were found in King Street. Dr Hull was honorary physician, until he retired in 1838. In 1815, a second surgeon, Samuel Barton, was elected, and John Windsor was appointed honorary surgeon in 1818. This saw the beginning of a distinguished list of surgeons who worked at the hospital, including John Windsor son Thomas who later became very important ophthalmologist. The original rules of the hospital had only allowed for admission of in-patients in instances of great emergency, but by 1818 there is evidence of the residence of cataract patients. Like the other voluntary institutions, the Eye Hospital had problems raising money, which were probably compounded by the specialist nature of the hospital, and the provision of alternative care at the Infirmary. However, by 1820, the Institution had admitted 9,723 patients. In 1822, the committee decided to make the Institution a teaching centre; medical staff were requested to give lectures, the profits of which would go to the institution. The Institution moved to Falkner Street sometime between 1822 and 1825, and then on to Princess Street in 1827 when the name was changed to Manchester Eye Institution.
In the 1830s, there was increasing worry about the uncertain tenure at Princess Street. Premises were found at 3 South Parade and the name changed again, to Manchester Eye Hospital. This move marked a steady increase in number of patients, including the routine admission of in-patients. An inventory of 1864 showed eleven beds for women and thirteen for men. However, there was not enough space for the demand. After a major appeal in 1864, the hospital moved to 24 St John Street. It opened here in 1867 with fifty in-patient beds and room for expansion. The same year it was granted permission to use "Royal" in its title. By the 1870s the hospital was admitting 6,800 patients annually, of which 950 were in-patients. Another development came in 1884, when the hospital opened a new building in Oxford Road, where it stands today. The new hospital provided accommodation for 100 in-patients, 400 out-patients a day continued to be provided for at the old building on St John Street until 1920. The Eye Hospital was the first to be established on what later became known as the 'island site', so when MRI bought land on Oxford Road, they worked closely with the Eye Hospital. An agreement was reached whereby MRI would not have to provide beds for eye diseases and Eye Hospital would provide teaching facilities for University students. The hospital was temporarily closed in World War Two due to bomb damage which killed two of the staff. It reopened in 1941. In 1948, the Manchester Royal Eye Hospital became part of United Manchester Hospitals, a group of teaching hospitals. It now operates as the Ophthalmic Directorate of the Central Manchester Hospitals Trust and is the largest provincial postgraduate ophthalmic teaching hospital, second only to Moorfields Eye Hospital, London nationally.