Withington Hospital (Chorlton Union Hospital)

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 133 MMC/9/54
  • Former Reference
      GB 133 J b 51
  • Dates of Creation
  • Physical Description
      27 items

Scope and Content

The Withington Hospital collection comprises six series:

  • /1 History of the Hospital
  • /2 Clinico-Pathological Meetings
  • /3 Medical Services
  • /4 Building
  • /5 Pharmacopoeia
  • /6 Other documents

Administrative / Biographical History

In 1855 Chorlton Union (representing what were then the southern suburbs of Manchester) established its workhouse. Its first medical officer, George Greaves, set high standards in the early medical care. Chorlton Union pioneered a professional nursing system using trained nurses, unlike Manchester Union workhouse which employed few trained nurses. Initially, the workhouse's infirmary was small, but problems with public health in Chorlton Union during the Cotton Famine encouraged the Guardians to consider a larger hospital. In 1864 the Chorlton Union Hospital, Nell Lane, was opened. The Hospital was designed by the architect Thomas Worthington as a pavilion hospital with 480 beds. This was the first workhouse building to be planned in this style and became a national model for architecture and organisation. Chorlton Union Hospital also introduced a new system of nursing, using trained nurses under superintendent sisters.

Chorlton Union became known as South Manchester Union in 1910, and in 1915 merged with Manchester and Prestwich Unions; Withington Hospital became the local authority hospital for South Manchester. During the First World War, the workhouse and hospital wards at Nell Lane were taken over by military authorities and turned into a military hospital. By this time the hospital was known as Nell Lane Military Hospital and was later used for German prisoners of war. To cope with numbers of casualties, marquees were erected between wards. Various improvements were made during the war, including a new x-ray room. The Hospital returned to civilian use in 1919. The Hospital had been training nurses throughout the war, and in 1922 the first nurse tutor was appointed. This began organised classroom teaching at the hospital. The Hospital was soon recognised by the General Nursing Council, which was unusual for a poor law hospital. Nell Lane Hospital was also recognised by the Central Midwives Board as a training school for pupil mid-wives. From 1922, patients who were not covered by the Poor Law, but could not afford a private nursing home, could be admitted to private block of hospital to be treated by their practitioner. This block was known as 'The Auxiliary Hospital, Nell Lane.' In 1935, this was extended and modernised, it was reopened as the 'Hospital for Private Patients', before closing in 1939.

In 1930, the poor law hospitals passed to control of the Manchester Corporation, and became open to all inhabitants. A number of developments took place at Withington between the wars. New operating theatres and a new pathological laboratory were opened. Immediately after the Second World War, it was recognised that there was a need for a new out-patients department; however, financial difficulties prevented this occurring until 1955. By the time the NHS came into being, Withington Hospital was one of the largest hospitals in England. with a school of physiotherapy and physiotherapy department. It underwent further extensions in 1958 and a new maternity hospital was built in 1959. In 1970 Withington Hospital became the University Hospital of South Manchester, six chairs were established. This marked a new period of collaboration with the University, and further renovation of the Hospital. A new department of psychiatry was opened, with space for 170 patients and teaching facilities. In 1994, South Manchester University Hospitals Trust was formed, joining Wythenshawe and Withington Hospitals. Later, all in-patient services moved to Wythenshawe Hospital where a new teaching hospital has been built. It is planned that Withington Hospital will become a small community hospital.

Related Material

Note: the Medical Collection does not include any official records of this hospital. This includes any records relating to patient admissions, treatment and discharge. The Hospital's archives are held by Manchester Archives and Local Studies, Central Library, St. Peter's Square, Manchester (ref. M327).