Christie Hospital

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 133 MMC/9/22
  • Former Reference
      GB 133 J b 17
  • Dates of Creation
  • Physical Description
      10 series comprising 110 items

Administrative / Biographical History

The late nineteenth century saw the growth of industrial cancers such as Mule Spinners Cancer, especially in industrial centres such as Manchester. The legacy of Sir Joseph Whitworth prompted an agreement to build a special hospital to nurse patients with skin diseases and cancer. Money was raised to build the hospital, which would have close connections with Owens College. The Christie Hospital was established in 1892 as the Cancer Pavilion and Home for Incurables (the 'Incurables' in the title was deleted very early on). It was the first hospital to make use of the substantial Whitworth legacy, part of which had been used to create the Estate Owens College Hospital Estate off Oxford Road on which the hospital was built. Christie, one of the legatees of the Whitworth Estate and Professor at Owens College, was elected the first president of the Hospital. The Cancer Pavilion was a large house, called Stanley House, which was converted into a hospital. An extension was added in 1901 bringing the number of beds to thirty, and the same year the Home was named the Christie Hospital (while also retaining its original title).

The Cancer Pavilion was an early user of X-rays, although it usually sent its patients to the Skin Hospital and later MRI. In this period, there was considerable interest in the therapeutic powers of radium, which had first been isolated in 1898. However, the Cancer Pavilion originally took a cautious attitude to its use, due to its great cost and limited evidence of success. Christie suffered very high mortality rates; the only method of treatment for cancer was surgery and the Hospital mostly provided palliative care. However, Christie was involved in the search for a cure for cancer. Various different treatments were tried, but there was little financial support for research. Professor Robert Briggs Wild had collaborated with Professor Schuster to provide treatment with X-rays and in 1904 became interested in newly discovered element Radium. He bought a small quantity of radium from Professor Schuster, and treated a few patients, finding that it had a similar effect to Roentgen Rays in treating superficial cancers. Due to the very high cost of Radium and the need for sufficient quantities, Christie Hospital waited for successful trials in London.

While the Manchester Radium Institute at MRI pioneered the use of Radium in Manchester, its shortage of space meant that Christie Hospital was taking some of its patients. The lack of space in both institutions caused the decision move to Withington and combine with Manchester Radium Institute. The Christie Hospital and Holt Radium Institute was opened in 1932. During the second world war, much of the radium was stored at the Blue John Mine in Castleton for safety. Ralston Paterson and physicist H.M. Parker developed a method for the efficient clinical application of radium to cancerous tissue. This method was known first as the Paterson Parker Rules and later as the Manchester Method; it became internationally accepted standard practice. Radiotherapy using machine generated X-rays began in the 1950s, transforming the hospital into a world recognised centre of excellence. As radiation could be generated, the Hospital no longer needed to rely on hazardous and costly radium.

Other treatments for cancer were also developed at Christie Hospital. Professor Julius Dreschfeld was honorary physician at the Hospital from 1892 until 1907. He was an internationally famous pathologist and pioneered early research efforts into cancer. In 1922, Dr Charles Powell White was appointed director of the new Pilkington Laboratories. However there was little provision for research. Even in 1933 when Edith Paterson began research into tissue culture, she was not paid. Later she obtained a grant to support her work and professional research at the Christie Hospital began. The research department was funded by the people of Thallospore and was known as the Thallospore Laboratories. With money from the Women's Trust Fund a new building for research was built in 1962, named the Paterson Laboratories (later the Paterson Institute for Cancer Research). In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Dr Edith Paterson started using drugs for breast cancer developed by J.F. Wilkinson during the war, with some limited success. In the 1970s, Dr Ian Todd pioneered the use of Tamoxifen, a drug which is now widely used in the treatment of breast cancer. Christie Hospital was also a pioneer in many aspects of cancer treatment, including the use of cultured bone marrow for leukaemia treatment and the invention of photo-dynamic therapy for skin cancer in 1996. Christie Hospital is now the largest cancer treatment centre of its kind in Europe treating patients from all over the north west of England.


The collection consists of:

  • /1 Rules
  • /2 Annual Reports
  • /3 Medical Reports
  • /4 Medical Services
  • /5 Patients
  • /6 History
  • /7 Opening Ceremonies/Social Events
  • /8 Appeals
  • /9 Nathan House
  • /10 Other documents


Brian W. Fox, Christie's: Christie Hospital and Holt Radium Institute, A brief history of a world famous cancer hospital, Christie Hospital NHS Trust, Manchester 1996 is a basic, informative account of the Hospital.