Manchester and Salford Lock Hospital

1 March 1819 The Manchester and Salford Lock Hospital opened in Cumberland Street, in a slum area District 13, now Spinningfields.

The area would be written about with horror by Dr James Kay who feared the spread of cholera here, Friedrich Engels who was formulating his ideas before writing the Communist Manifesto, Alfred Alsop who set up the Wood Street Mission, as well as outraged local journalists. It was described as ‘a mass of buildings inhabited by prostitutes and thieves’.

The hospital was for the treatment of sexually-transmitted disease, for male and female patients. The existing Infirmary, then in Piccadilly Gardens, was reluctant to handle such cases - a drain on resources in a growing industrial town. The ailments were thought to be self-inflicted and there was a fear that offering such services would encourage immoral behaviour and deter respectable benefactors and subscribers on whose funds the Infirmary depended.

To refute such arguments, the Lock Hospital resolved to treat each patient only once. After a hospital stay, the female patients in particular would not only be physically cured but morally improved. But a report in the early days recorded 17 inpatients (male and female) but only 7 beds - possibly not aiding successful treatment…

The hospital struggled financially, especially in its early years, although notably the Manchester Music Festival donated its proceeds. Finances often caused a move in location, and the hospital had many homes, settling in Castlefield near the Oxnoble Pub.

Later that century, bequests were included in the wills of both John Rylands, whose library stands close to the hospital’s original site, and Joseph Whitworth. But by the end of World War I, government was funding some free clinics and the hospital became part of that arrangement.

Find out more about Manchester's early doctors and hospitals on the Doctors, Disease & Cure tour, and about paying for love in Victorian Manchester on the Love & Loss tour.

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