Ancoats Dispensary

The photograph above was taken in November of 2008.   What you are seeing is the Dispensary which is the only remaining building on the site of the former Ancoats hospital.   A scheme to refurbish and revitalize one of the most deprived areas of Manchester was well under way and new building like the Isis complex beside Islington Wharf stood out in a construction zone.  Within that zone stand relics of the past like this one.  The plan was to refurbish the Grade II Listed building to create a mix of apartments and commercial uses.  HOWEVER, when I returned to the site in March of 2013 (see below) the building was in significantly worse condition and protesters were on site attempting to stop an application to demolish it.



The former Ancoats Hospital started life in 1828 as the Ardwick and Ancoats Dispensary on Great Ancoats Street.  In 1869 it moved to this building on Mill Street. At thst time it was only a dispensary since it had no beds and people were treated as out-patients or visited at home. The move to larger premises on Mill Street made it possible make provision for beds and the transition into a hospital began.

On October 12, 1888 Henry R Hutton M.A. M.B., 8A St. John Street, Manchester. wrote to the British Medical Journal as follows:

"Sir, - Your Manchester Correspondent called attention in the Journal of July 7 to an attempt which is being made to raise funds for enlarging the Ancoats Hospital.  He would but have done justice to the zeal and the energy of the Committee of that hospital had he - when speaking to the Journal of October 13th of the need for more hospital accommodation for the "suffering poor of Manchester" - told your readers that on Saturday next will be laid the memorial stone of the new wing, which, already well advanced, will in a few months afford accommodation for an additional forty patients in the very heart of the poorest of the industrial districts of this city."

Ironically almost 100 years later on March 10, 1987 a local MP was making an empassioned appeal for the Ancoats Hospital not to be closed.  His speech began as follows:

"When one reads the history of Ancoats hospital, one finds that it was set up in 1828 for the purpose of providing a medical dispensary. The reason for that was that the poor had been subjected to the expense of their time and financial loss by having to travel considerable distances to the Manchester infirmary. That loss almost equaled the value of the medicine that was dispensed. Therefore, by establishing a medical dispensary in Ancoats that severe inconvenience for a deprived population would be removed.

Now, in 1987, the area is still suffering from acute deprivation and the people occupying Ancoats hospital are fighting for the same cause. They are fighting for the provision of a casualty unit for people who can ill-afford to travel long distances to receive medical treatment."

The Hospital did close and what followed was years of neglect and decay.

- Update, July 2010 -

Work had begun on the renovation of the old hospital.


Update February 2011

I walked past the building on February 18, 2011, to look at the progress on its restoration/redevelopment.  I was rather surprised to see a "Building for Sale" sign and what had been a work site converted into a parking lot.  The roof is off the building but clearly work was at a standstill. 

At the time the "Heritage Works" website said this, "The Dispensary is currently a stabilised, but roofless shell. Heritage Works Buildings Preservation Trust is working to explore a range of potential end uses and projects that can attract external funding to bring the building back to life. The building has a gross internal area of 1218square metres , previously over 3 floors now with internal floors removed, providing a degree of flexibility and offering exciting architectural possibilities for a wide range of new uses.

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