This week’s curiosity is a former hospital which now requires some TLC to nurse it back to health. The Ancoats Hospital and Ardwick and Ancoats Dispensary, usually known as the Ancoats Dispensary was built in 1873 to serve the densely populated districts of north and east Manchester.
The hospital had five wards including Brackenbury, the children’s ward, where the patients were mainly in for minor operations such as removal of tonsils and adenoids; the Gaddum and Johnson surgical wards, and two orthopaedic wards, called Thompson and Armitage. In addition to the operating theatre, dispensary and outpatients, Ancoats hospital had one of the busiest casualty departments in Manchester; despite the small size of the hospital. This was due to its proximity to the city centre and the high population of the local terraced streets which served the many mills that drove the Industrial Revolution.
The building not only has a history of healing the sick but has also provided artistic and literary inspiration. Elisabeth Gaskell in Mary Barton – a Tale of Manchester life, which deals with the conditions faced by the working classes, is set in the Ancoats area and the dispensary is mentioned in this famous novel. Furthermore, L. S. Lowry painted the inside of the dispensary and his painting is now is held at the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester.
Located between Old Mill Street and the Ashton Canal, the dispensary building is grade II listed and despite previous threat of demolition is now looking for a new lease of life. The dedicated group who saved the building are known as Save Ancoats Dispensary Group (or S.A.D.) and are preparing to host an event at Halle St Peters in Ancoats entitled Share the Vision. They are inviting members of the public to go along and find out what the plans for the dispensary are, to share ideas and celebrate what has been achieved behind the scenes to save the building over the last two years.
The group currently are awaiting the results of a Stage One Lottery Bid under the Heritage & Enterprise Scheme, if they are successful it will bring £5.9 million of investment to an area deeply deprived in terms of health and well-being. So fingers crossed for the group and the future of this former hospital and unique landmark. To find out more about the Ancoats Dispensary and the future plans for the building visit saveancoatsdispensary.com.
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