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History of St Paul's Eye Hospital / Unit

A Brief History of Old Hall Street

About the year 1236 in the reign of Henry III the family of Sir John de la More occupied a dwelling situated on ground “pleasantly sloping down to the banks of the Mersey and commanding beautiful views … to the Welsh hills beyond”.  The mansion stood on the east side of Old Hall Street about 250 yards from the site that was later to be occupied by St. Paul’s Eye Hospital.

In 1280 the Mores moved to Bank Hall in Kirkdale while the “old hall” was occupied by various members of the family.   About 1712 the Old Hall and its estate passed into the possession of the Earl of Derby and was occupied by some or other branch of his family until 1804. As part of the widening of Old Hall Street in 1820 the Old Hall was demolished.

In the 17th century during the reign of Queen Anne the area of Liverpool around the present day Old Hall Street was “…at the time and for long afterwards, … the most aristocratic part of the town”.  Windmills and potteries dotted the eastern slope of Dale Street. In 1760 St. Paul’s Square was laid out “with substantial commodious mansions of the merchants of the day.”

The opening of the Leeds – Liverpool Canal in 1774 saw the “pleasant and aristocratic” area gradually become an industrial suburb. One of the docks of the canal was later filled in and became the garden of St. Paul’s Eye Hospital while a set of buildings used as warehouses on the eastern side of this dock was used as the doctors’ residence and nurse lecture room. This building is still retained, now within the SAS Radisson hotel as part of the main bar and reception area.

St. Paul’s Eye and Ear Infirmary and No 6 St. Paul’s Square

No 6 St Paul's SquareGeorge Walker founded St. Paul’s Eye and Ear Infirmary in 1871 as a private charity to provide relief to the numerous poor people in Liverpool.  It was then situated in Mount Pleasant and provided the only available specialised treatment in Liverpool.  Not long after, three rooms were taken in No. 6 St. Paul’s Square and the newly established Infirmary commenced work with one room being used for in-patients.  In 1872 144 patients were treated for eye diseases at the hospital.  The house had belonged to the Rev. Leigh Richmond, Rector of Turbey, Bedfordshire, and a distinguished author at that time who wrote the very popular novel “The Dairyman’s Daughter”.

The charity quickly gave promise of becoming very popular so that on Monday 24th June 1872 at 2 pm a meeting with “important Liverpool citizens” was held to place the “private charity on a public basis.”  This meeting acknowledged the necessity for the establishment of an Eye and Ear Hospital following a report given by the Hon. Surgeon Mr George E Walker FRCS and St. Paul’s Eye and Ear Hospital was established on a permanent basis placing it on the same footing as other charitable institutions of the Town.

A committee was formed to give effect to the Hospital’s resolutions and consisted of the following members

The Worshipful Mayor of Liverpool – President  
Peter Bancroft Esq. Edwin Mumford Esq.
Fred H Powell Esq. William Roberts Esq.
William Nimmo Esq. Anthony Bower Esq.

The first meeting was closed with the announcement of donations totalling £215.5.0. On Wednesday 24th July 1872 the newly formed committee decided amongst other things to rent another room to form a second ward of two beds and to appoint an experienced nurse. 

At the meeting of the 1st October 1872 it was announced that the Earl of Derby had consented to become Patron of the Hospital and present an annual subscription of two guineas “intimating that he might eventually commit the same into a present cash payment when he saw how the hospital progressed”.  During the meeting, approval was also given for the first nurse “at the munificent salary of £1 a month.”

The hospital made rapid progress and so much so that at the meeting on December 20th 1872 it was decided to ascertain if the hospital could become the sole tenants of no. 6 St. Paul’s Square at a proposed rental of £100 per annum, whilst Miss Rowthwaite was appointed as Lady Superintendent and nurse with the assistance of a girl as “servant”.

On January 8th 1873, just 19 days from the last meeting it was proposed to see if the building could be purchased.  On the 15th January, just 26 days since the suggestion of becoming sole tenants was made, the committee met again and decided to purchase the building from Mr Boult for the sum of £2,450.

St. Paul’s grew far greater then its financial means and despite its efforts to raise money a meeting on the 28th May 1874 stated “the creditors are calling upon them almost day by day for payment of their respective accounts.” This amounted to £204.8.9.   In 1874 St. Paul’s was finally placed on the list of selected charities of the Hospital Saturday Fund after numerous approaches for support.  The work of St. Paul’s continued to grow at a rapid pace illustrated by the medical report for the year 1874 which gave the following statistics:-

  1871-2 1872-3 1873-4 Total
New cases 549 1092 1569 3210
Total Attendances  1317 4751 5871 11939
Operations 36 133 175 344
In-patients 8 43 98 149

In the same year the total number of beds had increased from two in the first year to fourteen in the third year.  The first bath was also erected in the basement at a cost of £16.0.0. For the next few years the minutes continually showed the hospital was short of money and the “funds of the hospital were exhausted.”

In 1876 Matron Kingley resigned as she wished to be married.  It was decided to reinstate Matron on the condition that her marriage did not disqualify her from her duties: it is thought this meant she was not allowed to become pregnant.  Her husband was permitted to reside in the hospital and to take his meals out of the hospital rations except on Sundays, which was probably his day off.

Although little is mentioned in the minutes about the medical staff, at a meeting on Nov 3rd 1886 Dr Walker suggested set days for Dr Walker, Dr Pugh and Dr Muir to be in attendance.  It was also stated at this meeting “That 30/- for half a barrel of beer” was “greatly in excess of what was necessary and that Ind. Cooper Co would supply beer on more favourable terms”.

From 1872 to 1886 the total attendances of patients had risen from 4,751 to 19,696 and expenditure from £244 to £1,043.

On April 30th 1888 it was announced that St. Paul’s was to benefit from the will of Major John William Poole who left his estate valued at £3,200 to be divided between two charities.  Due to the wording of the legacy a legal battle commenced between St. Paul’s and the Eye & Ear Infirmary, Myrtle Street.  Although Myrtle Street was successful in the first trial at the County Court Westminster at a subsequent appeal the decision was reversed.  Ultimately St. Paul’s only benefited to the extent of £155.2.81, the rest of the legacy was taken in legal costs.

In 1890 the Secretary was requested to approach Dr Pughe owing to his irregular attendance and it was also stated “in all serious cases involving the necessity of capitol operations, the assistant surgeons should consult Dr. Walker before acting on their own individual judgement.”

The medical report of the year ending 31st August 1890 stated there were:-

Extraction of senile cataract  31
Extraction of calcareous cataract 3
Extraction of soft cataract 8
Dislocation of lens 16
Discession of lens 53
Hastening of lens 3
Opaque capsule 41
Closed pupil 10
Glaucoma  32
Excision of pupil          12
Ciliary staphyloma   1
Ciliary synechia  3
Stroking in of Iris       21
Episcleritis        3
Sclerotitis          1
Redressal of pupil  1

Following the continued growth of St. Paul’s an annexe to provide an additional 20 beds was commenced and opened by the Lord Mayor on September 5th 1893.  The total cost amounted to £1162.1.8. and was raised by rummage sales and bazaars held by the ladies committee and a concert held by the Carl Rosa Opera Company.

In 1893 Mr TWO Pughe died and Mr Clegg was appointed as his replacement and Mr Stevenson was appointed registrar in place of Mr Clegg. During the next couple of years the minutes are filled with notices of financial difficulties.

During February 1896 a serious fire occurred in the building and subsequently at a meeting on the 3rd March 1896 the committee agreed to approach the David Lewis Fund with a view to them, “... building a new hospital for the same purpose as St. Paul’s and disposing of the existing building.”.  The project was pursued throughout the year but fell through owing to the David Lewis Fund being committed to the Northern Hospital.  As a result the old building was repaired from the £400 the insurance company paid for the building and £264.14.8 for the furniture.

Many applications were sent to the David Lewis Fund from 1896 to 1909 for funds for rebuilding and repeated conversations took place with the committee of Myrtle Street with the view of merging the two hospitals and erecting a new building for joint usage.  However Myrtle Street finally rejected these ideas as being impractical. 

The minutes of the November 19th 1903 meeting gives an interesting insight to how surgeons were appointed in those days.  “It was proposed by the Chairman and seconded by Mr Tapp that Dr (Arthur) Nimmo Walker be presented to the Annual Meeting as the Assistant Honorary Surgeon”.

In 1907 a plan to build on unused space with the Northern Hospital was rejected but offered forty to forty five beds for eye patients if St. Paul’s guaranteed the upkeep of the beds at £57 per bed per year.  This proposal was declined. During 1907 a ward was opened for newly born babies and their mothers for the prompt treatment of ophthalmia neonatorum. The Medical Officer for the City, Dr Hope, provided transport for these patients.

In February 1909 Mr G E Walker died at Las Palmas where he had gone on account of his health.  The Liverpool Courier on February 17th 1909 reported. “…and by reason of his singular skill he quickly became famous as an ophthalmic surgeon.  To this magnificent work he devoted his life, and he saw the hospital grow from its small beginning to its present position as one of the most notable institutions of its kind in the country.”  It also stated that with the exception of brief holidays he visited the hospital daily until the last years when ill health forced him to go abroad to Gran Canaria.  



St Paul's Eye Hospital, Old Hall Street

In April 1909, Mr Moulton submitted plans of fourteen plots of land in the vicinity of St. Paul’s and the committee finally decided on one at the corner of Old Hall Street and Kind Edward Street containing some 600 sq. yds of land.  The land was owned by the Leeds and Liverpool Canal Company who were prepared to give fifty sq. yds at the apex of the triangle for free.

Owing to Messrs Bibby’s desire that the hospital should be set back from the apex of the triangle it was decided to buy additional land and finally 850 sq yards were purchased at the final price of £4.10 per sq. yd.  Bibby’s contributed £1000 on the condition that the Hospital was set back some twenty feet.  J. Clark was appointed architect for the new build and the tender by Messrs Henshaw for £8078 was accepted.  This tender was for the shell of the building as other tenders for plumbing and painting - £1198, steel £445, fire escape staircase £76, electric light £309 were accepted and passed, whilst many other additional estimates are mentioned in the minutes.

The 17th Earl of Derby laid the Foundation stone of the new building on the 20th July 1910 and at the committee meeting held on June 24th 1910 the following procedures was arranged:-

1.          Chairman to open proceedings
2.          Bishop Chavasse to follow with prayer
3.          The Lord Mayor to speak
4.          Lord Derby to be called upon to lay the foundation stone
5.          Bishop Whiteside to speak
6.          Comprehensive vote of thanks to be given

St Paul's Eye Hospital, Old Hall StreetLord Derby opened the new building on Tuesday 27th February 1912 at 3p.m. The Lord Mayor presided at the ceremony and the vote of thanks to him was moved by Mr. Sydney Stevenson and seconded by Mr. Nimmo Walker. Lord Derby was presented with a golden key, the head being in the shape of a Maltese cross supported on an acanthus leaf cluster and bearing the arms of the Earls of Derby in heraldic colours.

The total cost of the new building, the land and equipment was £17,760 to which the Corporation contributed £1,750 for which special parliamentary powers had to be obtained.

When the building was opened the Hospital was practically out of debt.  At every General Meeting great use was made of the Ophthalmia Neonatorum ward and its great value in preventing blindness and it no doubt resulted in a large number of donations and subscriptions that flowed into the Hospital at this period. In May 1914 the first house surgeon, Dr. Andrew Stewart, was appointed at a salary of £80 per annum.

During the next two years there were repeated complaints of water leaking through the foundations so that it was necessary to fit a pump in the basement.  The covering of the floor also gave trouble and had to be completely replaced by tiles shortly after the war at a cost of nearly £1000 and in August of 1914 the proposed alterations to the outpatients had to be “indefinitely postponed” whilst it was agreed a new boiler had to be installed.  On account of these difficulties the final payment of £145 to Messrs J Henshaw & Son was not made until August 1916.

Throughout the war years the main difficulty was to find sufficient surgical help.  Mr Clegg and Mr Moir were the only two members of the staff left behind and Messrs. Stewart, Bywater, Hamilton, Harcourt, Bickerton, Faruki, Desai and Alston Hughes aided them from time to time.

AN Walker - Consultant Eye SurgeonOn September 24th 1916 Lt. Col Nimmo Walker was killed at the front to the deep regret of the entire staff of the hospital.

During the war, wounded soldiers occupied many of the beds but there is little interest in the minutes beyond one that records that one of the maids, Martha Hayman was accidentally killed on May 23rd 1918 by falling down the lift shaft. 

Shortly after the war many of the old staff passed away.  Mr. Hamilton, who had assisted most consistently during the war though not a permanent member of staff, died in September 1918, Mr Clegg in May 1919, Mr Harcourt who also assisted during the war in May 1921 and Mr Moir in 1919. It was not until January 1st 1927 that they succeed in having a second house surgeon appointed after writing “a very strong worded letter to the committee”.  His name was Dr Broderick.

At about this time (Francis) Bernard Chavasse (1889 – 1942) was establishing paediatric ophthalmology at the then Liverpool Eye and Ear Infirmary. He made major contributions to strabismus, completely revising the sixth edition of Worth’s classic textbook “Squint” and adding his own ideas on physiology and pathology. He invented of a number of surgical instruments, among them: fixation forceps, a strabismus hook still in use today and a marginal myotomy retractor. He also was a strong supporter of orthoptic training, not so much on the treatment methods but as a help in diagnosis.

Old Hall Street circa 1910His family will always be remembered for their outstanding valour in the First World War. In less than two months the parents of Chavasse (his father was Bishop of Liverpool), saw two of their sons killed, two Military Crosses awarded and the only Victoria Cross with Bar of the Great War awarded posthumously to Noel Chavasse (a VC with Bar signifies that the recipient has been decorated with the Victoria Cross twice, the highest award for gallantry that a British and Commonwealth serviceman can achieve). Bernard, whose Military Cross was awarded for outstanding bravery, was originally cited for a VC. Having survived the war he lost his life in a car accident at the age of 42.

St Paul's Waiting Room 1920'sBetween the wars the theatre staff were led by Sister Salt who married Mr Broderick. Alice Hall was one of the other theatre sisters. During this time the theatre sisters had tasks including cleaning the theatres and washing the bandages. They were helped by Chinese seamen who had settled in Liverpool – many of these had received treatment in the theatres themselves for entropion and trichiasis, a common affliction of seamen in those days.

The Medical Board of St. Paul’s Eye Hospital continued to take a more active share in forming the hospital policy and wrote several letters urging that a new outpatient department be built.  The chosen site was extremely awkward with the land sloping sharply from Old Hall Street to King Edward Street so that both entrance and exit had to be in Old Hall Street while no light could be obtained on the south side.  The hospital encountered financial stress during the build of this extension and money was difficult to obtain. They launched an appeal for £10,000 but this only yielded £1,400 in donations and a “special wireless broadcast appeal” only brought in £23.  Despite the uncertainty the extension was finally completed, which included Out-patients Department, Theatre Suite, Private Patients Ward, Nurses accommodation, extra wards and a Laboratory.

When War broke out in 1939 St Paul's Eye Hospital moved to Taggart Avenue, Childwall, for the duration of the war, returning in August 1946 while the Royal Navy used the in-patients accommodation at Old Hall Street for the wounded. In 2017, a patient who had received treatment as an in-patient in 1941 as a 12 year old, described how a German bomb had landed near to the new hospital and blew in all the ward windows.  The children were told to take cover under their beds, much to their "excitement". 

On the 10th September 1945 the Hospital became an incorporated company and the Articles of Association and Memorandum was drafted to ensure that the founding principles of the hospital were preserved.  As a result the hospital became St. Paul’s Eye Hospital (Inc.).

In 1947 the hospital became part of The United Liverpool Hospitals, part of the newly formed National Health Service, and the bed complement increased to 83.  The hospital also had to convert a room in the out-patients department to provide three sight-testing rooms to recruit ophthalmic opticians to cope with the heavy demand for free spectacles under the NHS.

In 1949 the Board of Governors of The United Liverpool Hospitals decided to concentrate its ophthalmic work at St. Paul’s by transferring to it the eye patients of the Eye, Ear and Throat Infirmary, the Royal Infirmary, the Stanley Hospital and the Royal Southern Hospital.  To this end building works were undertaken to provide additional ward accommodation at St. Paul’s including the conversion of the old Board Room and ancillary rooms to become a Children’s Ward, the closure of the laundry in the basement and its conversion to non-resident staff changing rooms, and other smaller rooms.

In 1950 ophthalmic work transferred from other TULH hospitals to St. Paul’s.  The number of patients awaiting admission rose immediately from 40 on the St. Paul’s list to 260 and the number of beds occupied daily from 42 in January to 75 in February.  By October it had reached 92.  The number of out-patients admitted in 1949 had been 1757, in 1950 the number was 2420, a rise of 38% and the out-patient attendances jumped from a monthly average of 6863 in 1941 to 9661 in1950, a 41% increase.  On the 1st April the planned bed complement of 116 was achieved on completion of the recruitment of additional nursing and domestic staff.

In 1951 the Board of Governors TULT Catering Committee took over the catering services of the hospital, thus relieving the nursing administration of menu planning, purchasing of provisions, issuing stores and supervision of the presentation of meals.

The Medical Board and the House Committee both recommended that the long-term building policy should cater for 200 beds and out-patient attendances of 200,000 per year (including casualties).  At that time there were 900 patients on the waiting list for admission, although a year later there were 506 following the appointment of more junior staff who made use of the spare theatre time to clear minor cases from the lists.

Through the work of St. Paul’s Matron, Miss Eglin, with the Ophthalmic Nursing Board, St. Paul’s become a training school for ophthalmology students in 1952 and with it came further recognition of its achievements. The number of staff St. Paul’s employed continued to grow and in 1957 a new pathology suite was built, the twin theatres were upgraded and changing rooms were provided for senior staff.  The number of patients treated at the hospital also continued to grow at a considerable rate to an extent that discussions between the hospital and the Liverpool United Hospitals soon took place with the view of extending its services.  Permission was given to build a new outpatient department, which opened in 1968. In 1969 the first Ophthalmic Community Nurse was appointed and the new Day Case Unit was completed.  In 1970 the staff of St. Paul’s Eye Hospital totalled 210.  They worked in the following departments:-

  • Day Case Unit
  • 4 Adult Wards
  • 1 Children’s Ward
  • The Theatre Suite
  • Casualty
  • Out-patients Department
  • Laboratory
  • Laundry
  • Portering
  • Domestic
  • Telephonists
  • Ambulance
  • General Office
  • Catering
  • Administration

To ensure the nurses were well cared for a package including fruit, vegetables and baked beans was delivered to the nurse rooms every Friday. This package made certain the nurses got their weekly allowance of vitamins.

In the 1960s the consultant staff were John McCann, Mrs D Barton, John Broderick, Ed Cook and W Dunlop Hamilton whose daughter married Tony Gray who introduced vitreoretinal surgery to Liverpool in the 1980s. Andrew McKie Reid, past President of the LMI, had recently retired but was still operating on a Saturday morning. The life of a Consultant Ophthalmologist was very different in those days. When the NHS was introduced there weren’t enough sessions available to employ Consultants full time and so most were on 4 sessions of NHS time, occupying themselves in private practice and doing refraction and spectacle prescriptions. Indeed this type of part time contract was still prevalent throughout the 1980s only dropping out in the mid 1990s.

St Paul's nurses walking to St Nicholas Church centenary celebration serviceClinical practice in the 1960s was described by David Clements in 2011 – he was Registrar and Senior Registrar at St. Paul’s at that time. A typical cataract list comprised 10 procedures using the Graefe knife and no stitches. There was great resistance amongst the older surgeons to the use of sutures and the introduction of alpha chymotrypsin, an enzyme that helped removal of the lens during the procedure. Postoperatively the practice was to have both eyes padded for 3 days with the nurses feeding liquidised food during this time. Pepper was banned in case patients sneezed – this was only rescinded in the late 1990s when patient care transferred to the Royal Liverpool Univeristy Hospital The first postoperative ward round took place at 1 week when the patient was discharged. There were numerous complications such as iris loss, vitreous loss, expulsive haemorrhage with this procedure so that surgery was only considered justified when the cataract was advanced. Retinal detachment surgery was effectively nonexistent – the practice of surface penetrating diathermy was still considered reasonable where multiple diathermies were applied to the sclera to drain the subretinal fluid in a procedure lasting 10 minutes only. These patients could stay in hospital for up to 3 months and the results were usually appalling.

During the 1980s specialisation within ophthalmology developed apace in line with developments in technology and drugs. The following special clinics attracted increasing numbers of tertiary referral cases so that by the late 1980s over 50% of outpatient attendances were travelling from outside Liverpool.

Mr TDH Gray - Retinal detachment
Mr DM Burns - Diabetic retinopathy
Mr SI Davidson - Neuro-ophthalmology and orbit
Mr A Patterson - Cornea and external diseases
Mr R Mapstone - Glaucoma
Mr RB Trimble - Ocular motility and strabismus

Mr Patterson also provided a paediatric ophthalmology service at Alder Hey with Mr Clements.

Sadly, Roy Mapstone died in 1986. He had been very popular with the staff and was instrumental in establishing clinical eye research in Liverpool. However he could be quite taciturn. He was renowned for not speaking to the medical students - to the point that new medical students would often ask the Sister if he knew they were there. Her reply of “He knows, he can see you.” did little to allay their concerns.

Throughout the 1980s the now common procedure of insertion of an intraocular lens at the time of cataract surgery was introduced. There was much delay due to the cost of the lens and the associated instrumentation such that in 1987 the total allowed by the then Health Authority Director of Finance was only 6 a month. Following an article in the local press, outlining this fact and calling for a change in funding, the number of these operations gradually increased. This was a huge development in ophthalmic surgery. St. Paul’s currently conducts around 2,000 of these operations each year.

There had been very large changes in the technique of cataract surgery in the previous 30 years, firstly with the introduction of sutures small enough to use in the eye and then later the introduction of the operating microscope. For many years patients were kept still in bed for up to three weeks with their head between sandbags, wearing pinhole spectacles and eating mashed or pureed food. The use of pepper was forbidden on the wards until the late 1980s and only revoked after a patient complained that the food was tasteless.

St. Paul’s was also an early pioneer of corneal transplantation and every effort was made to encourage eye donation to help other patients. Eyes had to be collected within 12 hours of the donor dying and used within a further 6 hours so a junior surgeon was always on call to visit homes and hospital for this purpose. Transplantations frequently took place throughout the night.

The other main night time activity in theatre was the repair of corneal wounds caused by windscreen lacerations during road traffic accidents. This often amounted to two or three on busy nights such as New Year’s Eve. Numbers reduced by over 90% when it became compulsory in 1982 to wear a seat belt.

During the early 1980’s, St. Paul’s saw the introduction of Nurse Practitioners, a new scheme to the NHS, which saw nurses play a greater role in the treatment of patients. This was a major development in the health care profession, which saw St. Paul’s as one of the leaders of this initiative.

The social life of the hospital was vibrant. It was well known for the corridor leading to the Doctors residence to smell of punch and curry. The affectionately known “Junior Doctors Welfare Fund” subsidised this. A series of Christmas reviews by junior staff ran between 1981 to 1986. Each year over 200 guests attended over two nights.

The King Edward Pub was affectionately known as Ward 5, especially if St. Paul’s needed to contact its cleaning staff. In fact, it was well known that the nursing staff were on first name terms with the bar staff. Medical staff often frequented the Spiral Staircase when clinic had finished.

Nurses’ accommodation was based on the top floor of Ward 3 and access to the accommodation was gained by walking through the ward. Strict rules were in place for nurses to be back home by 10.30pm. However, nurses would sometimes arrive home later than the 10.30pm watershed and would be heard “tip-toeing” through the ward by patients as late as 4.00am. It was common practice for Matron to wake the nurses early in the morning and as a result it was reported that some nurses would take a bath as soon as they came home. Matron, seeing the nurses awake, was none the wiser. Due to safety regulations the rooms were changed into offices around the mid-1980’s. Nurse training was also moved to the University of Liverpool, which contributed to the decision to close the accommodation.

The nurses also had the use of sitting rooms to relax. There was a different sitting room for the different nursing grades and the “Matrons Flat” was used for those feeling unwell. The roof garden was often used to sunbathe, although the peace and tranquillity was sometimes spoilt by shouts of appreciation from the men in the GPO building across the road. The QE2 once visited the Mersey and the clear view of it turning around delighted all those who had congregated on the roof to see.

Due to the close location of the hospital to the docks, St. Paul’s needed the services of a Rat Catcher. He was paid by the number of rats he caught and such was his honesty he would often ask the Sister on duty to count the rats in his bag. One Sister recalled never counting the rats and would always take his word.

St. Paul’s was always known for the high standard of care it provided patients. It was held in high regard by the local community who treated it has their hospital. The good camaraderie between the staff and patients added to the appeal of the hospital to such an extent that when Bobby Ewing was shot in the immensely popular 1980’s TV series Dallas, a local man ran into the Accident and Emergency Department of St. Paul’s that night and shouted “Hey Sister, has Bobby Ewing been brought in here?”

In 1988 the status of the hospital changed with the creation of the Royal Liverpool University Hospital NHS Trust, a “first wave” Trust. This saw a big change in financing and the opportunity for funded expansion in many areas as money followed patients. Management was re-organised with the creation of a Clinical Directorate with a Clinical Director Mr SP Harding, Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon and a Directorate Manager, Miss P Lowes. A programme of re-equipment was commenced with new operating microscopes, slit lamps and lasers.

Staff placed a banner on the side of the building to say goodbyeWith the closure of the Northern Hospital in 1979 and the expansion of the Royal Liverpool University Hospital, St. Paul’s had become increasingly isolated. There was an increasing need to embrace new developments in ophthalmic surgery such as day case surgery and higher theatre throughput. A decision was made by the Regional Health Authority to close the hospital and redistribute services around the city. This was resisted strongly by staff and patients. The closure was confirmed but the staff saw the opportunity to realise a new phase for St. Paul’s and embraced an opportunity for a new expanded department at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital with retention of the name and ethos of the previous 120 years of history. Thus a “closure” became a “move” and with the help of the Trust Board at RLUH plans were developed to retain the previous referral patterns and funding streams for a strong future.

St Paul's Eye Unit - Royal Liverpool University Hospital

In 1991 the Liverpool Diabetes Eye Study was established in response to recommendations for diabetes care worldwide were set at a joint meeting between the World Health Organisation and the International Diabetes Federation in St Vincent, Italy in 1989. The aim of the LDES was to study the epidemiology and feasibility of implementation of systematic photographic screening for diabetic retinopathy, and from the study a screening service developed. A historical account of this service can be found by clicking here. 

On the 24th June 1992 the hospital moved from its home in Old Hall Street to the Royal Liverpool University Hospital at a cost £1 million. The closure was marked by a series of events including a fireworks display (with the Mersey Fire Brigade in attendance), a summer barbeque, and “Eye Ball”. Previous star contributors were invited back to Liverpool for a Review of Reviews at which many well-known consultants and professors reprised their sketches from the early 1980s.

The Unit moved into new open plan outpatient accommodation increasing the number of clinic rooms from 9 to 14 and laser rooms from 1 to 3. Theatre space doubled and a new purpose-built day case unit was provided allowing a major shift in routine ocular surgery to day case local anaesthesia. There was an accompanying reduction in beds to 24. 

Paediatric ophthalmology moved to a new purpose built Department of Paediatric Ophthalmology and Alder Hey Children’s Hospital.

The move provided an opportunity to build links with researchers from the University of Liverpool. A new academic Unit of Ophthalmology was created within the Department of Medicine headed by a new appointment for St. Paul’s the first Professor of Ophthalmology, Ian Grierson. This enabled new and innovative treatments into common eye diseases to be investigated and developed. 1992 also saw St. Paul’s establish its charity, The Foundation for the Prevention of Blindness, now known as St Paul's Research Foundation to raise much-needed funds in support of academic ophthalmology. The Foundation was established with approx £150,000 from donations over the years to the hospital and a donation of £50,000 a year for 5 years from the Littlewoods Group with which St. Paul’s had had a long association with their headquarters being at 100 Old Hall St.

Shortly after moving, a re-organisation of the Accident and Emergency services and routine new patient care was achieved with the building a purpose built Primary Care Centre. This was seen as a ground breaking innovation and brought the waiting time for new patients referral down from 28 weeks to 2 weeks.

In 1993 a regional ocular oncology service was established with the relocation from Glasgow of Mr Bertil Damato. Over subsequent years this service developed to become the premier Ocular Oncology Department in the UK seeing over 2/3rds of cases from England and Wales and many from around Europe. Mr Damato was awarded a personal chair in 1997 in recognition of his contribution to the care of patients with eye cancers and his research into new treatments.

The research activity increased rapidly over the first 10 years of the new St. Paul's Eye Unit reaching a steady annual activity by 2003 of 60 - 80 peer-reviewed publications each year, 80 – 100 presentations to learned societies and £800,000 - £2.5 million of grants awarded each year. Significant numbers of conferences were being organised each year.

In 2000 St. Paul’s was awarded the highest NHS accolade, the Charter Mark, in recognition of the high quality care to patients.

In 2001 research was organised into a Vision and Eye Disease Programme and registered with the Department of Health. Five research themes were identified reflecting the strengths of the Unit’s research at the time: ocular cell regeneration and repair, age-related macular degeneration, ocular oncology, diabetic retinopathy, visuomotor science.

In 2003 there were 13 consultants including 3 professors. The following staff were employed at St. Paul’s: nurses 102, orthoptists 2, optometrists 7, dispensing optician 1, photographers 5, doctors 28, admin & clerical 54. There were 66,407 patients seen in outpatients and primary care and 6,000 operations performed. With the introduction of phacoemulsification for cataract surgery in the early 1990s the numbers of day cases had risen steadily to 75% and the average stay in hospital had fallen to 2.1 days for inpatients. The annual budget was £7.5 million. The management team comprised Mr. Mark Batterbury, Clinical Director, Mrs. Eileen Nasserabadi, Directorate Manager, Mrs. Marie Dewhurst, Clinical Services Manager, Mr. Jim Davies, Directorate Accountant.

In December 2003 Mr James McGalliard died suddenly and unexpectedly at the end of a clinic. Jim had been the second Clinical Director in the Unit and a Consultant Vitreoretinal Surgeon. In January 2004 over 400 family, friends and well-wishers attended a service of commemoration in Great Crosby.

On 20th October 2004 a new Clinical Eye Research Centre was opened by the 19th Earl of Derby. This innovative and possibly unique development in the UK linked the clinical and specialist care that had developed over the previous 20 years with the basic science research team allowing the development of clinical trials and the testing of new treatments developed by the basic science team.

In 2010 the record of continuous successful research in St. Paul’s and the Unit of Ophthalmology was recognised with the award of full departmental status by the University of Liverpool. The new Department of Eye and Vision Science was created in the Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences.

St Paul's staff at the Freedom of the City CeremonyOn the 17th December 2013, Professor Simon Harding received a letter from Ged Fitzgerald, Chief Executive of Liverpool City Council, to inform Professor Harding that "At a recent meeting of the City Council's Freedom of the City Panel, chaired by the Lord Mayor, the Panel unanimously agreed that, subject to your acceptance, a recommendation be put to a special meeting of the City Council to include St Paul's Eye Unit on the City's 'Freedom Roll of Association'. The conferment of this award is specifically for organisations that have rendered significant and valuable service to the City and its citizens." On Wednesday 15th January in the Town Hall, it was moved and unanimously resolved that St Paul's Eye Unit be admitted to the City's Freedom Roll of Associations and Institutions. A civic reception was held on the 15th March 2015 when the Freedom scroll was presented to St Paul's Eye Unit and was gratefully received by Michael Briggs, Clinical Director, and Professor Simon Harding. The reception was attended by 250 people, including civic dignitaries, patients and past and present staff of St Paul's Eye Hospital and Unit.

It is hoped that this account of St. Paul’s history gives some indication of the lengths the staff of St. Paul’s have gone to ensure that patients receive the care they need. The trials and tribulations of the earlier years formed the foundation to which a hospital deserving of its great reputation grew. It is interesting to imagine where the hospital’s new milestones will come from but what is certain is that the hospital has grown into a world-leading centre of excellence in ophthalmology. The future is looking bright.


A History of St. Paul’s Eye Hospital. A history written to mark the Fourth Annual Dinner of the Honorary Surgeons of St. Paul’s Eye Hospital held at the exchange hotel, Liverpool on Wednesday 17th Feb 1932

Prof SP Harding, Chair Professor of Clinical Ophthalmology, Honorary Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon

Abridged and contributed to by T Southern, A Doran, J Kelly, C Kerr, L Gee, M Dewhurst, DB Clements, Richard Keeler, Museum Curator (RCOphth), P Condron-Hadden

Consultants & Professors of St Paul's Eye Unit/Hospital


GE Walker

JH Pughe

R Pughe

GCA Moir

TWO Pughe

WT Clegg

T Stevenson

AN Walker

A Stewart

TH Bickerton

HH Bywater

P Eldon Gorst

FC Plummer

WJ France

B Graves

JH Moorhouse

HR Bickerton

EN Hughes

A McKie Reid

JM Brodrick

H Benedict-Smith

P J Devlin

WD Hamilton

E Cook

J McCann

D Barton

TDH Gray

DMJ Burns

SI Davidson

A Patterson

R Mapstone

RB Trimble

PK Wishart

DI Clark

1871 - 1909

1873 - 1880

1880 - 1891

1880 - 1919

1880 - 1893

1893 - 1919

1893 - 1925

1901 - 1916

1914 - 1915

1919 - 1922

1919 - 1943

1919 - 1948

1922 - 1922

1922 - 1927

1925 - 1926

1925 - 1961

1925 - 1927

1925 - 1931

1927 - 1958

1948 - 1965

1944 - 1950

1944 - 1950

1950 - 1963

1950 - 1968

1950 - 1965

1950 - 1961

1963 - 1987

1963 - 1991

1965 - 1990

1967 - 2000

1968 - 1986

1976 - 1992

1986 - 2013

1987 - 1992

JV Duvall-Young

SHD Wong

SP Harding

JN McGalliard

IA Grierson

A Chandna

BE Damato

SB Kaye

M Batterbury

PS Hiscott

CP Groenewald

MC Briggs

IA Pearce

WD Newman

H Heimann

S Chen

NAV Beare

T Stappler

JN Sahni

A Choudhary

JN Durnain

CE Willoughby

S Ahmad

A Ghaly Stylianides

CB Rogers

S Madhusudhan

RN Hussain

RC Cheeseman

V Romano

EM Arbabi

MT Sandinha 

MU Saeed

1987 - 1993

1987 - 2018

1988 -

1991 - 2003

1992 - 2014

1992 – 2015

1993 - 2013

1994 -

1995 -

1995 -

1997 -

2001 -

2002 -

2002 - 2016

2004 -

2006 - 2008

2007 -

2008 - 2017

2008 - 2016

2009 -

2010 -

2013 - 2017

2010 - 2016

2014 -

2014 - 2017

2016 -

2017 -

2017 -

2017 -

2017 -

2018 - 

2018 - 

Click on a picture below to start the slide show.