Friday, 4 November 2016

When St Mary’s Hospital in Manchester moved out to Prestbury

I came across David’s story of Collar House in Prestbury and its role in the last world war as an annexe to St Mary’s in Manchester.  He kindly let me reproduce it here.

St Mary's in 1939
Amongst his many activities is the Furness Vale Local History Society and his own blog site, Bricks, both of which are well worth visiting.*

"I was born at St Mary’s Hospital yet my place of birth is recorded as Macclesfield which was where my parents lived at the time.

A little research on the internet has given me some background to the story. 

Faced with the possibility of air raids, the St Mary’s Hospital Board chose to close their City Centre maternity wards. Collar House in Prestbury was owned by the Moseley family who were then living in Wales and in 1939 was rented by the hospital as an annexe. 

This was a large house with extensive grounds. It had its own water and electricity supply as well as a laundry. It was converted to hold 45 beds and had maternity wards and nurseries as well as a theatre, dispensary and accommodation for 30 staff. Nearby Prestbury Hall and Adlington Hall were also to become hospitals. St Mary’s remained at Collar House until 1952 when the maternity wards returned to the City. 

During those 13 years, more than 14000 children were born at the three Prestbury hospitals. Originally a farm, Collar house dates from before 1780 and has been occupied by a number of different families. 


Collar House, date unknown

Collar House, much extended is now occupied by Beaumont Nursing Home.

A book by Mary E. Roberts has been published on the history of Collar House and is available from Waterstones.

The pages of the Manchester Guardian add a little more to the history of this wartime annex of St Mary’s Hospital. The Guardian of 9th December 1939 reported that Collar House had received its first maternity cases that Monday. It was described as a pleasant Cheshire mansion.  

The board of St Mary’s had decided to evacuate cases from a 'dangerous' to a 'safe' location after some deliberation. “Suitable cases” were to be transferred to Prestbury by ambulance leaving more complex cases for treatment at Whitworth Park Hospital.

At the outbreak of war the board appointed Miss D. H. Stuart to Matron-in-Charge. Fifty staff with were initially transferred to Blackpool together with medical equipment. It was soon realised that expectant mothers were unhappy to leave their neighbourhood and the scheme was phased out.


In January 1945, The Guardian reported that the Prestbury Hall Maternity Home had been due to close in a short time. 

The Manchester Public Health Committee, faced with an acute demand for maternity beds had decided that St Mary’s Hospitals should continue running this home for a short time in conjunction with Collar House. 

In March 1946, The Guardian reported that the Public Health Committee had recommended the purchase of Collar House for the sum of £9750. The cost of running the home was £12732 and annual income from patients £4500 leaving a deficit of £8232. The hospital had a capacity for 800 patients a year.

In December 1952 the Ministry of Health had decided to return Collar House to its owner. This would result in a loss of 40 beds. St Mary’s had 82 beds at Whitworth Street and this reduction would threaten its position as a teaching hospital.

In June 1957, a bus crashed in London’s Oxford Street, killing 7 and injuring a further 12. Among the fatalities was Miss Forbes-Graham, matron of Collar House Hospital who was on a week’s leave.  She had worked at St. Mary’s since 1929 and was involved in the evacuation of children from Manchester in 1939.  

She became Sister-in-Charge of Collar House Hospital and continued as Matron when the hospital transferred to the Macclesfield Hospital Group in 1952.


Perhaps that 1946 purchase did not proceed for the 1952 article suggests that it was still being rented, although Collar House remained as a hospital into the 1970’s as part of the Macclesfield Hospital.

I have not seen any reference to any annex of St Mary’s in North Manchester other than the Blackpool episode.  Collar House was used as a convalescent home in the 60’s. I have not as yet found any reference to any other use that Macclesfield Hospital found for the building.

There are several references to Collar House on the internet. One website states categorically that this had been the home of Sir Oswald Mosley, leader of the British Union of Fascists. 

Not very well researched for the Moseley family of Prestbury did not even spell their name in the same way as Sir Oswald."

© David Eastman November 2013

Pictures; St Mary’s Hospital A P Morris, 1939, m53220, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council and Collar Hospital from the collection of David Eastman

*Furness Vale Local History Society, http://furnesshistory.blogspot.co.uk/ & Bricks, http://brickcourse.blogspot.co.uk/

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