This large and imposing building, situated opposite the Art Gallery and the University of Salford, has housed the Working Class Movement Library, since 1987. The library contains material documenting the history of the political, industrial, social and cultural institutions of the working classes. However, the building itself is of relevance to the history of nursing. In 1897 a collection to commemorate the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria’s reign raised sufficient funds to build a new nurses’ home. It was occupied in 1899 and officially opened in 1901 as ‘The Salford Royal Nursing Home’ belonging to the Manchester and Salford Sick Poor and Private Nursing Institution. This became the headquarters and nurses’ home for district nursing in Salford up to and following the creation of the National Health Service.
District nursing was first introduced in Manchester and Salford in 1866, when the Manchester Nurse Training Institution was established. District nurses were employed in the Adelphi and St Stephens districts of Salford, two of the most deprived and unhealthy parts of the town. The nurses initially lived within the district in which they worked but by 1891 most were housed within a nurses’ home under the supervision of a matron, herself a qualified district nurse. The number of districts slowly expanded, by 1882 over 1,300 cases were nursed and during 1905 the 13 nurses in the new Salford home made 85,398 visits to 3,443 patients. This level of activity was not maintained due to World War One and the economic depression that followed, but the number of nurses slowly increased to about twenty by 1939. In 1948 the newly formed NHS was introduced and district nursing came under the control of Salford Corporation. In 1974 district nursing services were absorbed into the NHS and eventually the building became obsolete as society had changed and qualified nurses no longer wanted to live in nurses’ homes. It is fitting that a building that once provided a vital service to the working classes now holds records of their lives, struggles and achievements.
Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, (1901) ‘The Salford Royal Nursing Home’ 28 January, p10
Wildman, S. (2016) ‘“The Greatest Human Touch”: District Nursing in Manchester and Salford, 1864 – 1958. The Bulletin (UK Association for the History of Nursing), 5, November 2016, 6-18.
Stuart Wildman is an Honorary Research Fellow, at the University of Birmingham, and a member of the UKAHN Steering Committee. He is the editor of the UKAHN Bulletin.