Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: July 26, 2017.
Webpage updated: March 28, 2020




Doctor John Butter conceived the idea of a hospital to treat eye diseases but found a great deal of local opposition.  However, with the help and support of Doctor Edward Moore, the Plymouth Eye Dispensary was eventually opened on December 25th 1821 in a house in Cornwall Street, Plymouth.  In 1823 it changed its name to the Plymouth Eye Infirmary. 

Royal Eye Infirmary, Plymouth.

The rare of the Royal Eye Infirmary, Plymouth.
The main entrance was in Apsley Road.
From a postcard.

In 1828 the HRH the Duke of Clarence, later King William IV, became its Patron and it became the Plymouth Royal Eye Infirmary.  In 1835 there were only four beds for in-patients.  After a short time in Westwell Street, at Christmas 1844 the hospital was moved to a house in Millbay Road, on the site of the present Continental Hotel.  Doctor Butter was the physician for 32 years. 

In 1876 the hospital received 1,400 patients, of whom 147 were in-patients.  Mr William J Square was the consulting surgeon and Mr William F Moore, the secretary.  The surgeons were Messrs John H Eccles, E M R Rendle and William Square.  The resident dispenser was Mr George Bayntum. 

The present spacious building on land at Mutley, near Mutley Station, was the idea of Mr William Law, who felt it would do honour to the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria.  The land was acquired from the Trustees of the Bewes Estate for 4,108 10s.  The old building was sold for 5,558. 

Arrangements were made for the Countess of Morley to open the Hospital on Tuesday January 22nd 1901 but the ceremony had to be postponed when Her Majesty Queen Victoria died on that day.  The new building was opened by Lady Mary Parker, in the absence of the Countess of Morley through illness, on Wednesday October 30th 1901.  His Majesty King Edward VII consented to continue the Royal Patronage. 

It had cost 12,015 to erect the building and a further 1,680 to furnish it.  The total expenditure came to 18,613 15s 4d.   The building was designed in the later Renaissance style by Mr Charles King, the oldest member of the management committee, with the help of a Mr Lister.  It was built of bright red brick with Doulton stone dressings, the roofs being covered with Brosely tiles.  The contractors were Messrs Lapthorn & Company.  Mr Bannerman fitted the heating system, which was designed by Mr James Keith, and Messrs Corse & Company did the electrical work.

The western wing contained the nurses' dining room, grocery and linen stores, and kitchen.  The eastern wing held the dispensary, out-patients' waiting room, doctors' consulting room, a small operating room, an ophthalmoscopic room and steward's room were all in the eastern wing, with entrance and exit lobbies for out-patients.

Over the main entrance was the main operating theatre, well lit with natural light.  There were two wards on the first floor of each of the wings, one each for  men and women.  Each ward could accommodate fifteen patients.  On the second floor was an isolation wing for patients with infectious diseases, and bedrooms for staff and servants.

Just before the Second World War the accommodation was increased by means of an extension on the east side for out-patients with wards above for private patients.  Accommodation for nurses was provided in the roof.