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Silver presentation key (in original box) presented to John Bright on the opening of Rochdale Infirmary 1883.

Organised health care in Rochdale leading eventually to the establishment of the Infirmary, dates from 1832 when a charity formed by Clement Royds and John Entwisle, amongst others, opened a Dispensary on South Parade. Their aim was to “provide relief for the sick poor of Rochdale.”

At that time, sanitation in the town was almost non-existent, and fever epidemics were many and deadly, especially amongst the poor, who could not afford to pay for treatment or medicines.

The present day Infirmary dates back to 1883, when Thomas Watson’s (a silk mill owner) gift of a newly built hospital and the adjoining Howard House (renovated to provide accommodation for medical and nursing staff) was opening by John Bright. The new Infirmary is reported to have had a thirty bed capacity, with two main wards for men and women, and smaller wards for children or ‘special diseases’. At that time the operating theatre was located almost opposite the front entrance – “in order that there may be the least delay in treating patients”.