They helped local residents with all aspects of their visual health. For more than a century, Southampton’s Eye Hospital was a landmark and a visit was always memorable - whether good or bad.

1) Was once known as Wilton House

The Eye Hospital stood on the corner of Wilton Avenue and Bedford Place, and the property - once known as Wilton House - pre-dated the hospital.

2) Forerunner was in Oxford Street

In 1889 a local ophthalmic surgeon, Dr John Follett Bullar, saw the need for a special hospital for the treatment of eye diseases, and on August 9 that year, held his first surgery with four patients. This took place at his home in Oxford Street.

Just one month later two beds were purchased and in-patients were admitted for treatment, From these modest beginnings sprouted a service which grew into the state-of-the-art unit we know at University Hospital Southampton today.

With patient numbers increasing at a rapid rate, it wasn’t long before the property next-door in Oxford Street was purchased, firmly establishing the institution which was funded by societies and workers’ organisations.

An old Echo report recalls “It was now found that the two old and dilapidated houses which served to start the hospital were neither suitable nor adequate for its requirements, as they could not be considered particularly healthy, nor were they sufficiently quiet.”

As a result of a public meeting, more than £3,000 was promised to fund the purchase and equipping of new premises at Wilton House.

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3) The Eye Hospital opened in 1895

The hospital opened in 1895, with Miss AM Monk as matron - a role she filled for more than 36 years.

On December 22 the following year there was a visit to the hospital by Princess Louise, Marchioness of Lorne.

“After visiting the wards Her Royal Highness took her place in the out-patients’ waiting hall and received 49 purses of money for the reduction of the building debt,” said the Echo.

Among the contributions to the running expense of the hospital was a sum of 16 shillings, the result of “fines paid by the customers of a tavern when they were overheard using bad language.”

4) Various extensions and additions were built

In the years that followed, various extensions and additions were built on the hospital site.

From 1930 onward, the hospital instigated an evening out-patients session which was held weekly “for those who are in paid employment on the day of attendance”.

5) Old power station responsible for surge in patient numbers

During the early part of the 20th century, it was a regular occurrence for people to wander in off the street after getting a piece of grit in the eye from the plumes of smoke which billowed from the old power station in Western Esplanade. This died down in 1951 when a special extractor was installed at the plant.

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6) The eye hospital was closed in 1994

The eye hospital was closed in 1994, when it was classified as being outdated and no longer suitable for modern medical treatments. The eye unit was then transferred to a purpose built unit at Southampton General Hospital.

Locals were sad when the news of the closure was made public, as the skills of the medical staff and the friendly atmosphere were greatly appreciated by most.

7) The building is said to have been haunted

The building, which was torn down to make way for a nursing home, was said to have been haunted by the ghost of a former housekeeper called Effy.

The story went that she Effy murdered a young housemaid in a fit of passion more than 270 years ago, after catching her in an uncompromising position with her butler boyfriend.

Those who saw Effy said she appeared to be about 40-years-old, 5ft and dressed with an eyeglass worn on a velvet ribbon around her neck.

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The Daily Echo’s Archive Picture of the Day for April 2 was an image of Southampton’s old Eye Hospital and readers responded in their hundreds by sharing their memories on Facebook.

BACK in 1960 I was in a senior school choir.

We visited the eye hospital to sing Christmas carols to the patients.

Many of them in the wards had bandages covering their eyes, but from the smiles on their faces we knew they enjoyed us singing.

Val Collins

I went there once as I caught a piece of grit on the cornea of one eye when riding my motorbike in town without goggles!

It only took them a couple of minutes to put anaesthetic drops in and pick it off!

Lionel Yexley

Got pepper in my eyes while working nights at GPO & had to go there.

I had contact lenses in too! Ouch!

Ali Malone

Spending a very long evening there after my Son returned from School trip to Chessington World of Adventure.

On a ride, a drip of water from the roof of a tunnel went into his eye and it became sore.

It was found to have rust particles in it which had to be slowly washed out at Eye Hospital!!!

Kathy Thornett

My mum was a nurse there in the 20s.

She met my dad there when he came in with an eye injury. He used to joke that he couldn’t see her properly.

They had 5 children but sadly dad died at age 48.

Yvonne Miller

Many visits with my daughter Rebecca.

We used to call them soup and sandwich days because we were there for hours, the lighting turned down low to stop the glare.

The nurse who came to call us in always whispered.

Susan Pamela Winter

Went there several times when I was a welder.

I was often told by older workmates that they would pop your eye out with a spoon to clean it.

Scott Tobin

My optician was a lady who spoke so quietly and gently.

I remember the eye drops that dilated the pupils.

Couldn’t see for a few hours after!


My mum, Shelia Sherwood, worked there for years.

She had amazing memories and made friends for life with so many.

A very special place.

Michelle Jubb

Taking my 4 year old daughter into have an operation on her eye.

The Consultant drew a big X over her eye to make sure they did the correct one.

Walking out of the door crying while the operation took place.

Lynda Langford

My nan suffered from Glaucoma, technology was not as it is today.

They helped enable my nan to see for many years.

I remember her packing her suitcase to regularly go in for operations to stop her going blind.

Forever grateful to that place.

Jim Francis

As a Schoolboy I delivered the Echo there while working for Bedford News as a Paperboy.

Then, as an adult, visited numerous times to be treated for Arc Eye.

Kevin Glassey

They saved my sight in 1982!

Had both retina,s detaching and they operated on me very quickly !

Jacqui Andrea

MR Zorab - Consultant - lovely man who operated on my eyes three times at ages 4, 6, and 8.

It was a lovely small hospital and they made the mistake of showing me how to push the button to summon a nurse - great fun!

Tony Rees

An amusing episode for me once.

As a regular at the hospital when my Iritis flared up, I was used to the system and after initial examination we, the patients, were all sitting awaiting our turn.

The room was full when in came a little old man wearing thick pebble glasses who looked just like Wally out of last of the summer wine.

He obviously had a problem as he tried sitting down on about six of our knees, saying, “sorry, beg your pardon” each time.

Even in pain we were all in stitches!

Chalkie White

Worked there as the ward clerk back in the early 70’s.

Sister Williams was the sister on the wards.

Avril was the receptionist.

Mr Absolon, Mr Walker, Mr Zorab were the consultants along with other doctors.

Pam Purvis

This wonderful place saved the sight in my right eye.

It took 15 years, lots of headaches, patches and glasses from 18-months-old until I was 16.

I will be forever grateful for the care I received there over the years and for still having pretty good sight into my mid 50s.

Jacquie Barnes-Hookey