Tuberculosis (TB) was rife in Manchester in the early twentieth century, with more than 2,000 children dying from this terrible disease every year.
Manchester City Council decided to build a sanatorium to treat the children and in 1914 it acquired the Plas Uchaf estate near Abergele in North Wales, seventy miles from Manchester. The building already existed as a tuberculosis hospital for adults from Manchester. The new children's sanatorium opened in 1931.
A new exhibition at Manchester Central Library tells the extraordinary story of the Little Manchester that was built near the Welsh coast, a self-contained community with its own farm, kitchen garden and school.
Ted Shawcross from Cheadle Hulme, a former patient, has assembled a comprehensive collection of photographs of all aspects of life at the sanatorium, from the gruesome treatments the patients endured, to sports events and social activities such as summer pageants and Christmas concerts.
These are supported by the recollections and anecdotes of many former patients and staff whom Ted has contacted through the Abergelians, an ex-patients' group, which holds regular reunions through the letters pages of the local press.
Hundreds of Manchester children spent time at Abergele, living there for up to 12 years. Many felt lonely as visiting was difficult; the special Sunday bus service took three and a half hours in each direction.
Yet it is clear from their reminiscences that most patients now look back on their stay with great fondness and gratitude, realising that it really did save lives.
One patient writes: "I was admitted as a very weak 14 year old and came out a very strong and healthy 15 year old".
Councillor Mike Kane, Executive Member for Arts and Leisure at Manchester City Council, said: "This exhibition is fascinating as it provides a real insight in to the birth of the National Health Service, the state of the nation's health at the time and how Manchester coped with the outbreak of TB. The pictures are great and I'm sure this will bring back memories for many Mancunians."
In 1948 the sanatorium became part of the newly created National Health Service when it was transferred to the Welsh Regional Authorities.
The exhibition runs until 26th October. The Library's opening hours are Monday - Thursday 9am to 8pm; Friday and Saturday 9am to 5pm. Admission is free.
Margaret Blackburn, tel: 0161 234 4014