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  • The Leicester Infirmary was established in 1771 after a successful campaign led by Dr William Watts
  • In 1889 a new Children’s Hospital wing was opened by HRH Princess Louise, Queen Victoria’s daughter
  • In 1902 the new Victoria Wing was opened. It was paid for by a fund to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee

Foundation of the Leicester Infirmary 

The Leicester Infirmary was established in 1771 after a successful campaign led by Dr William Watts. Fundraising meetings were held in the Three Cranes pub in Humberstone Gate. When the hospital opened, it had just 40 beds, a surgeon, matron, two nurses, a laundry maid, labourer, porter and cook. Nurses had to live in the hospital and have no children. Fully trained nurses were not employed in the hospital until the 1860s. 

The Children’s Hospital 

In 1889 HRH Princess Louise, Queen Victoria’s daughter, opened a new Children’s Hospital wing. The waste land around the wing was planted with flower beds and lawns by Leicester Borough Council’s Parks Department. At the back of the building there was a terrace where the children could play. Members of the public donated money for cots, toys and slippers. In 1914 the Children’s Hospital was rebuilt and made bigger and a ‘shilling fund’ paid for 70 new cots. 

Leicester Royal Infirmary 4
Children and nurses at the outside shelter in 1907, The Collection of University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust

The Infirmary becomes a Royal Institution  

In 1902 the new Victoria Wing was opened. It was paid for by a fund to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.  It was built on the front of the original hospital but has since been demolished. In 1912 King George V gave Royal status to the Infirmary. Until 1948 the Infirmary was a charity with fundraising events to raise money to keep the hospital running. Events included sport days and even potato growing competitions.  On the 5th July 1948 the Infirmary became part of the new National Health Service. 


Today, Leicester Royal Infirmary has 1000 beds and employs over 15,000 members of staff. It provides Leicester’s accident and emergency department and is part of University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust. 

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Working hospital


Roman Leicester

(47- 500) A military fort was erected, attracting traders and a growing civilian community to Leicester (known as Ratae Corieltauvorum to the Romans). The town steadily grew throughout the reign of the Romans.

Tudor & Stuart Leicester

(1500 – 1700) The wool trade flourished in Leicester with one local, a former mayor named William Wigston, making his fortune. During the English Civil War a bloody battle was fought as the forces of King Charles I laid siege to the town.

Georgian Leicester

(1700 – 1837) The knitting industry had really stared to take hold and Leicester was fast becoming the main centre of hosiery manufacture in Britain. This new prosperity was reflected throughout the town with broader, paved streets lined with elegant brick buildings and genteel residences.

Victorian Leicester

(1837 – 1901) The industrial revolution had a huge effect on Leicester resulting in the population growing from 40,000 to 212,000 during this period. Many of Leicester's most iconic buildings were erected during this time as wealthy Victorians made their mark on the town.

Edwardian Leicester

(1901 – 1910) Electric trams came to the streets of Leicester and increased literacy among the citizens led to many becoming politicised. The famous 1905 ‘March of the Unemployed to London’ left from Leicester market when 30,000 people came to witness the historic event.

Modern Leicester

(1973 – present day) Industry was still thriving in the city during the 1970s, with the work opportunities attracting many immigrants from all over the world. While industry has declined in recent years, excellent transport links have made Leicester an attractive centre for many businesses. The City now has much to be proud of including its sporting achievements and the richness of its cultural heritage and diversity.

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