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A-Z Services - West of England Eye Unit (WEEU)

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The History of the West of England Eye Unit in Exeter


On 11 August 1808 a meeting was held at the Royal Clarence hotel to make plans for an eye hospital in Exeter. A house was found on Holloway Street with seven beds attended by a matron, nurse and servant. An increase in patient numbers prompted the move into a larger house in Magdalen Street.

In 1880 preparation for a a new building involved the acquisition of land between the infirmary and Bull Meadow.

An appeal for a new hospital building was launched under the chairmanship of Lord Courtenay in April 1896. The foundation stone was laid on 11 April 1899 by George Franklin JP and the new building was designed by Sir Alfred Brummell Thomas in a hybrid baroque style.

The new West of England Eye hospital had four wards with 25 beds, an operating theatre, an acre of garden and it cost £25,000. It was at the time considered second only to Moorfields in London.

This new hospital was opened on 4 October 1901 by Lady Clinton with the Archdeacon of Exeter giving the blessing.

During the first world war it was designated VA Hospital No 1 for the treatment of wounded frontline soldiers.

The hospital became part of the National Health Service in 1948.

The WEEU moved across to the RD&E Wonford site in 1992 and the former hospital building was converted into Hotel Barcelona.