A room within the Imperial Hotel, on the site of the Malmaison Hotel, Piccadilly, was a Dolls’ Hospital during the 1980s, and doubtless for many years before that.
The entrance was on London Road, but then you had to climb a grotty staircase to reach the room itself. (This photo is from manchesterhistory.net:)
(The building behind is Aytoun Street Dole Office, which I wrote about in the previous post. It looks grubby and neglected, but the lights are on!)
This side-on photo, looking up towards Piccadilly Train Station, was taken in 1985, not long after I visited the place.
Inside, the environment was completely un-child-friendly… it was like entering a flop-house. Me and my friend Liz felt like Starsky and Hutch going up those stairs!
We had heard about the place’s curiosity value from an artist friend and our plan was to take a few photos, or perhaps make some drawings.
Upstairs we found a grubby room with a counter… like you would find in a newsagents. But instead of penny trays and jars of toffees, there were large jars and containers full of doll bits… eyes, arms, heads, etc…
The doll repair business appeared to be struggling. In fact it was difficult to imagine how it generated any money at all, which made its existence seem all the more peculiar and sinister.
The proprietor was nowhere to be seen at first, apparently in a back room behind some boxes, judging by noise emanating from that direction, so we rang the bell on the counter a few times.
When he eventually appeared (he was an elderly man, quite stocky) he was so hostile towards us that we took fright and beat a hasty retreat. He shouted at us inarticulately like a mad person and waved his arms around aggressively. We gathered that he was sick of being visited by nosey people who wanted to take photos, which was fair enough I suppose, but his odd behaviour, combined with all the dismembered dolls, was quite terrifying. We fervently hoped that no child would go in there without an adult! (I really wish I’d taken some photographs though.)
I did find a shot of the Manchester Doll’s Hospital taken by a professional photographer… I think this is it, but I’m not 100% sure, as the photographer’s own comments no longer accompany the image:
The photo was apparently taken in 1980.
A woman recently commented on the Manchester Evening News Facebook page, with reference to long-gone shops:
“The Dolls Hospital on London Road – it was so spooky in there! I can remember everything about it, and I visited in about 1975!!”
Manchesterhistory.net explains that the Imperial Hotel itself has been replaced by the Malmaison Hotel, which has incorporated Hoyle’s Warehouse into a new building which occupies the whole block.
This aerial photograph shows the entrance to the Dolls Hospital marked with a red arrow. Hoyle’s Warehouse (still standing) lies to the right. Below, you can see the geometric bulk of Aytoun Street Employment Exchange: