St Joseph’s Orphanage was opened in 1872 on the site of an almshouse, and St Joseph’s Hospital for the Sick Poor followed five years later. They were built by wealthy widow Maria Holland, who gave £10,000 at a time when Preston had one of the worst mortality rates in the country, because of poor housing and low-paid mill workers. St Joseph’s Orphanage cared for 971 children before it closed in 1954. Run by the Sisters of Charity of Our Lady Mother of Mercy, the orphanage was the first welfare provider for Roman Catholic girls in Preston, taking in up to 60 youngsters at a time in two dormitories.
After its closure, the top floor of the orphanage continued to serve as accommodation for the nuns who worked in St Joseph’s Hospital, known locally as Mount Street Hospital. During the First and Second World Wars, they tended injured soldiers and, over the years, tens of thousands of babies were born at the hospital’s maternity unit.
Legendary performer George Formby died at the hospital following a heart attack on March 6, 1961. The hospital closed when the last sisters left nursing in 1982. It became a private care home in 1988, which eventually closed down in 2003.