For a six-month period between October 1987 and March 1988, 660 isolates of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) from 570 patients were sent to the Staphylococcus Reference Laboratory at Colindale to supplement the National reporting survey of MRSA in England and Wales. The isolates were characterized by phage typing, antibiotic susceptibility and by selected biochemical tests. Patient details were also surveyed. Fourteen strains affected more than one hospital and were called multi-hospital epidemic strains. One strain, EMRSA-1, accounted for more than 40% of isolates and of patients. Other epidemic strains were defined. Ten additional strains were restricted to single hospitals. Only 25 primary isolates were non-typable but 67 sporadic typable strains occurred. The patients affected were approximately equally either infected or colonized. The sexes were represented equally. Orthopaedic and geriatric wards were over-represented. Epidemic strains were clumping factor positive while some sporadic strains were weak producers. Urea alkalinization and protein A production could supplement phage typing and antibiotic resistance in strain recognition.