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Archaeologia Cantiana -  Vol. 79    1964  page 4

The Chetney Hill Lazaret

By P. Froggatt, M.A., M.D., D.P.H.

THE STEPS TO CHETNEY HILL
  
Plague hospitals and leper-houses existed in Britain before the seventeenth century, but they were not lazarets as such.19 Quarantine 'establishments' at ports were sheds used to protect goods and to house attendants.5 In 1663-4, with plague in Holland, Hole Haven on the Thames at Canvey Island, 'in a creek which would receive an hundred vessels . . . and not nearer the city than Tilbury Hope',7 was selected as the quarantine site for London.20 Goods were to be aired on shore in temporary sheds; passengers and crew to remain on board.21 Hole Haven was little used and was later superseded. 'Stangate Creek on the south shore of the Medway, opposite the Isle of Grain, Sharpfleet Creek, and the lower-end of the Hope', was delegated the quarantine site by an Order in Council of 16th September, 1709.22 To contemporary opinion this site was ideal. It was close to the main river yet remote from habitation. It could accommodate many ships. It was exposed to the 'purifying' effects of the elements. It was unused for commerce. It was, however, leased to the free fishermen of the Hundred of Middleton for oyster beds which that year they had restocked. Accordingly compensation was paid for the loss of the oyster trade, fishing and boating in the Creek were prohibited, and the substantial number of ships performing quarantine in the 1709-12 emergency (nearly 150 in the first six months of 1712 alone) was successfully accommodated.23 Persons were quarantined on board ship; goods were aired in specially erected sheds at Hoo Fort, three sea miles further up the Medway on the northern bank.24 There were no cases of plague.26 In the emergencies between 1721 to 1743, although the need for a land lazaret was then recognized by the legislature,28 a compromise was reached; persons were confined on ships in Stangate Creek as previously, but 'susceptible' goods were aired on hired vessels.27
In July, 1743, there was plague in Messina and all Thames-bound ships from the Mediterranean were ordered to Stangate Creek.28 On
   19  C. Creighton, A History of Epidemics in Britain, Cambridge, University Press (1891), i, pp. 235, 360-1.
   20  Analytical Index to the City [of London] Remembrancia, 1579-1664, Corporation of London (1878), p. 349. This gives 'Moll Haven' as the quarantine site but is a mistranscript from the original document in the Records Office, Guildhall Library, which gives 'Holl Haven'. Holl Haven is almost certainly to be identified with the present Hole Haven.
  21  Correspondence between the Privy Council, the Lord Mayor of London, and the Farmers of the Customs, of October, 1663. (J. Simon, op. cit., p. 99.)
  22  Calendar of Treasury Books, 1712, xxvi (pt. 2), 217.
  23  Ibid.
 
24  Report from the Select Committee appointed to Consider the Validity of the Doctrine of Contagion in the Plague, 1819 (449) ii, 537. Appendix 3.
  25  Ibid. Evidence of Dr. James Johnson.
  26  7 Geo. I, c. 3 (1721).
  27 Select Committee (1819), op. cit., Appendix 3.
  28  P. Russell, op. cit., p. 446.

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