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Archaeologia Cantiana -  Vol. 79    1964  page 6

The Chetney Hill Lazaret

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

British shipping. Some, including Pitt, were dissatisfied with the arrangements since they depended upon foreign facilities. The Lisbon plague of 1757 gave Pitt his chance to press the matter further and he obtained a memorandum on quarantine from Dr. Alexander Russell.40 Britain was now at war and the project was shelved until hostilities had ceased. In April, 1764, and January, 1765, plans and estimates of a lazaret were presented to the House.41 Their details are unknown.42 Later in 1765 £5,000 from the Sinking Fund was voted 'towards building a lazaret', the site being unspecified,43 and in 1772 power to purchase land was further extended.44 The way was now clear but work did not start for another thirty years.
   The reasons for this inertia are complex. The virtual disappearance of plague from Europe and the mounting cost of the Customs service both contributed. But the main reason was the adequacy of the vessels which had served as lazarets since 1755. They were the hulks of two x forty-four gun ships,45 considered fit for no other purpose 40 and converted, so that 'from their being roofed and tiled they have a singular and amphibious appearance'.47 Deck-houses to protect merchandise being aired gave them the appearance of Noah's Arks.48 The sides of these deck-houses were open, 'like a brew-house', for ventilation which could be controlled by shutters; the floors were open gratings. Shingle ballast produced stability at moorings. Each hulk was manned by a crew of twelve or more hands including the Master and Quarantine Guardians.49 Intended as expedients they were functional and economical. There was no great pressure for their replacement.
   In the 1790s two events produced a new urgency. First, yellow fever in New York threatened to pollute cotton cargoes which had been heavy since the onset of the war with Republican France.60 Quarantine was
40 P. Russell, op. cit., pp. 438-40.
   41 J.H.G., xxix, 967, 1041; xxx, 33.
   42 Many unbound Commons' papers of the eighteenth century were lost in the fire at the Houses of Parliament in 1834.
   43 5 Geo. III, c. 40 (1765), sect. 23.
   44 12 Geo. III, c. 57 (1772).
   45 E, Hasted, History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent, 2nd Edn., Canterbury (1797-1801), vi, 34-40.
   46 Minutes of the Navy Board, 1764. P.R.O. ADM. 106/2578.
   47 S. Ireland, Picturesque Views of the River Medway . . . with Observations on the Public Buildings and other Works of Art in its Neighbourhood, London, T. and J. Egerton (1793).
   48  J. Evans, quoted in J. O. Murray, The Martial, Medical and Social History of the Port of Rochester, private brochure, unpublished, p. 22. Also—Select Committee (1819), op. cit., John Green's evidence.
   49 Select Committee (1819), op. cit., evidence of witnesses; and, The Second Report from the Select Committee appointed to Consider of the Means of Improving and Maintaining the Foreign Trade of the Country, relative to Quarantine, 1824 (417) vi, 164. Appendix F.2.
   50 E. Ackernecht, 'Anticontagionism. between 1821 and 1867', Bull. Hist. Med., xxii (1948), 662-93.

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