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
P. Russell, op. cit., pp. 438-40.
41 J.H.G., xxix, 967, 1041; xxx,
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.
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.
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),