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Archaeologia Cantiana -  Vol. 79    1964  page 7

The Chetney Hill Lazaret

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

therefore in 1798 for the first time extended to cover diseases other than plague.51 The second was Napoleon's Italian campaign (1796-7) which had placed most of the principal European lazaret ports in enemy hands, Messina and Malta alone being open to British shipping.62 Already the Levant Company's trade was seriously affected 'due to increased French action in the Mediterranean',53 and in July, 1799 'in order to remove as far as was thought prudent and advisable, the restraints of the Turkey trade . . . ',54 an Act allowed ships with foul Bills of Health to proceed directly to Britain if authorized by an Order in Council.55
These two statutes, and expanding trade, placed a heavy burden on the existing administration. Stangate Creek had never been intended as a foul Bill quarantine station; extra facilities and precautions would be needed. On 14th August, 1799, the Privy Council directed 'two or three old Men of War ... to be fitted up as Lazarettes . . . and one ... to be fitted up as an Hospital and ... an able medical person ... to examine into the health of the crews and other persons on board the ships arriving from the Levant ... in like manner as is practised in the best regulated Foreign Lazarettes'.56 These arrangements proved inadequate, and on 25th September the newly-convened advisory committee to the Privy Council considered 'whether if they shall be of the opinion that a hospital or Pesthouse on shore will hereafter be found more convenient and more secure [than hulks] for the purposes before mentioned, and [if so] they are to cause to be prepared a plan of the same'.57
There were, however, fresh considerations. Stangate Creek had been ideal in 1709; now there were doubts. The war had increased activity in the area, and there were prison hulks and prisoner-of-war ships moored in the channel. Further downriver (and downwind, and therefore assumed to be in danger of infection) were tide-breakers at Sheerness occupied by sixty or seventy families.58 Stangate Creek was in fact 'a place of considerable resort and in this respect not so well adapted for a business of this nature [quarantine]'.50 Nevertheless there was no adequate alternative and the House was finally advised on 28th February, 1800 that Chetney Hill should be the lazaret site.60 Events now moved swiftly. On 24th June, plans and estimates prepared by James Wyatt, Surveyor of H.M. Board of Works, were presented to the
51 38 Geo. III, c. 33 (1798).
   52 J. D. Tully, History of Plague ... in the Islands of Malta, Gozo, . . ., etc., London, Longman, Hurst, etc. (1821), p. 36.
   53 Reports from Committees of the House of Commons, xiii (1803), 769.
   54 Ibid.
55 39 Geo. III, c. 99 (1799). This was the first occasion since 1763 that foul Bill ships could quarantine in Britain.
   56 P.R.O., P.O. 1/44/A160. Under dates.
   57 Ibid. Under date.
   58 J. O. Murray, op. cit., pp. 21-2.
   59 P.R.O., P.O. 1/44/A160.
   60 J.H.C., lv, 244-5.

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