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Archaeologia Cantiana -  Vol. 79    1964  page 11

The Chetney Hill Lazaret

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

evidence taken at the subsequent select committees,80 however, is conflicting and suggests either that the lazaret was not used, or, if used, it was at very reduced capacity.
   It was certainly never completed, and for the following reasons. The quarantine service was becoming expensive. At London in 1797 quarantine expenses were 558, in 1807 they were 12,000, and in 1815 they were 36,000.81 Although the duties levied under the Quarantine Acts of 1800 and 180182 were to pay for the lazaret's construction, and were adequate for this purpose83 (the expenses of the quarantine service were defrayed from customs duties), the Government wished to avoid additional recurrent expense if there were doubts as to the future need of the lazaret. Such doubts existed. There was growing popular distaste for international quarantine and a weakening in its enforcement on the Continent. It little suited the needs of war with its restrictions on travel and communication. 'In a lazaret on the Austrian frontier ... I saw correspondence . . . opened, examined, fumigated, resealed and dispatched. In some lazarets . . . [the letters] are cut across with a sharp instrument and dipped into vinegar and water, so that the writing is rendered frequently illegible.'84 Also, there was a rising tide of anti-contagionist, i.e. anti-quarantine, opinion in medical circles.85 Admittedly the Government had forcefully reaffirmed its strict quarantine policies in Acts of 1805 and 1806,86 and been supported by all but one of the medical witnesses called at a special committee in 1811,87 but these witnesses were a biassed group, and support for quarantine now owed as much to reactionary politics as to a realistic appraisal of the facts. Also, Chetney Hill was not the 'healthy site' which Mead had recommended, being 'the most unhealthy spot in England',88 and 'too unhealthy a situation to be occupied even by a lazaret'.89 But the principal reason was that Chetney Hill, although then as now above the level of the surrounding marshes,90 gave no firm foundation. This became apparent during the building operations. Seemingly the land had been
  
80 Select Committees {1819 and 1824), op, cit., evidence of witnesses.
   81 Reports from Committees of ilxe House of Commons, xiii (1803), 24-5; and Select Committee (1824), op. cit., appendixes.
   82 39 and 40 Geo. III. c. 80; 41 Geo. Ill, c. 30.
   83 The gross receipts ranged from 12,000 to 23,000 during the period 1803-20 Accounts and Papers, 1821 (657) xvii, 301
   84 J. Bowring, Lancet, i (1838), 343.
   85 E. Ackernecht, op. cit.
  
86 45 Geo. III, c. 10 (1805); 46 Geo. III, c. 98 (1806).
   87 Hansard, 2nd series, xii (1826), 1315.
   88 Select Committee (1824), op. cit., Sir William Pym's evidence.
   89 C. Maclean, Results of an Investigation respecting Epidemic and Pestilential Diseases . . ., etc. London, Underwood, 1816. Abstracted in London med. Rep., xii (1819), 299.
   90 J. Evans, 'The Upchurch marshes in the time of the first Elizabeth', Arch. Cant, lxxvi (1961), 163-8.

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