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Archaeologia Cantiana -  Vol. 79    1964  page 12

The Chetney Hill Lazaret

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

incompetently surveyed, presumably Wyatt's responsibility. The Select Committee of 1824 explained: 'It was, however, discovered before the completion of the building that the situation had been injudiciously selected, and the intended Institution was in consequence abandoned and the materials disposed of by order of the Government.'91 A London merchant was more forthright: 'The ground was found to be so marshy that they could not get a foundation or attempt to erect a superstructure upon it.'92
The fate of the buildings completes this tragicomedy and is linked to the collapse in 1824 of part of the (London) Custom House. The link is Henry Peto, master-builder of Little Britain. When the job of building a new Custom House was put out to tender in 1812, the contract was let to Peto and his partner John Miles, a City merchant.93 They finished in 1817, and but for war damage to the (now demolished) east wing the result is essentially the Custom House as it exists today. The story of the building operations is of misfortune, incompetence, negligence and inevitable delay, leading later to involved and bitter litigation when an action for fraud, negligence, and breach of contract was taken against Peto and his bond escheated in the sum of £33,000. In 1820 cracks appeared in some arches in the building; in 1823 the roof of the Long Room was found to have sunk; in December, 1824, enough ceiling and flooring in the Long Room had collapsed to require major construction. During this, second-hand timber and other faulty materials were found in the roof—where only subsequent accident could have disclosed them. These may have been some of the unspecified materials, from the Chetney Hill lazaret, purchased in 1815 by Peto for £1,600 for the stated purpose of using them in the Custom House.94 Without an inventory this must be conjecture, but it seems probable because at this time Peto was under pressure of time and finance, his partner and financier Miles having died in 1814.
   Additional disposable materials fetched £13,000 by public sale in 1815.94 How far the lazaret was then dismantled is not known, but some 'salaries and disbursements' for attendants at Chetney Hill were paid up until 1820 (see above). However, floating lazarets were by then mostly re-established with eight vessels in the quarantine service in Stangate Creek alone in 1820.95 The most likely date for its final abandonment is between 1820 and 1824 (when the Select Committee sat).90 Since then the island has reverted to pasturage; foundation lines
91 Select Committee (1824), op. cit., Preamble.
   92 Ibid., Mr. Levy's evidence.
   93 Unreferenced details concerning the Custom House, from R. C. Jarvis, op. cit.
94 Select Committee (1824), op. cit., Appendix G.
   95 Accounts and Papers, 1821 (727) xiv, 190 seq.
   96 This agrees with Bagshaw's 'about thirty years ago' (S. Bagshaw, History Gazetteer and Directory of the County of Kent, etc. Sheffield. G. Ridge, ii (1847)).

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