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Little known about isolation hospital

Let's go back to the early 1900s, to the time when West Minster was a tight-knit community boasting a gas works, two pubs, shop, a small slaughter-house and a large barn-like building which served as a Sunday School.

There was also an isolation hospital made up of one large and two semi-detached buildings. Its history, however, has puzzled many and details are sketchy.

Reader Lesley Thwaites is disappointed that her research revealed little about the hospital, except that in 1913, Dr Wigglesworth, medical officer of health, reported: “The hospital is satisfactory but it has become impossible to disinfect it properly.”

For the quarter ending September 1914, when the population of Sheppey was 4,157 people, it was noted: “This district possesses a smallpox hospital with accommodation for eight patients.”

However, in 1915, the problems of hygiene standards were still ongoing and discussions for alternative arrangements had to be made. This resulted in a decision for Sittingbourne and Milton Joint Hospital Board to receive and treat all cases of smallpox arising in Sheppey. Thus, the Island facility became redundant.

A 1970 map of West Minster showed two semi-detached houses on the site of the original building – Riverside House facing the seawall and Rosslyn House facing inland.

Lesley tells us that her late father, Stan Rand, remembered Riverside House in the 1930s as the home of a Mr Berry, sewage pumping superintendent.

During the same period, Rosslyn House was occupied by a local police sergeant.

Now, of course, West Minster’s identity is completely changed – a couple of thriving businesses and a cafe – but no houses, just a giant lorry park.

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