The Margate Sea Bathing Infirmary was founded in 1791 by Dr John Coakley Lettsom, a Quaker physician, taking its first patients in 1796. It was originally known as the General Sea-Bathing Infirmary, but by 1831 was being referred to as the Royal Sea-Bathing Infirmary. Its patients were generally treated for scrofula, a term originally applied to tuberculous disease of the lymphatic glands but later extended to include other forms of tuberculosis affecting the abdomen, bones and joints.
The Infirmary was ostensibly “for the benefit of the Diseased Poor”, its law XVIII reading “No persons shall be deemed objects of this Charity, but such whose diseases require Sea-air or Sea-bathing, and are really necessitous”. How rigorously this rule was applied is questionable: a letter sent by a patient in 1829 contains the lines “I did not get into the Infirmary the day I expected, and by when I had paid my Lodging and other little things I found myself very poor, But Mr. Turner told me you wished him to advance me some, so he has given me another sovereign, which I hope will be sufficient”, which does not suggest someone “really necessitous”. To see the approximate value of the sovereign, see the 1827 entries in the table of annual earnings.
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