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   Back to Shipping off Woolwich Dockyard
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The smallpox hulks in Deptford Creek.

The smallpox hulks in Deptford Creek.
The smallpox hulks in Deptford Creek.
© National Maritime Museum, London
Repro ID: H4423
Description: An 'Illustrated London News' woodcut of the smallpox hulks 'Atlas' and 'Endymion' at Deptford Creek. During the smallpox epidemic of 1881, the Metropolitan Asylums Board (MAB) - responsible for the containment of contagious diseases in London - faced a desperate shortage of hospital beds after local campaigners had closed smallpox wards in Hampstead and Fulham. The MAB borrowed the old man-of-war 'Atlas' to act as a floating smallpox hospital. Together with the support ship 'Endymion' - a former frigate - the 'Atlas' lay in Deptford Creek for over a year. During that time, she received 979 patients, of whom 120 died on board. After the epidemic the ships were removed, but they were re-established as hospital ships in 1884. They lay out in Long Reach, where they were joined by the former Channel steamer 'Castalia', converted into a second hospital ship. The floating hospitals became a familiar sight in Long Reach until they were closed in 1902.
Creator: 'Illustrated London News'.
Date: 23 July 1881
Credit line: National Maritime Museum, London
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