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Template:Other uses Template:Use dmy dates Template:Refimprove Template:Infobox UK place Dartford is the principal town in the Borough of Dartford, Kent, England. It lies Template:Convert east south-east of central London. The town lies on the border of Kent and Greater London, bordering the London Borough of Bexley. It also borders the Borough of Thurrock, Essex, via the Dartford Crossing of the River Thames.

The town centre is in a valley through which the River Darent flows, and where the old road from London to Dover crossed: hence the name, from Darent + ford. Dartford became a market town in medieval times and, although today it is principally a commuter town for Greater London, it has a long history of religious, industrial and cultural importance. It is an important rail hub; the main through-road now avoids the town itself.

Dartford is twinned with Namyangju, South Korea.


In prehistory, the first people appeared in the Dartford area around 250,000 years ago: a tribe of prehistoric hunter-gatherers whose exemplar is called Swanscombe Man. Many other archaeological investigations have revealed a good picture of occupation of the district with important finds from the Stone Age, the Bronze Age and the Iron Age.

When the Romans engineered the Dover to London road (afterwards named Watling Street) it was necessary to cross the River Darent by ford, giving the settlement its name. Roman villa were built along the Darent valley, and at Noviomagus (Crayford), close by. The Saxons may have established the first settlement where Dartford now stands. Dartford manor is mentioned in the Domesday Book, written after the Norman invasion in 1086. It was owned by the king.

The Library and Museum with the war memorial in front

During the medieval period Dartford was an important waypoint for pilgrims and travellers en route to Canterbury and the Continent and various religious orders established themselves in the area. In the 12th century the Knights Templar had possession of the manor of Dartford; the National Trust property at Sutton-at-Hone, to the south of the town, is a remaining piece of that history. In the 14th century, a priory was established here, and two groups of friars — the Dominicans and the Franciscans — built hospitals here for the care of the sick. At this time the town became a small but important market town.

Wat Tyler, of Peasants' Revolt fame, might well have been a local hero, although three other towns in Kent all claim the same, and there are reasons to doubt the strength of Tyler's connection to Dartford though the existence of a town centre public house named after him could give credence to Dartford's claim though Dartford cannot claim a monopoly on public houses named after Tyler.

It is possible that Dartford was a key meeting point early in the Peasants' Revolt with a detachment of Essex rebels marching south to join Kentish rebels at Dartford before accompanying them to Rochester and Cantebury in the first week of June. Although lacking a leader, Kentishmen had assembled at Dartford around 5 June through a sense of county solidarity at the mistreatment of Robert Belling a man claimed as a serf by Sir Simon Burley. Burley had abused his royal court connections to invoke the arrest of Belling and despite a compromise being proposed by bailiffs in Gravesend, continued to demand the impossible £300 of silver for Belling's release. Having left for Rochester and Canterbury on 5 June, the rebels passed back through Dartford, swollen in number, a week later on 12 June en route for London.

The gatehouse of Henry VIII 's Royal Manor

In the 15th century, two kings of England became part of the town's history. Henry V marched through the town in November 1415 with his troops prior to fighting the French at the Battle of Agincourt; in 1422 Henry's body was taken to Holy Trinity Church by Edmund Lacey, Bishop of Exeter, who performed a funeral. In March 1452, Richard the Duke of York camped on the Brent with ten thousand men, waiting for a confrontation with King Henry VI. The Duke surrendered to the king in Dartford. The place of the camp is marked today by York Road.

The sixteenth century saw significant changes to the hitherto agricultural basis of the market in Dartford, as new industries began to take shape (see below). The priory was destroyed in 1538 as part of the Dissolution of the Monasteries and a new manor house constructed by King Henry VIII. In 1576 Dartford Grammar School was founded, part of the Tudor emphasis on education for ordinary people.

Many Protestants were executed during the reigns of Queen Mary (1553–1554) and Philip and Mary (1554–1558), including Christopher Waid, a Dartford linen-weaver who was burnt at the stake in front of thousands of spectators on the Brent in 1555. The Martyrs Memorial on East Hill commemorates Waid and other Kentish Martyrs.

Industrial history

The earliest industries were those connected with agriculture, such as the brewing of traditional beers and ales. Lime-burning and chalk-mining also had their place. Fulling was another: the cleansing of wool needed a great deal of water, which the river could provide. This led to other water-based industries, using hydropower to operate machinery.

Sir John Spilman set up the first paper mill in England at Dartford in 1588 on a site near Powder Mill Lane, and soon some 600 employees worked there, providing an invaluable source of local employment. Iron-making on the Weald was in full operation at this time, and iron ingots were sent to Dartford, to England's first iron-slitting mill, set up by the Darent at Dartford Creek in 1595 by Godfrey Box, an immigrant from the Low Countries. In 1785, a blacksmith from Lowfield Street began to make engines, boilers and machinery. Some of that machinery was for the local gunpowder factory run by Miles Peter Andrews and the Pigou family. In 1785, the firm of J & E Hall was set up, specialising in heavy engineering, and later refrigerating equipment, and, by 1906, vehicle production.

From those beginnings in the 18th century was to come the industrial base on which the growth and prosperity of Dartford were founded.

In 1840 the mustard factory of Saunders & Harrison was described as being 'perhaps the largest in the kingdom'.<ref name=pigots>'Pigots 1840', on website freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~shebra/pigots_1840 accessed 5 December 2007</ref> Dartford Paper Mills were built in 1862, when excise duty on paper was abolished. Between 1844-1939 the fabric printing works of Augustus Applegath were in being in Bullace Lane: again a firm using the waters of the river.

The demand created by World War I meant that output at the local Vickers factory multiplied, with a positive effect on the local economy. Burroughs-Wellcome chemical works (later incorporated into GlaxoSmithKline) made Dartford a centre for the pharmaceutical industry. During the war, many Belgian refugees arrived in the town. Unable to accommodate them all, many people were housed with volunteers.Template:Citation needed

There has been a large power station at Littlebrook on the Thames, to the north of the town, since 1939. The current station, which features one of the tallest chimneys in the UK, dates from about 1978.

The Mazda motor manufacturer has its UK head office at the large Thames-side Crossways Business Park.

Thomas Walter Jennings created the iconic Vox musical brand, with original products such as the AC15 and AC30 amplifiers originating in Dartford.

In early 2006, the since-closed South East England Development Agency (SEEDA) purchased the former Unwins (an off-licence chain that went into administration in 2005) depot on the edge of the town. The warehouse was demolished and a business centre, The Base built in its place. The Base will be managed by Basepoint Centres and funded by the non-departmental public body, HCA.

The former GlaxoSmithKline manufacturing site in Mill Pond Road was bought by an off-shore property trust in April 2010. Essential Land has ambitious plans to construct 1,050 homes, in addition to offices, shops and restaurants. The first phase of the £150 million development could be complete as early as 2014.


The quarry at Bluewater, showing the underlying chalk

Template:Further Dartford lies within the area known as the London Basin. The low-lying marsh to the north of the town consists of London Clay, and the alluvium brought down by the two rivers - the Darent and the Cray - whose confluence is in this area. The higher land on which the town stands, and through which the narrow Darent valley runs, consists of chalk surmounted by the Blackheath Beds of sand and gravel.

As a human settlement, Dartford became established as a river crossing-point with the coming of the Romans; and as a focal point between two routes - that from west to east being part of the main route connecting London with the Continent; and the southerly route following the Darent valley. As a result the town's main road pattern makes the shape of letter 'T'. The Dartford Marshes to the north, and the proximity of Crayford in the London Borough of Bexley to the west, mean that the town's growth is to the south and east. Wilmington is to all intents and purposes part of the town to the south; whilst the almost continuous Thames Gateway development means that there is little to show the town boundary in an easterly direction.

Within the town boundaries there are several distinct areas: the town centre around the parish church and along the High Street; the Joyce Green area; Temple Hill estate constructed in 1927; the Brent; Fleet Downs; as well as two important areas of open space and several industrial estates. The open spaces are Central Park alongside the river; and Dartford Heath (see below).

Dartford borders the London Borough of Bexley to the west, whilst the Sevenoaks District of Kent is located south of Wilmington.

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Other nearby Areas

  • Greenhithe
  • Barnehurst
  • Sutton at Hone
  • Erith
  • Hextable
  • Bexley
  • South Darenth
  • Swanscombe
  • Bexleyheath
  • Horton Kirby
  • Belvedere
  • Bean
  • Swanley
  • Albany Park
  • Longfield


Like most of the United Kingdom, Dartford has an oceanic climate.

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Dartford Heath

This area to the south-west of Dartford covers some Template:Convert of open space. Historically it has always been of importance: prehistoric barrows and Bronze Age artefacts having been discovered here. The first recorded cricket match took place here in 1723; and the Society of Royal Kentish Bowman were briefly established here between 1785-1802. The nearby area is still known as Bowmans.

The Heath is an official Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It contains three ponds (Donkey Pond, Woodland Pond and North Pond) and a variety of habitats: including acid grassland, broadleaved semi-natural woodland, heather and gorse, as well as other plant life.<ref name=heathland>Template:Cite news</ref> It is common land and therefore escaped being enclosed during the late 18th and the early 19th centuries. It is also the original source for the name of the Dartford Warbler. Dartford Heath is used as a local recreation area (particularly for cyclists) and dog walking area, but suffers from being close to the local recycling centre which sometimes leaves windblown rubbish along proximal roads. picture.


In 1801, Dartford’s population was c.2400; by the 2001 census it had increased to 85,911. Much of this growth can be apportioned to the fact that Dartford became, for some time in its existence, an industrial town. In 2008, it was reported by the same citation that population was at 110,000, largely contributed by rising costs of living in London and becoming an attractive site for commuters. Unemployment levels, taken from the 2001 census, were at 3.8%. By 2006 this had decreased to 2.2%, but increased by 2012.


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Low cost shopping units in the Priory shopping centre

Some of Dartford's most prominent industries suffered extreme decline in the 20th century, causing redundancies and unemployment. Brewing, paper-making, flour milling and the manufacture of cement were the main industries to suffer extinction or significant decline. Nearby Swanscombe Cement Works (now redeveloped into Bluewater shopping centre) was closed by Blue Circle in 1990. This industry had brought great prosperity to the companies involved in cement manufacture, but left a legacy locally of despoiled derelict land and pollution. In 1990 Dartford contained some Template:Convert of spoiled land resulting from extractive industries. Cement-dust pollution from local cement works was a regular subject of complaint in the local press throughout the 20th century.

Since the closure of Dartford's major employers: Seagers' Engineering Works, J & E Hall International, Vickers, the reduction and subsequent closure of Burroughs Wellcome (now GlaxoSmithKline), and the redevelopment of nearby Bexleyheath as a shopping town in the 1970s (and the more recent development of the Bluewater Shopping Centre), Dartford has lost a significant number of its rising Generation X demographic to more economically viable jobs, towns and cities.Template:Citation needed Dartford is still home to major brands such as Sainsbury's, W.H. Smiths, Boots and Marks & Spencer. With the opening of the major Bluewater regional shopping centre just outside of the town, the high street has seen a growth in cheaper brands such as Primark and Wilkinson taking over empty premises. However the oldest independent business still trading in Dartford the butchers Richardson & Sons established in 1908 still remains trading and in its original shop on Lowfield Street however this is threatened with the Lowfield centre superstore development (see below).

In 2007 Dartford saw an increase in the number of visible household brands in its environs as B&Q, M&S Simply Food, TK Maxx and Asda Living opened new outlet stores in the town centre. Before this Safeway had taken part in the development of Dartford's second shopping centre, The Orchards, located next to the Orchard Theatre. The Safeway's site was eventually taken over by Waitrose and continues to be only one of a few major brands visible in, or just off the high-street area of the town. It was announced in late September 2013 that Waitrose is to close. The historical and once bustling main High Street and adjacent shopping centre, The Priory, continues to fall into a decline, and the large department store previously occupied by the Co-operative has now been demolished, having been bought by Dartford Borough Council. The problems with obtaining planning permission for the Lowfield centre superstore development and associated residential units have been compounded by the recession. This has created further delay in resolving the dereliction of the town.

Culture and community

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The River Darent in Central Park

Dartford has two major buildings concerned with performance art. The Orchard Theatre, located in the town centre, is a fully professional theatre, providing audiences with a large range of drama, dance, music and entertainment. The Mick Jagger Centre (built in the grounds of Dartford Grammar School) in Shepherds Lane was completed in 2000 and provides facilities for community arts across a wide region. The local museum in Market Street is housed in the same building as the library.

Central Park is a formal park in the town centre. It comprises Template:Convert of land.


Dartford is the home of one football club, Dartford F.C., who play home matches at Princes Park Stadium and compete in the Conference National. Kent Invicta League club Crown Alexandra F.C. play in Dartford at the Leigh Academy Ground. The highest ranked Sunday League team from Dartford is Dartford Vipers Men's team which currently play in the Bromley & Orpington Sunday League and train at Acacia Hall in Dartford.

Dartford is also home to Dartford and White Oak Triathlon Club, formed in 1988 it is one of the oldest British Triathlon Federation clubs in the UK. The Club trains at the "Bridge" Dartford.


There are, or have been, many hospital buildings in Dartford, the majority of which have been closed since the opening of Darent Valley Hospital. One of the best-known, Stone House Hospital, in Cotton Lane to the east of the town, was opened on 16 April 1866 as the "City of London Lunatic Asylum". It was, and still is, a large castellated structure built in spacious grounds. It remained under the direct administration of the City of London until 1948, when it was transferred to the National Health Service (NHS). It remains one of the largest and most visible structures in Dartford, and was until recently operated by the NHS to manage regional health care delivery, and was also home to a nursing school, Livingstone Hospital on East Hill. The main buildings of this facility are now closed, and have been turned into luxury flats.


Fastrack buses at Greenhithe railway station
Dartford railway station

The route of a Celtic ancient trackway which the Romans later paved and identified as Iter III on the Antonine Itinerary, later to be called Watling Street, and which the current A2 roughly follows, passed close to the town. After the Romans left Britain, it fell out of use, as the town itself developed and traffic went into the town itself, the name Watling Street transferring to the new route. The introduction of stagecoach services increased the amount of traffic through the town, so that by the 18th century it had become necessary to control the upkeep of such a heavily-used road. Turnpike Trusts were set up by Act of Parliament. Dartford was served by two: that for Watling Street; and the road south to Sevenoaks, both brought into being between 1750 and 1780.

From 1925 the A2 main road took traffic away from Dartford town centre via the Princes Road bypass. Today the original main road through the town is the A226. The erstwhile turnpike road south to Sevenoaks is now the A225). A newer by-pass is the A206, which skirts the town to the north. Its prime purpose is to carry traffic from the riverside industrial developments on to the Dartford Crossing from both west and east. Dartford is perhaps most well known for the latter, the main mode of crossing the River Thames to the east of London, where the southbound A282 (part of the London Orbital) crosses the river via the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge toll bridge, opened in 1991. The northbound carriageway crosses via the twin bore Dartford Tunnel. The first tunnel was opened in 1963, its twin in 1980.

Dartford railway station is a busy junction serving three routes. The first railway from London to reach Dartford was the North Kent Line via Woolwich in 1849, connecting at Gravesend with the line through to the Medway Towns. Later two more lines were built, the Dartford Loop Line through Sidcup which opened in 1866, and the Bexleyheath Line which opened in 1895. All the lines were electrified on 6 June 1926.

Dartford is served by three Transport for London bus services that connect the town with South East London. The buses are the 96 to Bluewater and Woolwich via Bexleyheath, 428 to Bluewater and Erith via Crayford and 492 to Bluewater and Sidcup via Bexleyheath. There are also a vast amount of Kent buses that connect Dartford with places including Swanley, Orpington and Gravesend.

Fastrack express bus system connects the Kent Thameside area, and was completed by early 2008. Template:Wide image


Template:Prose Template:Further Dartford houses several secondary schools, which largely operate within the county council-run grammar school system:

  • Dartford Grammar School
  • Dartford Grammar School for Girls
  • Wilmington Grammar School for Boys
  • The Grammar School for Girls, Wilmington
  • Wilmington Academy
  • Dartford Technology College
  • Leigh Technology Academy
  • North West Kent College

Places of worship

The ford, now Dartford Bridge over the River Darent, and Holy Trinity Church
Richard Trevithick memorial at St. Edmund's Park.

The Parish Church, Holy Trinity, is situated on the western bank of the River Darent, from where a hermit would conduct travellers across the ford. The church was originally a 9th-century Saxon structure, but gained later Norman additions. In the 13th century a Royal Wedding was celebrated there, thus today the choristers are entitled to wear scarlet cassocks. Also on display within the church is a brass plaque commemorating the work of Richard Trevithick, the pioneer of steam propulsion, who lived, worked and died in the town.

The graveyard is situated in St Edmund's Pleasance on the summit of East Hill (the place Richard Trevithick is buried), which gave rise to a traditional and derogatory rhyme of Dartford's people 'Dirty Dartford, Stinking People, bury their dead above the steeple'. The church actually has no steeple; it has a tower featuring a ring of eight bells.

Notable people

Template:Prose The following have, or had, some connection with Dartford:

  • Matt Morgan (1977-), comedy writer
  • Keith Richards (1943- ), guitarist of The Rolling Stones
  • Mick Jagger (1943- ), vocalist of The Rolling Stones
  • Anne of Cleves (1515–1557), fourth wife of Henry VIII, who lived in Dartford after their divorce
  • Peter Blake (1932- ), pop artist.
  • Steve Rider (1950-), BBC Sports Presenter 1985-2005, currently with BskyB
  • Ivor Gurney (1890–1937), composer and poet
  • Henry Havelock (1795–1857), British general
  • Barry Hawkins (1979- ), Professional Snooker Player
  • Dave Charnley (1935–2012), undefeated British Lightweight Champion (1957–63)
  • Henry Ambrose Hunt (1866–1946), meteorologist
  • Sidney Keyes (1922–1943), war poet
  • John Latham (1743–1837), ornithologist
  • Martina Bergman-Österberg (1849–1915), physical education pioneer and founder of Dartford College
  • Alfred Sturge (1816–1901), Pastor and missionary
  • Margaret Thatcher (1925–2013), British Prime Minister, ran for the Dartford parliamentary seat in 1950 and 1951
  • Richard Trevithick (1771–1833), inventor and mining engineer
  • Pete Tong (1960- ), legendary UK house DJ.
  • William James Erasmus Wilson (1809–1884), surgeon
  • Malcolm Allison (1927–2010), football player and manager
  • Andrea Arnold (1968- ), film director 2004 Oscar winner and 2007 BAFTA winner
  • Graham Dilley (1959–2011), Kent and England cricketer
  • Topsy Ojo (1985- ), London Irish and England rugby union full-back, attended Dartford Grammar School
  • Min Patel (1970- ), Kent and England cricketer
  • Paul Samson (1953–2002), rock guitarist
  • Phil May (born 9 November 1944) rock vocalist and founding member of The Pretty Things
  • Malcolm Wakeford, musician, composer
  • Len Goodman, dancer and Strictly Come Dancing judge
  • Mackenzie Crook (1971- ) Actor
  • Terry Hollands (1979- ) Britain's Strongest Man (2007)
  • George Barton (1808-1864), cricketer for Sussex
  • Dick Taylor (born 28 January 1943) guitarist and founding member of The Pretty Things

See also

  • Dartford Cable Tunnel




  • Kent History Illustrated - Frank W Jessup (KCC, 1966)
  • Railways of the Southern Region - Geoffrey Body (PSL Field Guide 1989)
  • Local History - Mark Chatwin (1997)

External links

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