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MARKET TOWNS OF KENT (from SDUK Penny Cyclopedia)

Dartford in 1836

Dartford is in the hundred of Axton, Dartford, and Wilmington, in the lathe of Sutton-at-Hone. It is on the river Darent, from which it gets its name (in Saxon Darentford, in Domesday Tarenteford), about three miles from its junction the Thames, 15 miles from London Bridge on the road to Dover. The great insurrection under Wat Tyler, in the reign of Richard II., broke out here. The parish contains 4150 acres, and had, in 1831, a population of 4,715, about one-tenth agricultural. The town is in a narrow valley, and the principal street is on the line of the Dover road.

The church is near the east end of the town, close to the bridge over the Darent. The ancient burying-ground is at some distance eastward from the church, on a hill which overlooks the town ; a new burial-ground was consecrated a few years since. There are several dissenting places of worship. The trade of Dartford is considerable ; there are chalk-pits near the town, and corn, oil, powder, and paper mills in the neighbourhood on the river Darent, also a large iron foundry and manufactory of machinery.

The first paper-mill erected in this country was at Dartford ; it was built by Sir John Spielman, a German, who introduced the manufacture, and stood on the site of the present powder-mills: the first mill established in England for rolling and slitting iron was also near Dartford. Barges from the Thames come up to the wharf below the town. The market is on Saturday; and there is a yearly fair. The trade in corn is considerable.

The living of Dartford is a vicarage in the diocese and archdeaconry of Rochester, of the clear yearly value of £534 with a glebe-house.

There were, in 1833, nine day-schools with 311 children ; one of these, with 80 scholars, is endowed : there were two day and Sunday national schools with about 200 children ; and three Sunday schools with 166 children.

Near the town are the ruins of a nunnery, founded in 1371, by Edward III, for Augustine nuns, but afterwards occupied by Dominican nuns. At the dissolution the prioress and several of the nuns were of some of the best and most ancient families of the county. The revenues then were then £400, 8 shillings gross, or £380, 9 shillings and a halfpenny clear. The buildings were occupied by Henry VIII, and, during her progress in Kent, by Queen Elizabeth, as a royal residence. The present remains are of brick and consist of a large embattled gate-way, with some adjacent buildings, now occupied as a farm house : the gardens and orchards occupied twelve acres, and were surrounded by a stone wall yet entire. There is an almshouse at Dartford, formerly an hospital for lepers.