Descriptive Gazetteer Entry for DARTFORD

DARTFORD, a town, a parish, a sub-district, and a district, in Kent. The town stands in a narrow valley, between two steep hills, on Watling-street, the river Darent, and the North Kent railway, 17 miles ESE of London Bridge. It was known to the Saxons as Darentford, and at Domesday as Tarentford; and it got its name from a ford or ferry-passage on the Darent, which was a great thoroughfare till the building of a bridge at it in the time of Henry VI. Isabella, the sister of Henry III., was married here by proxy, in 1235, to the Emperor Frederick. Edward III. held a tournament here in 1331; and founded an Augustinian nunnery here in 1355. Wat Tyler commenced his insurrection here, in 1381, by beating out the brains of the poll-tax collector; and either he or the collector is made to give a bad name to Dartford in an old local rhyme, which thus characterizes neighbouring places on the Darent:-

Sutton for mutton,
Kirkby for beef,
South Darne for gingerbread,
And Dartford for a thief.

The town consists chiefly of one spacious, well-built, picturesque street. The nunnery, founded by Edward III., stood at the west end; became the retreat of a daughter of Edward IV., and many noble ladies; was converted, after the dissolution, into a royal palace; passed, for a time, to Anne of Cleves; was inhabited two days, in 1573, by Queen Elizabeth; passed by barter to Sir Robert Cecil; was held, on life-lease, by Sir Edward Darcy, and got then the name of Place House. The edifice appears to have been very extensive; and a small part of it, not earlier than the time of Henry VII., still stands, and is now used as a farm-house. A chantry-chapel, dedicated to St. Edmund-the-Martyr, and situated in a cemetery of its own on the opposite side of the town, belonged to the nunnery; and was in such great repute by pilgrims to Canterbury that the reach of Watling-street leading to it often took the name of "St. Edmund's way;" but it has entirely disappeared. The parish church is a spacious ancient edifice, with a Norman tower; was repaired, or much altered, in 1793 and at other times; and has remains of a decorated screen, a mural monument to Sir John Spielman, Queen Elizabeth's jeweller, and some interesting brasses and effigies. The London Pauper Lunatic asylum is a large recent erection, with a lofty central tower; and forms a prominent object for a considerable distance. There are four dissenting chapels, a grammar-school, with £48 from endowment, another school with £47, alms-houses with £76, other charities with £213, a new cemetery, and a workhouse. The town has a head post office, ‡ a railway station with telegraph, a banking office, and two chief inns; and is a seat of petty sessions. Markets are held on Saturdays; and a fair on 2 Aug. A large export trade is carried on in country produce, chalk, lime, whiting, and manufactures, and an import trade in coal and timber, -the Darent, under the name of Dartford creek, affording good navigation hither to the Thames; and there are foundries, calico and silk-printing establishments, a large tannery, and powder, paper, corn, and seed-crushing mills, -the powder and paper mills of great extent, and situated a little way distant. The town gives the title of Viscount to Earl Jersey. Pop., 5, 314. Houses, 996.

The parish comprises 4, 101 acres of land and 185 of water. Real property, £31, 311; of which £616 are in quarries, £409 in canals, and £408 in gas-works. Pop., 6, 597. Houses, 1, 258. The property is much subdivided. The manor belonged to the Crown; and was given by James I. to the Whitmores. Part of the area adjoining the river is marshy; and part above is chalk down. Numerous remarkable ancient excavations exist in the chalk; and fine views are had from the heath a mile south-west of the town. Richard Plantagenet encamped on the heath in 1452; and Fairfax, in 1648. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Canterbury. Value, £534.* Patron, the Bishop of Worcester.—The sub-district contains the parishes of Dartford, Stone-near-Dartford, Swanscombe, Darenth, Wilmington, and Sutton-at-Hone. Acres, 17, 675. Pop., 13, 180. Houses, 2, 499. The district comprehends also the sub-district of Bexley, containing the parishes of Bexley, East Wickham, Erith, and Crayford; and the sub-district of Farningham, containing the parishes of Farningham, Horton-Kirby, Eynesford, Lullingstone, Kingsdown, Ridley, Ash, Hartley, Fawkham, Longfield, and Southfleet. Acres, 53, 109. Poor-rates, in 1862, £17, 306. Pop., in 1841, 25, 366; in 1861, 32, 316. Houses, 6, 053. Marriages, in 1860, 193; births, 1, 050, -of which 51 were illegitimate; deaths, 568, -of which 213 were at ages under 5 years, and 17 at ages above 85. Marriages in the ten years 1851-60, 1, 790; births, 9, 841; deaths, 5, 267. The places of worship in 1851 were 21 of the Church of England, with 6, 911 sittings; 8 of Independents, with 1, 498 s.; 10 of Baptists, with 1, 448 s.; 6 of Wesleyan Methodists, with 1, 157 s.; 1 of the Wesleyan Association, with 196 s.; 1 undefined, with 230 s.; and 1 of Roman Catholics, with 236 s. The schools were 27 public day schools, with 2, 661 scholars; 36 private day schools, with 739 s.; 39 Sunday schools, with 3, 142 s.; and 2 evening schools for adults, with 48 s.

(John Marius Wilson, Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales (1870-72))

Linked entities:
Feature Description: "a town, a parish, a sub-district, and a district"   (ADL Feature Type: "cities")
Administrative units: Dartford AP/CP       Dartford SubD       Dartford PLU/RegD       Kent AncC
Place names: DARENTFORD     |     DARTFORD     |     TARENTFORD
Place: Dartford

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