Dartford (Holy Trinity)

DARTFORD (Holy Trinity), a market-town and parish, and the head of a union, in the hundred of Axton, Dartford, and Wilmington, lathe of Sutton-at-Hone, W. division of Kent, 15 miles (S. E.) from London, and 22 (N. W.) from Maidstone, on the great road from London to Canterbury and Dovor; containing 5619 inhabitants. The name is a contraction of Darentford, or the ford on the Darent, on the banks of which river the town is situated. Dartford is mentioned in history as the place where Isabella, sister of Henry III., was married by proxy, in 1235, to the German emperor, Frederick II. Edward III. held a tournament here, on his return from France, in 1331; and in 1355 he founded, and afterwards richly endowed, a monastery at Dartford, for nuns of the order of St. Augustine, the revenue of which at the Dissolution was £408. At this town commenced the insurrection under Wat Tyler, in the fifth of Richard II.; and on the neighbouring heath, called Dartford-Brent, the army of Richard, Duke of York, encamped in 1451, while he waited to obtain a conference with Henry VI., who then lay with his army at Blackheath. Dartford-Brent was also the rendezvous of the parliamentary forces under General Fairfax, in 1648. Prior to the erection of barracks, the army frequently encamped on Dartford Heath, where the remains are visible.

The town is pleasantly situated in a narrow valley between two hills; the principal street forms the line of the London road, and three smaller streets branch off from it at right angles. There is a bridge over the Darent, built since the commencement of the reign of Edward III., and repaired and improved at the expense of the county about 70 years ago, at which time a new market-house was erected, and the streets were repaved. The river is navigable up to the town for boats; and in 1840, an act of parliament was passed for improving the creek, and also that of Crayford, and for other works connected with that object. The numerous mills on the river contribute greatly to the trading prosperity of Dartford. An extensive gunpowder manufactory is carried on, which occupies the site of the first paper-mill erected in this country, by Sir John Spillman, a German, who died in 1607: in the gardens Sir John planted the two first lime-trees known in England. At a short distance is a zinc-mill, where formerly stood a mill for rolling and splitting iron, the first of the kind in England, constructed by Godfrey Box, of Liege, in 1590. There are also mills for grinding corn, and for extracting oil from seeds, and manufacturing mustard, on the north side of the town, called the Phœnix mills; besides a very large establishment for the construction of steam-engines, and machinery of all kinds, to which is attached a foundry, on a scale of considerable magnitude, where 200 workmen are constantly employed. The market is held on Saturday, when a great quantity of corn is sold; and a fair on Aug. 2nd and 3rd. The petty-sessions for the upper division of the lathe of Sutton-at-Hone are held here: the powers of the county debt-court of Dartford, established in 1847, extend over the registration-district of Dartford. In the latter part of Elizabeth's reign, the county assizes are said to have been frequently holden here; and a spot at the entrance to Dartford-Brent from the town was the place of execution for malefactors.

The parish comprises 4074a. 2r. 32p., of which 1914 acres are arable, 1126 marsh, meadow, and pasture, 444 woodland, 422 common, waste, and roads, and 164 acres market-gardens and orchards. The Living is a discharged vicarage, valued in the king's books at £18. 11. 3.; patron and appropriator, the Bishop of Rochester. The great tithes have been commuted for £806. 4. 9., and the vicarial for £560; the glebe contains 2½ acres, with a glebe-house. The church is a spacious structure, consisting of a nave, aisles, and two chancels, with an embattled tower at the north-west side; it contains many ancient monuments and beautiful brasses, among which is a monument to the above-mentioned Sir John Spillman. On a high hill, above the tower of the church, on the east side of the town, is a churchyard, which was much enlarged in 1817: on its site stood a chapel, dedicated in the reign of Edward III. to St. Edmund the Martyr, and the foundations of which remained until the end of the last century. There are places of worship for various denominations of dissenters. A free grammar school was established in 1576, and endowed with property producing £48. 15. per annum. Two schools on the national system are supported partly by the income arising from various benefactions; and in Lowfield-street are four almshouses, founded in 1572, in pursuance of a bequest by John Byer, who founded and endowed nine others in Spital-street, for widows, which were rebuilt and enlarged by John Twiselton, Esq., in 1704. The poor law union of Dartford comprises 21 parishes or places, and contains a population of 25,361. Traces of the Roman Watling-street appear on the south side of the high road, on Dartford-Brent. The Augustine nunnery, after the Dissolution, was made a royal residence by Henry VIII. and Elizabeth; and its remains, consisting of an embattled gateway and some other buildings of brick, have been converted into a farmhouse. An hospital, dedicated to the Holy Trinity, was founded in the reign of Henry VI.; and an hospital for lepers existed here in the fourteenth century.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.