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History of Dartford

Dartford comes from the Old English ‘ford’ as a ‘ford’ combined with a river name; therefore, a ‘ford over the River Darent’ – a Celtic name meaning ‘river where oak-trees grow. The Domesday Book records Dartford as Tarentefort.

The first people appeared in the Dartford area around 250,000 years ago, a tribe of primitive hunter-gatherers, known as Swanscombe Man.

The Domesday Book entry for
Dartford reveals that the royal manor of Tarentfort was a small but thriving agricultural community supporting a population of approximately 150 families. It comprised a mixture of arable land, meadow, pasture and woodland. Other features of note were the parish church, Holy Trinity, three smaller chapels, a mill, and two wharves on the River Darent. Teams of oxen ploughed the land; pigs foraged in the local woods.

During the medieval period
Dartford, because of its strategic location en route for the continent, and that taken by many pilgrims, became one of the sites in England where different religious orders established themselves. In the 12th century, the Knights Templar had possession of the manor of Dartford. The 14th century, produced a priory, and two groups of friars - the Dominicans and the Franciscans – who built hospitals for the care of the sick. At this time, Dartford became a small, although important, market town.

Dartford parish church is a Grade: I listed building, dedicated to the Holy Trinity. Bishop Gundulf supervised its building in 1080. Soon after the initial build, the Normans added a bell tower to the north side of the sanctuary. In the 13th century, they added aisles to the nave and rebuilt the chancel eastward and added a new chapel dedicated to St Thomas, to satisfy the needs of pilgrims travelling to Canterbury. On his return from France in 1415, Henry V celebrated his victory at Agincourt, by leading some 700 soldiers in a Thanksgiving Service at the Church. Later in 1422, His body rested overnight in the church on its journey from Normandy to Westminster. 500 Knights attended the candlelit service. In 1470, they heightened the tower to accommodate the hanging of bells. In 1552, there is a record of four bells in the tower.

The reformation resulted in the removal of Beckets altar in 1538, and his festivals abolished. In 1702, Philip Wightman cast a ring of eight bells from the former ring. Attendances had increased so much by 1773 that Robert Mylne built a new gallery on the south side, and installed an organ. In 1797, Edward Hasted described the Dartford church as a ‘large handsome building, consisting of three isles' and two chancels … The tower is at the west end of it, in which there is a clock and a good ring of bells; one of which, of the smaller size, used till of late to be constantly rung, as of old custom, at four o'clock every morning, and again at the time of curfew at night’. In 1862, the architect A W Blomfield carried out restoration work to the chancel and sanctuary floors, and in 1877, restored the nave. Mears and Stainbank recast all eight bells in 1917…. more

Dartford railway station opened on the South Eastern Railway’s North Kent Line from London Bridge to Strood, on 30 July 1849…. more