1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Dartford

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DARTFORD, a market town in the Dartford parliamentary division of Kent, England, on the Darent, 17 m. E.S.E. of London by the South-Eastern & Chatham railway. Pop. of urban district (1891), 11,962; (1901) 18,644. The town lies low, flanked by two chalky eminences, called East and West Hills. It possesses a town hall, a grammar school (1576), and a Martyr’s Memorial Hall. The most noteworthy building, however, is the parish church, restored in 1863, which contains a curious old fresco and several interesting brasses, and has a Norman tower. The prosperity of the town depends on the important works in its vicinity, including powder works, paper mills, and engineering, iron, chemical and cement works. One of the first attempts at the manufacture of paper in England was made here by Sir John Spielman (d. 1607), jeweller to Queen Elizabeth. Dartford was the scene, in 1235, of the marriage, celebrated by proxy, between Isabella, sister of Henry III., and the Emperor Frederick II.; and in 1331 a famous tournament was held in the place by Edward III. The same monarch established an Augustinian nunnery on West Hill in 1355, of which, however, few remains exist. After the Dissolution it was used as a private residence by Henry VIII., Anne of Cleves and Elizabeth. The chantry of St Edmund the Martyr which stood on the opposite side of the town was a part of Edward III.’s endowment to the priory, and became so famous as a place of pilgrimage, especially for those on their way to Canterbury, that the part of Watling Street which crossed there towards London was sometimes called “St Edmund’s Way.” It was here also that Wat Tyler’s insurrection began in 1377, and the house in which he resided is shown. On Dartford Heath is a lunatic asylum of the London County Council, and, at Long Reach, the infectious diseases hospital of the Metropolitan Asylums Board. Stone church, 2 m. E. of Dartford, mainly late Early English (1251–1274), and carefully restored by G. E. Street in 1860, is remarkable; the richness of the work within increases from west to east, culminating in a choir arcade decorated with work among the finest of its period extant; the period is that of the choir of Westminster Abbey, and from a comparison of building materials, choir arcades and sculpture of foliage, a common architect has been suggested. Greenhithe, on the banks of the Thames, has large chalk quarries in its neighbourhood, from which lime and cement are manufactured.