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Twentieth Century


The history of fabric printing in Dartford goes back to 1844 when Augustus Applegath established a silk printing works in the town. This tradition continued until 1865 when James Keymer set up a new fabric printing works on the banks of the River Darent, adjacent to what is now Bullace Lane. In 1910, the name Dartford Print Works was officially adopted. The firm was taken over by Messrs. Warner and Sons in 1927 and continued in production until 1939.

Hand-block printing of fabric was undertaken by men who had served a seven year apprenticeship; women also played a vital role in this successful local industry. The printing process was laborious and highly skilled. Prepared fabric was first laid out on large tables measuring 75 x 6 ft. There were forty tables in use at the Dartford Print Works.

The printer's assistant, usually a woman, applied colour to the hand-made wooden printing blocks and then passed them to the printer who placed them in position on the fabric. He then gently tapped the block with a short-handled hammer known as a 'maul'. As many of these designs were repeat patterns the blocks had to be positioned several times on the fabric. Gradually, the pattern was built up using the different blocks and colours.

When the printing was completed and dry, the material was steamed to make the colours fast. It was then washed several times in water partially diverted into the factory building from the River Darent. The fabric was then dried and inspected. Various types of high-quality fabrics and furnishings were produced at the Dartford Print Works, as well as bunting and flags for special occasions. Dartford fabric was sold at main departmental stores in London and throughout the world. Dartford Print Works closed in 1939, but the tradition continued at the David Evans Print Works in Crayford.


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