SPORTS AND SPORTS FACILITIES
FOOTBALL AND CRICKET
The interest in sports activities manifested in Dartford in Victorian times continued throughout the twentieth century. Dartford's football and cricket teams retained a loyal following.
Dartford enjoys the status of having hosted the first ever county cricket game back in the eighteenth century. The match was played on what was then Dartford Brent (later Hesketh Park). Dartford produced a number of famous cricketers.
The town's football club initially met in Summer's Meadow just off of Lowfield Street. In 1913 the club toured Norway. By the end of 1935 Dartford Football Club was making national headlines beating previous F.A. Cup winners Cardiff City 3 - 0 at Cambridge in the first round proper of the F.A. Cup. Dartford beat Gainsborough in the second round before losing 3-2 in the third round to Derby County, then placed second in the first division.
SWIMMING AND WATER SPORTS
There was a pressing need in Dartford for a public swimming pool. In 1900 there was a proposal to create a swimming facility or bathing area on the River Darent close to land owned by Burroughs Wellcome. This plan was successfully opposed by Burroughs Wellcome. In 1907 the council agreed to build a swimming pool at Burnham Road in Dartford. The outdoor pool was to be 90 ft. long by 36 ft. wide with a water depth of between 3 ft. 6 and 6 ft. 6. 38 'dressing boxes' were to be installed as changing facilities for bathers, as well as seats for spectators. A Ladies Swimming Club started in Dartford in 1911. In 1936, thousands of pounds were to spent on reconstructing the Burnham Road swimming baths which were described as "old and badly positioned". By this time, income from swimmers had fallen dramatically. There were also discussions at this time about building a new £40,000 swimming pool at Overy Liberty, a far cry from the high diving exhibitions and ornamental swimming displays that took place in the murky depths of Dartford Creek.
It was in 1976, after almost ten years of debate, that Dartford finally got its first proper indoor swimming pool. Fairfield Pool and Leisure Centre, built on the site where Dartford's annual fair was traditionally held, offered young and old the chance to swim in a fully modern pool. The pool was completely re-furbished in 1992-3 to include a swimming and teaching pool, fitness suite, dance studio, sauna and squash courts.
'FANTASEAS', Britain's answer to the great American water park, opened close to the Stone Lodge complex on the outskirts of Dartford in the autumn of 1989 but had closed-down by December 1992. This distinctive 'architectural monstrosity' containing six giant American turbo flumes, spectacular water features and an outdoor heated lagoon, dominated the local landscape. As with many late twentieth century leisure ventures based on fleeting fashions and get-rich-quick ideas, this project was initially successful but turned out to be a financial disaster.
Dartford provided a wide range of indoor and outdoor sporting facilities for most major sports and some minor ones including judo, tennis, badminton, table tennis and snooker.
In 1910, a roller-skating rink opened in Spital Street, roller-skating then being the very latest craze. This facility accommodated hundreds of skaters and with decorative plants, a large central palm tree and a resident orchestra, resembled a Palm Court. Hockey was a popular sport in Dartford in the earlier years of the twentieth century. Most local firms and hospitals had their own hockey teams that played in local leagues. The main athletics club in the borough were the Dartford Harriers, who met regularly at the all-weather athletics track in Central Park.
The Stone Lodge leisure area provided excellent facilities for rifle shooting and indoor bowls. There were two private golf courses in the borough, Dartford Golf Club in Heath Lane and Birchwood Road Golf Club. The Princes Golf and Leisure Club at Darenth Road provided facilities for golf, football, bowls, tennis and cricket.
One of the last major sporting projects of the twentieth century was
the opening of the Becket Sports Centre on the site of Dartford Grammar
School. This facility was equipped with a sports hall, fitness room and