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Dartford played a part in the military history of England between 1500 and 1800 for two main reasons. Firstly, Dartford was relatively close to London and therefore was caught up in military events that affected the capital. Secondly, Dartford Heath and Dartford Brent provided convenient camp sites for large numbers of soldiers in times of national crisis or for military exercises.


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In June 1545 the duke of Suffolk was commissioned to raise an army of 30,000 men in the counties of Kent, Sussex and Hampshire, against the French. Each parish was responsible for supplying a fixed number of armed men who could be called-up and ready to fight at very short notice.

The Kent Muster Certificate for 1545 lists all the men in the Dartford area armed and fit for service, all other men over the age of 16, and the number of horses, arms and armour available. Bilmen and archers are identified. The names of several well-known Dartfordians are recorded on the muster list, including that of William Vaughan. There is also a Kent Muster Roll at the time of the Spanish Armada.

In 1553, Sir Thomas Wyatt raised a large force in Kent as a protest against Queen Mary’s proposed marriage with King Philip II of Spain. On 31 Wednesday January 1554, Wyatt marched to Dartford. Here he was met by Sir Edward Hastings and Sir Thomas Cornwallis, both of whom were privy councillors commissioned by the Queen to negotiate with Wyatt.

On reaching Dartford, Sir Thomas Wyatt found Hastings and Cornwallis waiting for him at the west end of the town. Discussions followed and a royal pardon was offered to Wyatt and his followers, on the condition that they should immediately disperse. Wyatt defiantly refused to retreat and disband his forces, so the privy councillors returned to London to report their discussions to the queen.

Wyatt and his army marched from Dartford to London via Deptford and Southwark. He reached Westminster on 7 February 1554. After a conflict near St. James’ Park, Wyatt and the rebel army were defeated. Wyatt was brought to trial, and being convicted, was executed on Tower Hill on 11 April 1554.

Next topic: The English Civil War


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