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Between 1500 and 1800 there was a transport revolution which brought many changes to the local community. Improved transport and communications opened up new markets for local farmers and industrialists and brought new fashions, culture and luxury goods to towns and villages that had previously been rather isolated.

As time progressed it became possible for ordinary people to travel long distances by public transport. The advent of regular stage-coach services and the improvement of roads enabled people to travel faster and further than ever before. Water transport also became important as a means of moving raw materials and finished goods long distances.


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Dartford’s position on the main road from London to the Kent coast gave the town importance and generated a respectable amount of through traffic. Dartford Creek provided access to the River Thames and the world beyond. There were four quays or landing-places in Dartford in Elizabethan times. The Hithe Wharf was owned by the Wardens of Rochester Bridge. Priory Wharf or Le Hegge Wharf had once been in the ownership of the prioress and nuns of Dartford, but after the dissolution of Dartford Priory the wharf rental passed to the Beer and Twisleton families. This ancient wharf on the River Darent was later known as Colyer’s or Temperley’s Wharf. The Town Wharf, designed for general public use, was little used after the sixteenth century.

Early maps and records show that Dartford Creek followed a winding route over three miles long from the town centre to the River Thames. Boats and barges of 50 tons were able to navigate the Creek, but fully loaded boats could only tie-up at the town wharfs if spring-tide conditions persisted. Larger river craft had to be moored half way along the Creek and the freight transferred by small barges to the town centre.

At high tides, and when strong south-westerly winds blew, Dartford Creek was at time un-navigable, and frequently small vessels were delayed for several days. The Kentish Travellers Companion of 1783 reported that the River Darent was navigable below Dartford Bridge, and that many hoys and barges came up from the River Thames to the town wharf "To this wharf is brought the produce of the woods in this neighbourhood which are of considerable extent, and the manufactures which are here shipped to London for sale".


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The bridge over the River Darent had been constructed in medieval times. The size and method of construction of the bridge was inappropriate for the weight of traffic generated by the eighteenth century transport revolution. The bridge had to be enlarged and strengthened to accommodate stage coaches and heavy waggons. By the end of the eighteenth century the town bridge was described as ‘a commodious structure’.

Next topic: Road transport


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