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Applegath's vertical printing machine
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Augustus Applegath was born in 1788 and died in February 1871. This genius of an inventor lived in the Dartford district for over forty years, establishing a silk and calico printing works in the town in 1843.

Applegath was a prolific inventor. He registered eighteen different patents in his own name for improvements in letterpress and silk printing, perfected an extraordinary new technique for printing banknotes, and invented the printing machine upon which "The Times" newspaper was printed in the mid-19th century.

Augustus was born in the Parish of Stepney in East London, the son of a sea captain employed by the East India Company. After a number of ventures, Augustus co-operated with his brother-in-law to produce a printing machine capable of printing paper on both sides simultaneously. The 'Applegath and Cowper Royal' was the end product of this family partnership: a revolutionary new machine capable of printing up to 1,000 copies an hour.

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Examples of banknotes
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News of Applegath's genius soon reached the Bank of England in London. In 1818 he persuaded the Bank to allow him to print - in a variety of colours, and in perfect register - a £1 and a £5 note for general issue. These notes had to be forgery-proof and of exceptional quality.

Applegath printed millions of £1 notes at the Bank of England using a machine capable of printing 1,200 notes per hour. But, for two reasons, they were never issued. Firstly, the proposal to issue paper £1 notes was rejected. Secondly, it was found that William Bawtree, Superintendent of the Printing Office at the Bank of England, was able to produce seasonable imitations of Applegath's machine-printed notes, even though they were printed in six colours! After the Bank's decision not to issue the banknotes or to continue with further developments, Applegath asked for some remuneration for the time ( more than three years) that he and Cowper had worked on the project to the neglect of their own business interests. The Court of Directors granted £4,000 to be paid to them jointly. The Bank of England had spent £40.000 on the project and was stuck with a useless stock of over four million banknotes, samples of which are housed in the collection at Dartford Museum.

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After leaving the Bank of England, Applegath set up a printing works in Stamford Street, London, and shortly afterwards was appointed engineer to "The Times". He volunteered to invent a machine capable of printing 5,000 newspapers per hour, and produced three increasingly rapid models. By 1846 his 'Four-feeder' machines had enabled "The Times" to increase its daily circulation to 28,000: and they had become a hit with other printers - at least 20 were in use in London alone.

Augustus was the original owner of the silk printing works at Crayford, now owned by David Evans and Co Ltd. He applied his inventive genius to this commercially successful enterprise by perfecting the printing of fabrics using curved copper plates rather than traditional handblocks. The silk printing business later moved to Dartford, eventually to become established as the Dartford Print Works in Bullace Lane. Ownership later transferred to John Hyland: the business was last owned by Warner & Sons, founded in 1870.

Applegath conducted a number of experiments with steam traction. In 1848 he built a traction engine at Crayford, which was road-tested up and down Iron Mill Lane. On one occasion the traction engine landed in a ditch. Augustus was so disgusted with its performance that he left it to rust away by the side of the road. Not all of Applegath's inventions were hugely successful.

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