15 Innovations Dartford Industrial History

Dartford Industrial History


Did you now that some features of Dartford Industrial History had significant influence on they way we live today?  Some of the innovations in products and services first build and used in Dartford changed the way things were manufactured in England and in the World. To prepare this article we research the information available at Dartford Library, Dartford Borough Museum and spoke to the people of Dartford.



SS Selembria


The Times run an article in 1886 regarding the transport of 30.000 mutton carcasses from the Falkland Islands to Britain. The ship named SS Selembria was fitted with pioneering cold air machines manufactured by J & E Hall Ltd and the entire cargo arrived in perfect condition after its long crossing. The technology discovered in Dartford opened a long chapter of the story of the development of refrigeration for foods.


Spilman’s Paper Mill


Sir John Spilman, a German from Lindau, contributed to Dartford industrial history by setting up here the first commercially successful mill in England for producing white paper in 1588.  In 1589 he was granted the monopoly for building paper mills, producing paper and buying old rugs and paper for recycling. He used an image of foolscap as his watermark and company logo ans this later became the word used to describe all paper of this kind. Barges were used to transport goods and materials between the riverside factories and the docs of London a few miles up the Thames.


Applegath’s Vertical Printing Machine


Augustus Applegath’s vertical printing machine revolutionised the speed at which the newspapers can be printed when it appeared in 1840’s. Applegath run a silk and calico printing works near the river Darent with his brother John. His former factory in Crayford went to become David Evans Silk, still in business today.


Lighting the Gas Lamps


Dartford was one of the first towns to use gas lights in its streets and homes. The full survey of the town was commissioned in 1825, followed by the foundation of the Dartford Gas Company in 1826. By the end of 1827 there were 68 street lamps and 55 private lights in use.


Donkin’s Cannery


The resourceful Bryan Donkin was apprenticed to John Hall of Dartford in 1792 and learnt many of his skills there. He went on to play the leading role in the establishment of the world’s first food canning factory in 1811. This major advance revolutionised the long term preservation of foodstuffs and is still one of the most important ways of storing food from baked beans to caviar.


Donkin’s Continuous Roll Paper Machine


The Fourdrinier Machine was a continuous paper making machine perfected in 1806 by Bryan Donkin, the brother-in-law and one time employee of John Hall. It radically advanced paper production allowing large easily transportable rolls to be manufactured.


Godfrey Box’ Wire Slitting Mill


Godfrey Box’s Iron Slitting Mill was set up in 1595 to cut bars of iron into long square rods which could than be drawn out to make wire. Box, a native of Liege, had probably worked in one of the four iron slitting mills which has been established in that city in the 1580’s.


Vivkers Vimy


Vickers Ltd chose an area of Dartford Salt Marches to test the various types of aircraft manufactured at the local factory between 1911 and 1919. The aircraft ranged in size from single seaters to one of the world’s fist passenger carrying aeroplanes. This lighter aircraft was a version of Vickers Vimy which was used to make the first transatlantic non-stop flight fine-tuning Dartford Industrial History.


Trevithick’s Locomotive


The Catch-me-who-can locomotive was designed in 1808 by Cornish engineer Richard Trevithick. Trevithick who designed the world’s first railway locomotive came to work in Richard-TrevithickDartford in 1832 following an invitation from John Hall, the founder of J & E Hall Ltd. Unfortunately he died a year later and is buried at St. Edmind’s Pleasance on East Hill. Memorials to him can be seen at his burial place and in Holly Trinity Church on the High Street as well as in the Royal Victoria and Bull Hotel where he died while staying in one of the rooms.



Maxim’s Flying Machine


Hiram Maxim whose most famous innovation was a machine gun, carried out experiments with heavier-than-air flying machines on land now in the grounds of Bexley Hospital. On 31st July 1894 his steam powered flying machine successfully flew 100 feet at the impressive altitude of 2 feet before crashing. In 1908 he build a second aircraft but the project was beset with problems and eventually abandoned.


J & E Hall Lifts


John Hall founded his company know as J & E Hall Ltd in 1785. A huge variety of engineering was carried out at the Dartford works since its foundation including the manufacturing of booth lifts and elevators. Although this particular branch of their work has ceased producing, some of their products can be seen in the country and overseas. One of their lifts is still operating in Dartford Cooperative Store in Spital Street and small lift for transporting books still exists in Dartford Library.


Freeze Dried Blood


During the Second World War J & E Hall Ltd perfected equipment for the freeze-drying of blood. It was one of the earliest uses of freeze-drying techniques which are now standard procedure and enabled blood for transfusions to be easily transported and distributed particularly to the front.


Hazeline Snow


Hazeline Snow was an extraordinary product manufactured by Burroughs Wellcome intended to whiten dark skin in the age when that was seen as socially advantageous. The product was hugely successful when in appeared and was produced in Dartford from 1892 to 1970. It is still produced in South East Asia.


QE2 Bridge Dartford Crossing


Dartford BridgeThe Queen Elizabeth II Bridge was opened in October 1991 by Her Majesty The Queen three years after work commenced. The Bridge is 2872 metres long including the approach viaducts. Since the bridge was opened traffic has increased by 75%.




Applegarth’s Banknotes – the most unfortunate part of Dartford Industrial History


From 1818 to 1821 millions of £5 and £1 notes were produced at the Bank of England using the printing machine designed by Augustus Applegarth of Dartford.  Applegarth machine could churn out 1200 notes per hour. However the notes were never issued, both because the proposal to issue paper money has been scrapped and also because the superintendent of the printing office was able to forge them even though they were printed in six colours. The bank spent of £40.000 on the project and was left with over 4.000.000 useless notes. Examples of these notes exist in Dartford Borough Museum.


The materials for this article about Dartford Industrial History have been prepared by Dartford Removals using the resources available from Dartford Library, Dartford Borough Museum and from the interviews with the local people of Dartford. 


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