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Twentieth Century


Dartford Flour Mills
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Dartford's reputation as a centre for industrial activity goes back to the sixteenth century. Even as late as 1933, Frank Clarke, Conservative M.P. for the town described Dartford as 'the Birmingham of Kent'. By 1900, heavy engineering, the pharmaceutical industry, paper-making, fabric printing, brewing, tanning, flour milling, and the manufacture of gunpowder and cement were well-established industries in and around the town, bringing wealth and jobs to the local area.

In 1900, the main industrial employers in and around Dartford were the Dartford Gunpowder Mills of Curtis and Harvey, The Daily Telegraph Paper Mills in Priory Road, J. & E. Hall's Dartford Engineering Works, Seagers' Engineering Works, Messrs. Burroughs, Wellcome and Co., Sharp's Baltic Saw Mills, John Beadle's Carriage and Motor Works, Messrs. Kidd and Sons Brewery (Hythe Street), the Dartford Brewery (Lowfield Street), the Dartford Print Works, and the Dartford Wharfage Company.

Dartford brewery
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Widespread strikes, economic recession in the 1920s and 1930s and two world wars had a lasting impact on Dartford's industrial base. Some local firms were able to adapt to changing circumstances by adopting a policy of product diversification, others tried to continue operating as they had always done and quickly disappeared with a consequent loss of jobs.

Familiar industries came and went as the twentieth century progressed, only to be replaced by other industries that were keen to take advantage of Dartford's favourable geographical position, potential workforce and the availability of land for future development. There was significant industrial decline in the Dartford area during the 1970s and 1980s. The older, traditional heavy engineering, paper and cement industries in the borough continued to be run down. By the end of the twentieth century only 13% of the borough's population were employed in the manufacturing sector. The town's economic base had changed dramatically as employment trends moved towards hi-tech manufacturing, scientific and service industries.

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