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Twentieth Century


Dartford library
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One important aspect of leisure provision in Dartford was the establishment of a public library and museum in the town. The public library, housing an initial stock of over 5,000 books opened on 1 January 1916 in a beautiful Bath stone building erected next to Central Park. The Carnegie Trust gave £7,400 towards the cost of the new building. The town museum collection, first established at the Technical Institute in 1908, soon moved into the Library building. A purpose-built museum extension fronting onto Market Street was added to the Library building in the mid 1930s. Branch libraries were later established throughout the borough of Dartford to serve the new housing estates and other local centres of population.

Numerous cultural organisations and societies were established in Dartford, including the Dartford Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society founded in 1906, Dartford District Antiquarian Society founded in 1910, and the Dartford and District Choral Society (1919). The town provided a base for many brass bands, choirs and orchestras, all of which regularly gave performances and concerts in Dartford and the surrounding area. Many of these cultural societies were brought under the umbrella of The Dartford and District Arts Council which co-ordinated arts activities in the town from 1948 until 1999.

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Spectacular fairs, circuses, shows and carnivals were a regular feature of life in twentieth century Dartford. Transfield's Hippodrome and Circus appeared in Dartford in 1905, one of many circuses to visit the town throughout the century.

Dartford carnival
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On 18-20 June 1936, Dartford held its first Carnival in aid of the Livingstone Cottage Hospital. The programme included a Carnival Procession, a tour of the neighbouring local villages by the Carnival Queen and her retinue, a Carnival Market, Baby Show, sports matches, concerts, dances and fireworks. The carnival procession composed of decorated cars, tradesmen's motor lorries and horse-drawn vehicles was over a mile long as it wound its way through the district. Over £1,500 was raised for the Livingstone Hospital. This Carnival became a regular feature of town life, it eventually came to be known as the Dartford Show, and in the 1990s as the Dartford Festival, featuring a parade, events and displays in Central Park.


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