|8. Dartford Priory
and Manor House of
In an area of land now largely covered by the engineering works of APV
Hall Products lies one of Dartford’s most important and interesting
archaeological sites. The continued habitation of the site however makes
one of the most confusing and complicated to
John Dunkin. a local historian,
refers to the site being occupied in Saxon times by a ‘mansion’ and
priory. Legend has it that the nuns living in this religious building
all suffered violent deaths during an attack by the Danes. In 1086, the
Domesday Book records the existence in Dartford of a church and three
chapels. one of which has always been taken to have existed on the site
During the reign of Edward III, a new
priory was erected on the site. It was dedicated to St. Mary and St.
Margaret and was to play an important role in the everyday life and
development of Dartford. In 1539, the Priory was dissolved by
Henry VIII. It was replaced by a large manor house which was constructed
between 1541-44. This manor house served as a convenient stop over on
the London to Dover road, very similar to the coaching inns of more
recent times. Following Henry VIII’s short ‘marriage’ to Anne of
Cleves, the manor was given to her as part of the divorce settlement.
Anne lived there for seven years and quite often
entertained the Princesses Mary and
Elizabeth. When Mary became Queen the manor house was given hack to the
nuns as rightful owners of the site and it once again became a Priory.
This was only to be short lived as Elizabeth then reclaimed it for
herself. During Elizabeth’s ownership large parts of the manor house
were demolished and the building materials were removed to be re-used in
other building projects. It is believed that an area of the site was
used for smelting a black ore which was thought to contain gold.
The ore was brought by Martin Frobisher from islands in a
Canadian bay which was later named after him. Unfortunately the ore
mined was later found to he worthless. The manor house finally passed
out of royal hands to a succession of rich owners.
Further sections of the manor house
were demolished and the resulting open areas turned over to farmland and
orchards. Today all that remains of this once impressive structure is
the carefully preserved west gatehouse known locally, but incorrectly,
as the ‘Priory House’. Part of the boundary wall also remains. It is
not, however, of one period but of a mixture ranging from Medieval to
modern. It can he traced from the ‘Priory House’ northward along
Priory Road and then eastwards along Victoria Road to Hythe Street where
it turns south to disappear into the railway embankment. By following
this wall, an impression can he obtained as to the area covered by this
once important manor house and its predecessor, the Dartford Priory.