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Dartford & District Archaeological Group (DDAG)   -    Rediscovering Dartford - Page 20

8.  Dartford Priory and Manor House of
     Henry VIII

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 it
now one of the most confusing and complicated to interpret.
   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 under discussion.
   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.

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