Dartford Market

My exploration of ancient markets along the Thames took me to Dartford and what a pleasant surprise that was. The walk from the station is a bit daunting as the road lay-out is designed for cars rather than pedestrians. I visited on a bright sunny Saturday and the market was vibrant and busy. Situated on the High Street it offers both shops and market stalls.

Dartford is an old market town and its charter dates back to James ll. The Royal Victoria and Bull Hotel dates back to 1703 and it is still a pub with accommodation. There is a space further down the High Street where the Le Bell public house stood which dated back to 1507 but was sadly demolished in 1962. An information board here titled One Town that Changed the World cites interesting facts such as Dartford was the first town to use gas lights.

Mural at Bell Corner

Mural at Bell Corner

The market stalls extend the full length of the High Street and sell clothes, plants, bags, housewares, fruit and veg. The range of local produce was impressive and the Kent new potatoes I bought was the best I’ve tasted in a long time. Richardson and Son butchers provides an impressive range of locally sourced meat. A French couple was in the queue before me and pleased with the excellent local produce I’d bought; momentarily I thought I was in France.

The town received a lot of publicity when it came to light that they had spent some of their £79,000 of Government cash to revive the High Street on a Peppa Pig character. Now, and then you will see a stall in a blue tent. One of the stallholders explained that these are the Portas’ bursary stalls. He had been a stallholder for over 40 years and was less than complementary about the Portas’ scheme claiming it was gimmicky and not sustainable. His view was that it should have addressed the fundamental problems of parking and business rates. Some of the new stalls were offering different things such as Mexican food and it will be interesting to see if they survive once the bursary runs out. The town that claims to have changed the world still appears to be divided.