Dartford, DA1 - Lowfield Street
In 1785, a blacksmith from Lowfield Street began to make engines, boilers and machinery. Some of that machinery was for the local gunpowder factory. In the same year the firm of J & E Hall was set up, specialising in heavy engineering, and later refrigerating equipment. From those beginnings was to come the industrial base on which the growth and prosperity of Dartford were founded.
Unfortunately over recent decades the fortunes of Dartford have not been quite as lucky and this long stretch of mainly Victorian shops on Lowfield Street have had been the subject of a planning proposal for over a decade.The large stretch of land sitting to the south of Dartford Town Centre and is bounded to the east by Central Park, to the south by the Glentworth Club, to the west by
Lowfield Street and to the north by Barclays Bank. The majority of the buildings within the site fronting onto Lowfield Street are two storeys in height and many have become vacant & boarded up over the last decade and more recently some of the last ones hanging on have been subject to a compolsory perchase order.Redevelopment is long overdue and according to some people that I met in the local Wetherspoons they are angry the amount of time that the redevelopment is taking. Apparently the problems with obtaining planning permission for the Lowfield centre superstore development and associated residential units have been compounded by the recession and more recently falling profits of some of the major supermarkets.
Here is a summary courtesy of News Shopper Paper (dated 11 Aug 2014)
2002- development of Lowfield Street by Tesco is first mooted.
2004-2006- plans for a 161,000sq ft Tesco hypermarket are rejected.
2008-2011- the £300 million Lowfield Vision project for a 120,000sq ft Tesco and 934 homes comes to nought as the recession starts to bite.
November 2011- an £80million plan to create 400 full-time jobs at a 24hour Tesco Extra store and 231 homes is approved by the council, but Tesco stalls on construction.
September 2013- scaled down plans for an 8,000sq m Tesco and 34 one-bed and 73 two-bed flats get the nod from the council.
June 2014: Tesco announces demolition of 26 to 142 Lowfield Street will start next month.
Former Drinking Establishments of Lowfield Road, Dartford
On this stretch of Lowfield Rd we have 4 closed down watering holes - 2 pubs and a nightclub.
The closed down DA1 nightclub is on the site of the Dartford Bridewell, a prison that stood on this site from 1720 to 1932. Criminality lived on here according to a Beer in the Evening review of the DA1:" There is so much trouble here, it may as well be it's own police station - everyone in there ends up in a police cell by the end of the night!!" The nightclub has been known by various names over the years including, Bridewells, Silver Lady, 3D & Talk of the Town.
A number of alleged activities including drug dealing and violence at The Plough finally resulted in a Closure Order in 2008 after a disturbance which resulted in the stabbing of the landlord.
While the DA1 & and The Plough are to be demolished as part of the Lowfield St redevelopment the defunct Two Brewers & The Windmill are on the other side and not part of the new development. The Two Brewers is grade 2 listed 17th century building (though refaced in the 19th century) is "temporarily" closed with planning permission being sought to demolish a single storey rear extension & replace it with 5 storey flats. Lets hope someone reopens the pub (as a pub).
Meanwhile, The Windmill is now an undertakers.
Sheerness Dockyard Church
Located beside the mouth of the River Medway on corner of the Isle of Sheppey. The town began as a fort built in the 16th century to protect the River Medway from invasion. In 1669 a Royal Navy dockyard was established in the town.Following the Napoleonic Wars, an opportunity was taken to rebuild the Dockyard. The site was leveled in 1815, anda new Dockyard was laid out, according to plans drawn up by John Rennie (also responsible for designing and building the London Docks at Wapping and the East India and West India docks). the naval dockyard closed in 1960.
Sheerness Dockyard Church was built for dockyard workers and service personnel in 1826-8 It was gutted by fire in 1881 and substantially rebuilt, more or less to the original concept in 1884-5.It closed in 1970 and after being deconsecrated had a number of uses including being used as a squash court! The church building was devastated by another fire in 2001 whilst under private ownership & was recently compulsorily purchased by the local Council who transferred ownership to the Spitalfields Trust and Sheerness Dockyard Preservation Trust secured a grant from the Heritage Lottery fund to make the structure safe again and begin the transformation of the derelict church into a community resource and enterprise centre for the Isle of Sheppey.
Lydd Town Station (originally known as Lydd Station) opened in 1881 and closed to passengers in 1967 leaving the line through the station to remain open for freight.The line , branching from the Ashford to Hastings route went down to Dungeness.A second branch was opened later from a point just south of Lydd to New Romney & took passengers from Appledore to Lydd Town, Brookland, Lydd Camp, Lydd-on-Sea, Greatstone, New Romney and Littlestone. The line remains open through Lydd Town as far as a siding near Dungeness for freight traffic to transport atomic waste from the nuclear power plant at Dungeness.
The main station building and goods yard remain in an empty and derelict state, having been used as a vehicle repair workshop until the mid-1980s. Nearby Lydd airport is to expand over the years and there remains the suggestion that this line could be revived to provide a link between and the airport and Ashford International.