Having a curiosity for the past certainly helps if you are interested in local history; or even live or once lived in a town crammed with history, ssuch as Dartford. Yet all can enjoy photographs of the past, in tinted postcard views, which bring to life the images of a past long gone.
Before the First World War, a time when a postcard could be posted in the morning and be delivered during the afternoon locally, they were the cheapest way to contact each other. Standard black and white cards could be tinted by hand at the often local photographers’ studios and sold through newsagent shops.
Views of the Millpond, overlooked now by apartments and new roads, once stood the Phoenix Mill, risen from the ashes of an earlier mill burnt down [a common event!]. Sailbarges and Dumb barges cram into the Dartford Creek with cargos from coal, leather, wood pulp and China clay from Cornwall, destined for the papermill on the West bank of the Creek, owned byThe Daily Telegraph.
In a High Street view, not a car in sight, but one of thirteen Dartford trams in maroon and cream livery, shortly after leaving the depot off Burnham road, via Hythe Steet. Holy Trinity Parish Church, a favourite with photographers, stands by the River Darent, where in medieval days a hermit assisted folk over the River for a small fee, even after a bridge was constructed! One card view shows The Priory, which in fact is the remaining Western Gate of a Tudor Palace, built on the site where the Priory once stood, where today wedding ceremonies are carried out.
Many card views around Dartford from the early 1900s remain familiar, buildings still standing often with different uses today. One of the major changes being at the foot of East Hill, a thriving row of shops known as Overy Liberty. Opposite stood The Royal Victoria Mill of the flour miller family Keyes. Today the ground floor remains in use as a hall, next to which runs the Fast Track Bus Lane. Nearby, at one time, horse drawn wagons were driven down a ramp into the shallow river, during the hot Summer months, to give the the horses a drink and cool down but also to expand dried out wooden wheels with loose joints, to stop creaking and coming apart. Horse drawn vans and carts of the local traders are seen on their rounds in many High Street views and streets around town.
People captured in the scenes may well have descendants around today! Most of the ladies shown were wearing extravagant bonnets and long dresses, while nearly all the men were wearing a suit, tie and hat or cap.
It is said a picture tells a thousand words, and thanks to those early photographers there are plenty for us to enjoy and wonder at..
By Adrian Herbert