Dartford in the 20th century is a story of the decline of the older community that populated the town previously and the growth of a new community with a population of over 80,000. The 20th century brought unprecedented economic, social and demographic to the town of Dartford as its population grew.
A large number of the people who populated Dartford in the 20th century migrated from south and the East End of London. Irish and Asian communities grew who brought alternative vibrant cultures to the town. Many of the newcomers had very few roots within the local community so had no great desire to see the town kept as a shrine to the past. Long-established family businesses, shops and pubs soon gave way to abundant high street retail shops, shopping centres and larger businesses.
Established residents and newcomers wanted Dartford to possess all the mod cons and attractions of the 20th century. New train services to London and shopping facilities became the aspirations of the new community. New communities were housed in and around the town with the development of new housing developments. It probably took at least a decade for them to become functioning communities in their own right.
A major factor regarding 20th century Dartford was that the town was no longer in control of its own future. Politicians and planners reacted to new social and economic forces and Dartford experienced mixed fortunes as it responded to the changes imposed by these external forces. Strikes, industrial unrest and the changing industry threatened the local economy. Some of the large industrial companies of the past disappeared without trace or played a much minor role in the local economy.
Modernisation also brought about new opportunities to the town, new industries appeared to replace the old. Dartford started to attract new commerce and businesses such as plumbers, boiler repair & boiler installation engineers and drain unblocking companies. Links were forged with Europe and European businesses. Economic survival depended being able to compete with rival towns in North Kent. Government initiatives in the 80s & 90s brought new hope to Dartford due to its geographical position in the Thames Corridor. Areas were designated for development in the 21st century, new roads created, Bluewater shopping centre was built and new business parks on the outskirts of Dartford brought prosperity to the area but in reality it did little to encourage the expansion of the town centre.
During the new millennium Dartford town centre was under threat. The local press were making predictions that the town centre had no future and was in a state of decline. Dartford had been in this position at many stages throughout its history but had somehow managed to bounce back every time in the past. Time will tell whether the optimists or the pessimists are correct.