Watermills, Industry and Inventions

There were once more water mills on the Darent than on any other river in the south of England. Today, not one has survived. Just what was “fulling”? How do you mill gunpowder? How can you split iron? Darent gives you the answers. Many of these mills helped power the Industrial Revolution. Since the 1500s, Dartford has attracted great inventors,
entrepreneurs and innovators. Who really invented the steam engine? How was paper first made? Which Americans created tabloid medicines? It all began here, beside the Darent. Who they were and what they achieved have provided some of the milestones in our country’s industrial history.

Thanks to the extensive research done by Alan Stoyel in his book Memories of Kentish Watermills, the majority of the early water mills are documented. These include: Spring Shaw Mill, Elm View mill, Darenth mill, Brastead mill, Valence water pump, Mill farm, Chipstead mill, Whitley mill, Longford mill, Bradbourne mill, Greatness corn mill, Greatness silk mill, Childsbridge mill,  Longlodge mill, Otford mill, Shoreham corn mill, Shoreham paper mill, Old mill, Wood mill, Eynsford paper mill, Farningham mill, Franks generating station, Westminster mill, Horton Kirby paper mill, South Darenth flour mill, Sutton mill, Frog Lane mill, Hawley paper mill, Darenth paper mill, Dartford powder mills, Lower paper mill, Victoria mill, Silk printing works, Phoenix mills, Colyer’s mill.

There is also a chapter on the workings of the early water mills with descriptions of the undershot wheel, breastshot wheel and overshot wheel  and  the process of paper making,  iron splitting, fulling cloth and gunpowder milling.

Details on Dartford inventors include: John Spelman and the first paper mill, Godfrey Box and iron-splitting, John Hall and Bryan Donkin adapting the Fourdrinier continuous paper making machine and the tinning of food, Richard Trevithick and the steam engine, Augustus Applegarth and the modern printing machine, Pike and Edsall and the manufacture of gunpowder and Burroughs and Wellcome inventing tabloid medicine.