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History of Darenth

Darenth means ‘estate on the river Darent’. Darent is a Celtic word meaning ‘river where the oak-trees grow’. The Domesday Book records Darenth as Tarent.

King Athelstan gave Darenth to Duke Eadulf, later passing into the possession of Christ Church at Canterbury, becoming one of the manors of the Archbishop of Canterbury. In 1196, Archbishop Hubert Walter, who needed a base in London, exchanged the church and manor of Darenth, for the manor of Lambeth, with the Archbishop of Rochester.

Darenth parish church is a Grade: I listed building, dedicated to Saint Margaret of Antioch. The Saxons built it in the 11th century. The Normans built a new enlarged chancel early in the 12th century, adding a new door in the centre of the north side of the nave and a new chancel south aisle. They built the south-west tower in the following century. Further alterations and extensions followed in the next 200 years. Around 1400, an unknown founder cast and hung a bell in the tower. By 1552, there is a record of three bells, one of which Stephen Swan replaced in 1609. In 1797, Edward Hasted describes the Darenth church as consisting of ‘two isles and a chancel, both which seem very antient, especially the latter, which terminates with three small lancet windows, and is with respect to its construction perhaps unique in this diocese. The steeple, which is pointed, stands at the west end of the south isle; there are three bells in it. The chancel is divided into two parts of different widths, by steps, the upper one is vaulted, and is paved with black marble of the gift of Mr. Edmund Davenport, in 1680, who gave some silver plate likewise for the altar. The lower chancel is not, but the two isles are ceiled, the church was new pewed in 1737. The font bears high marks of antiquity, it is a single stone rounded and excavated, composed of eight compartments, with columns alternately circular and angular, and semicircular arches, the figures and objects on the compartments are in high relief, and are rudely carved; some of the figures appear to be chimerical, and others symbols of the sacraments and other religious offices’. In 1856, Whitechapel recast one of the 1552 bells. In 1888, the Victorian architect Ewan Christian carried out a heavy restoration…. more

The Victorians erected a lunatic Asylum in 1880, considered as the largest ever built. The hospital continued as a psychiatric institution until 1970, when the National Health Service replaced it with a new hospital in 1997. Whilst demolishing the old building they discovered a rare Saxon glass bowl.