Dartford Camp (1)
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DARTFORD CAMP . English, Country Dance Tune (2/4 time). A Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB. When England felt the threat of an invasion by French and Spanish forces in 1779-1780, they mobilized troops and camped them in the south of England to be ready to repel invaders. In addition to the camp at Dartford Heath, Kent, there were camps of troops at Coxheath, Kent, and at Warley Common, Essex, all `within marching distance of the River Thames (which afforded an opportune transportation route to where forces were needed). Gravesend was to be used as the port of embarkation in the event of an emergency. On July 20th, 1780, some 5,000 soldiers decamped from Dartford Heath and marched to Gravesend in a military exercise that tested the transportation scheme. When the entire force was shiped from Gravesend to Tilbury and back, it was declared a resounding success.
Dartford Heath was home to some 8,000 soldiers at its peak. The presence of the men was both boon and bane to the nearby communities, which certainly made money from the encampments, but which also suffered numerous incidents. Local belle Miss Ethelinda Margaretta Thorpe, later Mrs. Potts, was inspired to verse:
From yonder Heath the lark no longer soars
The grasshopper ceases while the cannon roars--
Where sportive flocks one Whiten'd o'er the ground
Now bleaching huts are fixed our view to bound;
Where the furze phalanx could sweet herbage ward,
From prowling herds--now mounts the Captain's guard,
Or veterans wait till ovens here disgorge--
Or Sutler scores,--and hereto glows the forge.
Source for notated version:
Printed sources: Skillern (Skillern's Twenty-Four Country Dances for the Year 1781), 1781; p. 3