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Welcome to Cliffe-at-Hoo Historical Society
CLIF neere Gravesend.
Clive, Cliffe at Hoo, Cloveshoo; lieth at the North side of the county, neer the River of Thames, about five miles (towards the North-east) distant from Gravesend, in the Bailiwick of Hoo, Hundred of Shamel, Lath of Aylesford, West division of the County, and North division of Justices in that Lath; the liberty of the late Bishop of Rochester claimeth there; it was in the Deanry of Shoreham (a Peculiar to the late Archbishop of Canterbury) but in the Diocess of Rochester, and the Church was called St. Helen. A Faire is kept here yearly upon Pelagius day (being the eighth day of October.)
The Mannour of Cliff did antiently belong to Christchurch Canterbury; The Church and Town are large, And took the name from the Cliffe upon which the Town is scituate. This Parish ought antiently to have contributed towards the repair of the nineth Peere, or Arch of Rochester bridge.
Richard Kilburn 1659
Who are we?
The Cliffe-at-Hoo Historical Society really started several years ago with a small number of local historians and archaeologists, each with their own field of study, meeting and updating one another. It wasn't until early 2011 that they decided to see if anyone else would be interested and, to their surprise, they found that within a few weeks over sixty people joined them.
The Cliffe-at-Hoo Historical Society is dedicated to the study and appreciation of all aspects of the history and archaeology of Cliffe and the Hoo Peninsula and is dedicated to a policy of openness and honesty. The Society belongs to the people, past, present and future of Cliffe and the Hoo Peninsula and openly shares with all who are seriously interested.
Its principal aim is to deliver through research and archaeological projects, preservation of our local history and archaeology by participating in both Society led and joint collaborative assistance in the collection and preservation of Historic sites and buildings, archaeological objects, printed matter, manuscript materials, maps and historic artifacts related to the heritage of the locality.
Cliffe’s historic importance is clearly evident by the large amount of identified sites on the Kent Environmental Record, greater than all, bar two, villages in Kent with Cliffe having even more recorded historic sites than nearby Rochester.
To date the society has managed to identify more than an extra 100 new sites to be included on the Kent Environmental Record.
The Society works closely together with various bodies including: the Kent Archaeological Society, K.C.C. Archaeological Department, R.S.P.B., English Heritage, Wessex and West Kent Archaeological Societies, Guildhall and Maidstone Museums and various archive depositories.
What do we do?
Archaeology - Mapping Project
A group from the society have pin-pointed dateable finds and have included them as part of the digital mapping project that we are involved in.
The map, to the right, shows recorded locations of finds with full details. The project enables us to see separate overviews for different time preriods and each 'pin' opens up to give full details of the individual find.
The mapping project also enables us to look at land use and ownership over time as well as seeing a broader picture of historical and archaeological developments throughout the whole of Kent.
Archaeology - Fieldwork
One of the society’s methods of understanding the archaeological and historical landscape of Cliffe and its surrounding area is through fieldwork. Fieldwork covers a number of aspects of tried and tested surveys of the land.
The society makes use of aerial photography and satellite imagery to locate and record patterns seen from the air which could easily pass unnoticed from the ground, to support known sites and to cover a greater degree of the land, especially where it is difficult to gain access.
Another aspect of locating sites of interest is through documentary research. The study by the society of early maps and charters can reveal a great deal of information particularly those from the Saxon and early medieval periods. This, in conjunction with identifying the known sites that have already been recorded on HER, NMR and PAS, can aid in the pin-pointing of areas of specific interest.
Fieldwalking is a well established technique that we employ when an area of specific interest is highlighted: again, this is a non-intrusive method of surveying the land. The practice of fieldwalking is one that we particularly enjoy (maybe because it is normally a group outing or a chance to get out in the fresh air!) and can be accomplished easily by all. It involves walking over the ground and identifying and recording finds in a systematic manner - permission to walk the land is always sought beforehand. On larger areas the ‘field’ may be divided into more manageable sections and the findings are plotted accordingly.
Aerial view of a cropmark
If you are ever out and make a find of interest please let us know – by all means record where you have found it and photograph it but do not dig. Firstly digging an object and removing it could destroy the evidence surrounding it (removing the context) and secondly, as it is on someone’s land, you may need to have permission to do so.
Due to the peculiarities of the history of Cliffe the records for its past have been spread across many areas. To study the documents, although very informative, is a very time-consuming affair especially when parts of the story may be located in various depositories.
We have members visiting the local archive centres at both Maidstone and Medway on a regular basis and interest in archival centres at Canterbury Cathedral and Lambeth Palace where the volume of information can be gained.
Some of the archival material that is of interest can also be found stored on-line – this is especially true of some of the early medieval charters, which are also translated so save us a great deal of extra work, and the more recent records of the inhabitants of Cliffe through census returns, Parish records, electoral rolls, trade directories, phone directories etc.
One of the earliest writings on the history of Cliffe was an entry in William Lambarde’s ‘A Perambulation of Kent (1576) where he mentions that Cliffe is a large town and this is again repeated by Richard Kilburn in 1659. By the time that Edward Hasted wrote about Cliffe in his work, ‘The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent’ in 1779, Cliffe was recorded as ‘once being a larger town than it is now’.
The first known recording of the history of Cliffe is a small booklet written at the beginning of the 20th century by Edwin Harris, an established writer of historical booklets featuring the area in and around Rochester. The booklet mainly repeats and slightly expands upon the writings of Hasted.
In the late 1960’s the Revd. J. J. Smith also produced a slim booklet on the history of Cliffe which again lent heavily upon the work of Hasted.
It was in the following decade that a privately published work by W. Nichols attempted to tell the history of Cliffe from pre-historic times onwards. The work on Cliffe's early history, the explanation of the marsh area and Thames is now totally dismissed by archaeologists and historians alike. Sadly, some villagers who bought this work, believed all of it to be true and still do today!
Cliffe’s history has been mentioned in a number of works by authors that have concerned themselves with a broader area. One such author of note is Philip McDougall, once a teacher at a local school and Parish Councillor for the Isle of Grain, which, amongst his many excellent books, wrote ‘The Story of the Hoo Peninsula’ (1979) which tells the story of Cliffe and the surrounding area.
It was not the intention of the Society to ‘write a history of Cliffe’ but we are collating research by members to help explain Cliffe’s hidden history and some extracts have been included here on our website. No doubt that, sometime in the future, this collation will be put to print to leave a lasting legacy.
We are very aware that much of Cliffe’s history has been secreted away – not only in the past but also today– and it is our intention that we do not follow suit. All our research is freely available but, due to some of the research being by third parties of which we have written permission to make use of, we must stipulate the following conditions: a) please use our contact form to indicate the text and/or images you wish to use and b) that the work is clearly acknowledged as being from The Cliffe-at-Hoo Historical Society. If it is our research then permission will always be granted.
We have a lively Facebook Group that asks questions, shares ideas, communicates information and provides answers. The link to the group may be found at the bottom of this page.