Cliffe Woods

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Cliffe Woods
Cliffe Woods is located in Kent
Cliffe Woods
Cliffe Woods
Location within Kent
Population2,662 (2011 census)
OS grid referenceTQ734736
Ceremonial county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townRochester
Postcode districtME3
AmbulanceSouth East Coast
UK Parliament
List of places
51°26′06″N 0°29′44″E / 51.435°N 0.4956°E / 51.435; 0.4956Coordinates: 51°26′06″N 0°29′44″E / 51.435°N 0.4956°E / 51.435; 0.4956

Cliffe Woods is a small estate on the Hoo Peninsula in the unitary authority of Medway in South East England. It was, until 1998,[1] part of Kent and is still ceremonially associated via the Lieutenancies Act.[2] It forms part of the parish of Cliffe and Cliffe Woods.


Cliffe Woods is a village that has been built in an ancient area of woodland. Its roots are closely tied to the surrounding area which stretch back to pre-Roman times. At the time of the Norman conquest of England Cliffe Woods was part of the Hundred of Shamwell. Of the adjacent listed Domesday Book settlements, Cooling, Oakleigh and Haven, only Cooling had any recorded woodland resources in its inventory.[3] The woods were used for the pannage of pigs; ten pigs a year were paid to Wulfwin the local Anglo Saxon Lord. His Germanic name means wolf-friend. The Anglo Saxon overlord was Leofwine Godwinson who was the brother of King Harold.

According to Edward Hasted (1732-1812), the father of Kent history, ‘Southward of the common field, on the road to Rochester, the land rises to the hilly country, a poor clayey soil likewise, where is the manor of Mortimer's, at the southern boundary of this parish. The manor was in the possession of the great family of Mortimer, Hugh de Mortimer was in possession of the manor in the reign of Edward I of England' (1239-1307).[4]

The naming of Mortimer's Wood and subsequently Mortimer's Avenue can be associated from its connection to the old manor. Some other road names in the eastern part of Cliffe Woods are also historically connected to the manor. For example, Englefield Crescent is named after Thomas Englefield (1455-1514) the Speaker of the House of Commons in the reign of Henry VII of England; he also owned Mortimer's.[5]

Burye-Court Manor (associated with Berry Court Wood) was granted to George Brooke, 9th Baron Cobham in 1541 by Henry VIII of England. His grandson Henry Brooke, 11th Baron Cobham lost the manor in 1603 after being convicted of treason against James VI and I, which resulted in his imprisonment in the Tower of London.[6]

Tithe records from the middle of the 19th century show that 36 acres of Mortimer's Wood were owned by the trustees of the 5th Earl of Darnley. Robert Turberville Bingham of Rochester owned 23 acres of Lady's Close and Ratly Hill Wood, the name is associated with Bingham Roughs.[7] Based at Cobham Hall the Darnley's were major landowners in the area, the Cobham Estate fell into decline at the beginning of the 20th century.[8] There were no buildings in Cliffe Woods in 1870. The different areas of woodland were named (from west to east) Mortimers Wood, Ladies Close, Ratly Hills Woods, Bingham Roughs, Berry Court Wood, Great Chattenden Wood, Ash Wood, Stone House Wood and Round Top Wood near Chattenden. Ladies Close is today associated with Ladyclose Avenue.[9] Cooling Common (now Merry Boys Road) referred to common land and in 1797 Hasted referred to the common field which indicates not all land had been enclosed by that time.[10]

In 1870, the adjacent buildings to Cliffe Woods were;

  • Mortimer's Farm House, the Grade II Listed 17th century farmhouse.[11]
  • The Three Merry Boys Pub at Cooling Common, the first landlord was John Simmons in 1855, it closed its doors in 1958.[12]
  • The farmsteads of Lee Green and Lillechurch, its history stretching back a thousand years.[13]

After World War I (1914-1918) the area now covered by the newer housing was divided into woodland plots and called the Rochester Park Estate. The Rochester Park and Garden Suburb was a ‘plotland’ settlement, part of a wider movement at the time of unregulated development. [14] [15] W H Talbot parcelled up and sold plots between 1918 and 1939. This resulted in a haphazard layout of small buildings and chalets served by a network of unmade tracks; with poor water, electricity and sewer connections.[16][17] Two tracks were named Milton and Tennyson Avenues after the poets John Milton and Alfred Lord Tennyson. The plots here were mainly used for summer leisure purposes. The author Lena Kennedy (1914-1986) describes in her autobiography 'Away to the Woods' her experiences of living on a woodland plot. Inspired by Charles Dickens (1812-1870), who lived nearby at Higham, she based some of her romantic historical novels in the area.[18] A blue plaque is sited on her plotland shack in View Road.[19]

Town Road, Mortimers Avenue and Ladyclose Avenue developed a permanent population before World War II (1939-1945). Pre-war chalet bungalows were built. They had electricity (1936), running water and heating and hot water provided by log stoves. Sewage was by septic tank until the main drainage was constructed by 1963.[20]

During World War II many pillboxes were constructed as part of the home defences. A Stop Line was constructed in 1940 across the Hoo Peninsula from the Medway to the Thames which ran through Cliffe Woods.[21] Being on the flight path to London many bombs fell and their craters are still evident in the landscape. On 11 November 1944 at 3.40 pm a V2 rocket fell in Ratly Hill Wood and wiped out trees in a 17-metre radius.[22]

In the 1950s local children attended school at Cliffe or walked to Cooling Street where the school was in an old Methodist Chapel built in 1899. It was known as the chapel in the orchard.[23] The Alpha cement factory owned by APCM provided local employment until it closed in 1970. Cement making had begun at Cliffe in 1854 in a bottle kiln.[24] Women worked seasonally picking fruit, local growers used the railway to transport their goods to market.[25]

The Maidstone & District bus service (service number 17) provided transport from Cliffe Woods into Cliffe and the Medway towns for provisions.[26] Cliffe station on the Hundred of Hoo railway line (1 April 1882 to 4 December 1961) lay less than a mile north of the village. It transported passengers to Gravesend and to the seaside at Allhallows.[27] On 10 February 1967 Strood Rural District Council made a compulsory purchase order to buy 86 acres of land to the east of Town Road. The purpose was to provide a comprehensive development by the erection of shops, community centre and dwelling houses. [28] The building of the new community commenced in the 1970s and the park and garden suburb envisaged in the naming of the old plotland site became a reality. Today over 90% of residents own their houses.[29] The population of Cliffe Woods at the 2011 census was 2662.[30] in 1801 only 525 people lived in the entire parish.[31]


Cliffe Woods Primary School is a 3-11 primary school, using the buildings built for the Cliffe Woods Middle School.[32]

Local government[edit]

In the main, top level of local government, the area is part of a Unitary Authority, Medway, with its governing body being known as Medway Council. Its direct, day-to-day representation at the Council is through three councillors, as part of the Strood Rural ward. Elections occur every four years.[33] As at 2018 the three elected stood as Conservatives who form a majority on the Council since 2003 - they sit in the current local policies governing group.[34]

A lower level operates, mainly as consultees in some policy areas and for minor precept expenditure, Cliffe and Cliffe Woods Civil Parish Council.


  1. ^ "Medway Council – Local history: Medway in the 20th century 1901 – 2000". 2009. Archived from the original on 9 March 2009. Retrieved 9 June 2012. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ "Lieutenancies Act 1997". 2012. Retrieved 9 June 2012. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 11 November 2014. Retrieved 11 November 2014. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link) CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) Places-Domesday Book-Cliffe
  4. ^ The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 3: Author Edward Hasted: Year published 1797
  5. ^ [1] British History On-Line Cliffe
  6. ^ Author P W Hasler [2] The History of Parliament-OnLine, biographies Brooke alias Cobham
  7. ^ [3] Kent Archaeology Society, Cliffe Tithe Award Schedule 1830 to 1840
  8. ^ [century.] MLA Cornucopia
  9. ^ Cliffe, Kent
  10. ^ Archaeologia Cantia Vol 56 1943 Part 17 Open Fields, Commons and Enclosures in Kent Author W E Tate ASIN: B00F5BNGNC
  11. ^ English Heritage Building ID 172851 "Mortimer's Farm House, Cliffe and Cliffe Woods". Retrieved 24 May 2011. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  12. ^ Three Merry Boys Cliffe at Hoo Historical Society
  13. ^ Lillechurch a Thousand Years of a Farm at Higham in Kent. Ian Milton. ASIN: B0091H9BI0
  14. ^ [4] spatialagency
  15. ^ Arcadia for All. Dennis Hardie and Colin Ward ISBN 0907123597
  16. ^ English Heritage Research Report Series no 21-2013– Hoo Peninsula Historic Landscape Page 97 - Edward Carpenter, Sarah Newsome, Fiona Small, Zoe Hazell
  17. ^ [5][PDF]Hoo Peninsula Historic Landscape Project - English Heritage
  18. ^ Away to the Woods: Lena Kennedy (ISBN 978-0316911108)
  19. ^ Carol Donaldson Author Nature Girl 26 March 2014
  20. ^ Medway CityArk Strood Rural contract packets system Reference 168/SR/44
  21. ^ English Heritage Pastscape MONUMENT 1544096
  22. ^ [6] November 1944 - WW2 V2 Rocket Attacks wrsonline Record No 166
  23. ^ [7] Cliffe at Hoo Historical Society Schools
  24. ^ [8] Cliffe at Hoo Historical Society Cement Works
  25. ^ Cliffe in Old Photographs – 1991 Author Allan Cherry ISBN 978-0948193620
  26. ^ PeterChall 22 January 2010
  27. ^ The Hundred of Hoo Railway –1989 Brian Hart ISBN 0906867738
  28. ^ LONDON GAZETTE, 3 March 1967 Strood Rural District Council 2543
  29. ^ [9] Cliffe Woods
  30. ^ NOMIS WEB, Office for National Statistics Output Areas E00081591: 287 (people) E00081592: 358; E00081593: 342; E00081594: 347; E00081603: 370; E00081604: 312; E00081605: 331 E00081606: 315
  31. ^ [10] Kent Archaeology Society, population 1801 to 1921 Cliffe
  32. ^ Edwars, Jade. "Shock arrest of school's high-flying head teacher". Kent Online. Retrieved 20 December 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  33. ^
  34. ^

External links[edit]

Media related to Cliffe Woods at Wikimedia Commons