The village of Cliffe is situated on the Hoo Peninsula and overlooks the Thames Estuary. Early records suggest that Cliffe would have originally been known as Cloveshoo (Cliffe-at-Hoo). Cliffe’s population has fluctuated over the years. For a long time Cliffe was considered a town, the early farming town would have had a population of about 3,000. However after the decline of the port in the Middle ages the population decreased. During the 16th Century Cliffe was still considered a town but eventually in the 19th Century the population was about 900 and it was demoted to a village.

Much of the early history of Cliffe is centered around the industry of farming. Six farming sites have been discovered dating back to the Roman times. The vast land was used mainly by cereal farmers and for rearing stock. The majority of the town’s population would have worked within the farming industry.

In Saxon times, Cliffe was given to the Priory of Christchurch, Canterbury. The monks of Christchurch owned a farm at Cliffe and during the 13th Century, the Monks began building walls to divide the land to create larger areas for farming and for grazing animals. However, under Henry VIII, the monasteries were dissolved and the land was sold to Lord Cobham.

Due to its marshy lands, the inhabitants of historic Cliffe suffered greatly from Malaria. In the 1800’s the number of people contracting the disease was at an all-time high. Henry Pye, known as ‘the King of Hundreds,’ greatly reduced this problem by draining the farmland and marshes. Henry Pye was also famous for introducing new farming techniques. He promoted the use of Aveling and Porter Steam Engines in ploughing and threshing. In 1878, Pye petitioned for a railway to be built in Cliffe, resulting in the establishment of the Hundred of Hoo Railway Company. The first part of the line was opened in March 1882, running from Cliffe to Sharnal Street.

In the 19th Century, Cliffe gained new prosperity with the advance of the Kent cement industry. During the 1840’s the Nine Elms Cement Works was built in Cliffe. Cliffe was a great source of clay due to its location close to the Thames. The cement from this factory was used to build the Lizard Lighthouse in Cornwall and the Needles Lighthouse on the Isle of White

The Nine Elms Cement Works was taken over by British Portland Cement Company in 1900, but after the Great War the cement works began to decline and the works were closed. In 1910 the Alpha cement works was set up in Cliffe. It ran until the 1950’s when the quarries began to flood due to the extensive digging. In 1970 the cement works were replaced by the Marinex gravel company.

The quarries remain flooded and have become a haven for wildlife.
Cliffe fort was a military base built in Cliffe in the 19th Century. It was built to work in conjunction with the Coalhouse Fort, in Essex, to defend attack against London via the River Thames. In 1885, an experimental defence mechanism was installed at Cliffe Fort known as the Brennan Torpedo. This was the first wire guided missile. Two launching rails were installed at Cliffe, one of which remains today and can be seen at low tide.
Cliffe Fort remained active throughout both World Wars but was sold after the Second World War to a local cement company. Since 1999, the site has been owned by Robert Brett & Sons.

The village of Cliffe has many other military connections. During the Second World War, Cliffe was the site of a dummy airfield containing 21 decoy lights to mislead German bombers. The remains of a control point for the airfield can still be seen. Cliffe was also the first place in England to be bombed in the First World War. The bomb hit the main road into Cliffe on Christmas day 1914. Cliffe was struck again during the Second World War when a Stirling Bomber landed onto a farmhouse on 24th October 1942, killing a woman inside.

Due to its isolation, Cliffe was used as the site for a Powder Works factory. The site was used to produce high explosives during the First World War. The explosives were built under contract to the government. The site was covered in trees for camouflage. Around this time the population of Cliffe and surrounding areas increased greatly with about two thousand people working at the factory. It was dangerous work however and some men were killed by the explosives.