During the 19th century (and possibly earlier) pubs were often built in what appear to be isolated locations along the river marshes, but many, if not most are sited close to both the river and Batteries/Forts. Likewise, very few of the batteries and fortifications didn't have a nearby beer-house or pub. It seems they served the military defences as unofficial canteens (in a few cases becoming the official canteen) both during building and once they were operational. One of the best recorded examples is the one (or possibly 2!!) pubs on Bishops Marsh, between Gillingham and Grain, an area completely inaccessible except by boat! The fact they were close to the river also allowed for a certain amount of passing trade from boatmen, fishermen, barges, etc. and of course any navvies working on ditches, farmers/shepherds/etc. working in the area. They can't have been gold-mines, but it seems they could make a living at these isolated pubs. In addition, being so remote they were probably not as strictly policed or regulated as those in more accessible areas so may have earned extra from somewhat less than legal activities.
Here at Cliffe was the added advantage of the cement industry which also helped to cater for the victualler’s cliental. Now all gone, although not forgotten, is a brief summary of Cliffe’s Beer Houses on the marsh.
The Anchor & Hope
The Anchor & Hope alehouse was situated at Lower Hope Point and served the increasing number of seamen and rivermen who frequented the number of jetties and mooring places along the Thames foreshore. According to an entry in Kelly’s Directory of 1862 Hope Point had a small battery, built in 1796, that was converted into a public-house: the Anchor & Hope.
After the closure of the beer house, in 1862, the house became a private dwelling known as Hope House. Hope House, in 1918 was lived in by Mr Shacklady who was the manager of the Curtis & Harvey Powder Works. It was a large house complete with tennis courts.
The Masons Arms
Alongside Cliffe Creek, close by I.C. Johnson’s cement works, stood the Masons Arms from at least 1869. Its location, according to the 1871 Census, was ‘Shant Fort, Johnson’s Works’ and referred to as ‘The Shant’: a name that was later used by another beer house on the same or nearby site. On the Register of Licenses granted in the North Division of Aylesford Lathe in the County of Kent it is recorded to be at Cliffe Battery.
The Nine Elms Old Factory Canal Tavern Beer House
According to the Register of Licenses granted in the North Division of Aylesford Lathe in the County of this establishment was owned jointly by Charles Eastland de Michele, Percy Oldfield Francis and Vitale Domenico de Michelle: although the original name of Francis & Co. was deleted from the register. Francis & Co. ran a nearby cement works.
The Canal Tavern
‘The Nine Elms Old Factory Canal Tavern Beer House’ and ‘The Masons Arms’ establishments were located on a nearby site. Interestingly The Canal Tavern was also given the nickname, ‘The Shant’, the same as the Masons Arms had previously. The first records show that it was owned by a Mr Alfred Brown, who also was licensee of The Black Bull Inn in the centre of Cliffe village and the licensee being one Mr George Brown.
The Canal Tavern was not only a beer house but stocked a variety of provisions to supply its clientele from Cliffe Fort, the cement & whitening factories and the many ships that were moored in and along Cliffe Creek and Thames. In April of 1881 alone there were over eighty ships moored close by giving the tavern a good chance of trade.
Royal Albert Inn
The Royal Albert began as a simple beer house licensed to retail beer and cider on the premises until 1887 then, like many of the beer houses, it was licensed to sell off the premises.
Its location along Salt Lane, leading to the various cement works and explosive works, meant it was a well frequented ‘watering-hole’ for workers on their way home from a hard and busy day.
Cliffe Fort Canteen (1878-1901) and Cliffe Fort Beer Canteen (1901)
The latter being the beer canteen for the 4th Volunteer Battalion, Essex Regiment situated at Robertson’s Farm (Manor Farm).