Places of Worship
The Parish Church
The oldest building in life is its exceptionally fine
church, mentioned in Domesday Book. It is dedicated to St.
Helen, the mother of Constantine the Great, first Christian
Emperor of Rome. She is said to have discovered the cross on
which the Saviour suffered.
The original church has
gone, with the possible exception of a rough doorway which
may be Saxon. This can be seen on the outside of the north
wall. A Norman church followed, the chancel arch of which
The present nave, transepts, and lower part
of the tower date from 1260. The chancel was rebuilt, and
the aisles widened, about 1350. The belfry is 15th century
and the top of the tower is modern.
treasure of the church is a silver-gilt paten, dated 1525,
one of the finest mediaeval patens in existence. The
beautifully carved pulpit was “carefully repaired” and moved
to its present position in 1875. The hour glass bracket
attached to it, dated 1635, is an extreme rarity.
chancel is very fine. The ancient high-pitched roof and
beautiful East window were destroyed by Rector G. Green in
1732. He recorded his misdeed in the register book. The
church then had a flat roof until the 19th century when it
was by stages restored to its original height.
In the chancel are six ancient Miserere seats. Part of
the 15th century Rood screen remains, and a doorway which
gave access to the Rood can be seen in the wall above it. A
lower doorway has been blocked, concealing the little
stairway which led to the Rood loft. The walls of the
transepts were once bright with colour, and traces of these
mural paintings have been carefully preserves. On several of
the pillars are bold chevron designs.
A brass tablet
on a pillar near the organ records the gift of John Browne
to found a school, and on the floor nearby are brasses to
the memory of the Faunce family.
A list of Rectors from 1229 may be seen on the north wall
at the entrance to the chancel. Many of these fifty-seven
Rectors subsequently filled high offices in the Church. The
library of Rector Charles Burney (1815 – 1818) was bought
for the nation for £13,500. A curate, Rev. Arthur Broome,
called the meeting in London in 1884 which led to the
founding of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty
Repairs and improvements to the interior
of the church have been carried out from time to time. The
old box-pews were replaced by open seats in 1874, and the
East window restored to its former beauty in 1884.
The church bells were taken down and recast in 1862, and two
were added in 1864, making a fine peal of eight bells. A set
of “Rules” displayed in the belfry about 1870 – 1880, shows
that fines of 2d and 3d were imposed for a number of
offenses e.g. for using “improper language”, for not
attending the requisite number of services, and for not
sending an apology for absence. At this time the ‘foreman’,
(now called the captain) was Mr. John Elford, a nephew of
whom still lives in Cliffe, and his team of ringers were
James Burke, William Clarke, William Holden, Thomas
McCarthy, John Moon, James Price, William Spackman, Walter
Stanley, William Waghorn, Stanley Wood and John Mannouch
A hundred years ago both clock and
sundial could be seen on the south wall of the tower. The
churchwarden accounts contain many references to the cost of
maintenance, including “Beer when put up, and fixing the
hand 2/-. “ “Rearing and falling the Ladder 3/-. “ An
interesting entry made by the churchwardens in 1835 on the
flyleaf of an account cook records that “Cliffe Church Clock
repaired by Subscription having been still 37 years.” The
cost was £40.
The church registers date from 1558.
One of the early entries refers to the threat of the Spanish
Armada. “July 25th 1588. The camp begane at Tilbury in
Essex.” There is an entry concerning Penance in 1577, and in
“1679 John Browne was buried in linen and the forfeit was
paid 50/- to the poor and the rest to the Informer.”
The existing accounts kept by the Churchwardens and
Overseers of the Poor begin in 1728. These books are full of
fascinating information, and throw much light on the life in
the village in by-gone years. In this little community lived
and died James ye Fidler, Blinde Moall, Goodey Dorman and
Goodman Milton. “A payer of sheets for ye Parish bead” cost
6/6. “Going the bounds of the Parish” was an annual event,
and the man who led the way was paid £1 – 0 – 0 or more.
“Vermin were paid at the following rates:- foxes, otters,
badgers 1/- each, pole-cats, hedgehogs, 4d each; stoats and
moles, 2d each; sparrows 3d – 6d a dozen. In 1820, the price
was 1d each for old sparrows and ½d each for young ones.
Payment was made for 3892 of them. In 1808 there were many
payments for killing dogs, and one entry “For killing Mad
Dog, 5/-“may explain this curious slaughter.
account was kept of the collection of the rates and their
“disbursement” for the relief of the poor of the parish,
“likewise any Casual poor that fall on the said parish of
Cliff in the Course of one year – likewise all Surgery,
broken bones and Casual Midwifery.” The entries include “a
pair of stays for Ann Gibbs, 9/6,” “cutting of young
packman’s hear and gave him a wig 3/-“and a “wooden leg for
Moore, £1 – 2 – 3.” “Shaveing Jno Butchers head cost 2d, and
a Mts. Cole was paid 4/8 for her Donkey carrying Kitt Betts
to the Doctor.”
Here in the Parish Church chest
these handwritten books are a true record of the way of life
of the common people who have no memorial, but in their day
were a vital part of this parish of Cliffe.
St. Helen’s Church, as it appeared between 1868 and
1884, by which time the Nave’s and Aisles’ roofs had been
restored to the pitch of the Transepts roofs.
The Methodist Church is a fine building situated in the
heart of the village on a site immediately adjoining that of
the original Wesleyan Church. The old building has been in
existence for more than a hundred years, and after the
opening of the ‘new’ Church in 1902, was used for some years
as an infants’ school. It is now used as a Temperance Club.
At the rear of the Church is the Wesleyan Sunday School,
opened in 1909.
In Turner Street is the Christian Mission Hall. It was
founded in 1891, and has maintained a comparatively large
and faithful following ever since.
The Plymouth Brethren Meeting Hall is to be found in
St. Helen’s Church – view of
interior showing the Jacobean pulpit, dated 1636, the list
of Rectors of the Parish, and the memorial tablet of Revd.