Farm & Factory - Cliffe History

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Farm and Factory

Agriculture has always played an important part in the   lives of the villagers, in the ‘Cliffe Almanac’of 1870,   details are given of a flower, fruit and vegetable show, and   of a Harvest Home. There are records, too, of Agricultural   Shows and Ploughing Matches held annually, and continuing to   this day, but the sheep-shearing contests which were a   yearly feature for more than 80 years were discontinued   about 25 years ago.

Potteries which were in existence 100 years ago seemed to   have disappeared with the coming of the cement industry, the   first factory starting in 1848. Cliffe was one of the first   places in Kent in which cement was manufactured, and the   quality of its product was soon recognised, for many of the   lighthouses round the coast – Eddystone, the Needles, Lizard   etc – were built of cement from Cliffe’s factory.

Even in those days Cliffe had to pay for its increase in   prosperity by suffering the nuisance of fumes from the   kilns, for there is still in existence a letter from
General   G. C. Gordon demanding that the fume nuisance be abated, as   it was found to be injurious to the health of the soldiers   stationed at Cliffe Fort. Neither does this seem to be the   only occasion when the Cement Company were in trouble with   General Gordon for another letter from him seems to find   fault  with the firm in connection with the erection of   a pier. However, the Company seemed to have been generous   with their employees, for in 1874 we read that ‘about 180   workmen were entertained to a capital dinner in a large room   at the rear of the Bell Inn.’ After a somewhat chequered   career the factory finally closed in 1921.

Very early in the present century, however, a large   explosives factory was opened on the marshes near Hope   Point, this gave employment to many men (and women too)   especially during the period of the 1st World War (1914 –   1918) when hundreds of workers were brought daily from near   and far to augment the effort of those belonging to the   village.

These years proved trying for the village – although   times were prosperous, accidental explosions were too   frequent for the peace of mind of those with dear ones   working at ‘The Point’. As is often the case when disasters   occur, deeds of heroism also occur, and, as a result of an   explosion in July 1911, the ‘Edward’ medal was afterwards   presented by H.M. the King at Buckingham Palace to Mr. H.H.   Dobinson for gallantry. With the ending of the 1914 – 1918   was, all activity at the Point lessened and finally ceased   altogether, and in 1922 a sale of the works took place.   After closing of this factory unemployment was rife, and to   cope with this a branch of the Ministry of Labour opened an   office in Cliffe for the convenience of the large numbers of   unemployed. In 1910 another cement factory had been started   and from about 1934 employment there became fairly steady.   At one time – in 1947 – rumour got around that a Flying Boat   Base might be built at Cliffe. In consequence B.B.C. air   correspondent flew over the suggested site (the marshes,   naturally) and then broadcast about it. However, the project   did not materialise, a more suitable site being found   elsewhere. Agriculture and cement making continue to be the   village’s main industries, but a lot of our residents work   away from the village, at the neighbouring Uralite Works and   at the Oil Refinery at Grain.

Drawing   of Alpha Cement works

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