Learning from local villages: Cliffe

Source: Bing Maps

Source: Bing Maps

Villages and settlements have traditionally evolved at the boundary between the marshes of the Thames estuary, and the chalk spine of the North Kent Downs. Understanding the characteristics of these settlements can provide some principles for developing streets and building forms for similar landscapes within Ebbsfleet. 

Cliffe is a nearby village on the Hoo Peninsula and provides a historic example of a settlement upon a low chalk escarpment rising up from the North Kent Marshes, similar to those found across the Garden City. 

Prior to the silting of the Thames marshes, Cliffe supported a port on Cliffe Creek. As at Northfleet, there is a local cement works on the marshes, as can be seen on the aerial image above.

The study of the morphology of Cliffe reveals that the high street follows the topography across the contours from the crest of the hill to the marshland edge, with secondary streets running in alignment with the general contours and the chalk escarpment.

A number of specific buildings have been identified as being of interest in terms of form and materiality. There are also a number of historic farmsteads, located in the proximity of Cliffe, as can be seen highlighted on the map (below). During the 14th Century Cliffe was the site of a farm owned by the monks of Christ’s Church, Canterbury.

A row of unnamed children’s graves in the churchyard inspired Charles Dickens to use it as the setting for the beginning of Great Expectations (1860–61), where Magwitch emerges from the marsh and startles Pip ‘among the graves by the side of the church porch’.

© Crown copyright and Landmark Information Group Limited 2018. All rights reserved.

© Crown copyright and Landmark Information Group Limited 2018. All rights reserved.


The twin gable configuration


Ad hoc’ window arrangement and horizontal boarding above black plinth


Long houses with characteristic plinth high-lighting the subtleties of topograph


Gable with jettied frontage - a porch and a semi-private space


Juxtaposition of form at a step in level / highlighted window surrounds and black plinths


Coloured plinth. Red brick contrasted with big white mullioned and transommed windows