The island and hundred of Oxney

Pages 478-480

The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 8. Originally published by W Bristow, Canterbury, 1799.

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LIES at the south-west boundary of this county, next to Sussex, from which, the uplands of Kent, and Walland Marsh, it is separated by the river Rother, which surrounds it, the main channel of which, till within these few years, was on the north side of it, next to the uplands of this county, by Smallhyth and Reading, and though now nearly swerved up and only so very small a rivulet, that it may almost be stepped across, yet so late as the year 1509, the tide of the sea flowed up by it as far as Smallhyth, to which place, or at least not far from it, the Rother appears to have been at that time navigable, (fn. 1) but for want of a sussi cient force of fresh water to repel and clear this channel of the earth and mud, which the tide from time to time lodged in it, the whole of it along the north side of the island was so swerved up, that in the year 1736 it was sound necessary, for the discharge of the waters of the Rother, which then, for want of it, overflowed the adjoining marsh-lands, to make a new channel through Wittresham level, for the passage of them, whereby the course of the river, for the space of five miles or more, became inverted, and instead of running from Maytham to Smallhyth and Reading eastward, on the north side, now runs from thence to Maytham westward, and thence into the new channel above-mentioned, along the southern side of this island, into the Apledore channel, and so on to the sea at Rye.

This island, written in the survey of Domesday, Oxenai, and in other antient records both Oxene and Oxenel, is supposed by some to take its name from its foul and miry situation, whilst others suppose it took its name from the large number of oxen fed in it. Perhaps this latter opinion may be corroborated by the figure of an ox on the sides of the antient altar, which for time out of mind had remained in the church of Stone, in this island. This altar, the figure of which is here annexed, was removed from the church, and made a horse-block of, by which means it was much defaced and cracked asunder; but the late Mr. Gostling, who was too great a lover of the remains of antiquity to suffer it to continue in this perishing state, had it repaired, and placed it upright in the fence of his vicarage garden, where in still remains.

It does not appear to have had any inscription or letters on it, but has an ox in relief on each of the four sides of it. The bason or hollow at top, retains a blackness, as if burnt by the fire, occasioned by the sacrifices made on it.

Leland, in his Itinerary, vol. vii. p. 139, says, part of this island, if not all, was formerly in Sussex, "yet parte of Oxney ys in Kent and parte in Southsax—Sum say that yt is or hath bene al in Southsax. Sum caulle it Forsworen Kent, by cause that were the inhabitantes of yt were of Southsax they revoltid to have the privileges of Kent."

It is nearly of an oval form, being about six miles in length from east to west, and near three from north to south, and near ten miles in circumference. There is a ridge of hilly upland, which lies high, running through the middle part of the island, but the surrounding parts of it are low and consist of marshes, which are in general fertile, and famous for the quantity of grass which they produce. Before the Rother was swerved up, on the north side of it there were two ferries to enter it, one from Smallhythe and the other from Apledore, and another at the west end, called Maytham ferry; but now, from the insignificant breadth of the streams which surround it, there are, in their stead, four small wooden bridges at the opposite parts of it, over which you enter into it.

THE HUNDRED OF OXNEY EXTENDS over the whole island.

IT CONTAINS WITHIN ITS BOUNDS THE PARISHES OF 1. Stone. 2. Wittersham, and part of 3. Ebeney.

And the churches of those parishes. One constable has jurisdiction over it. The manor of Aldington claims over the greatest part of this hundred, which is one of the appendages to it, and for which a court leet is annually held.


  • 1. See vol. vii. of this history, p. 184, 212. See Philosophical Transactions, vol. xxii. No. 275, 276. being two letters from the famous Dr. Wallis relating to this island.