The History of The Ferry Inn & The Saxon Shore Way

The Ferry Inn was built in 1690 to refresh and accommodate the travellers who would then cross over the outlet of the River Rother to the mainland! The existing narrow watercourse you see today is called the ‘Reading Street Sewer’ (or ditch, or dyke) and is the Southern edge of the Old Rother, which was up to a quarter of a mile wide in parts at the time.

The then coastline was near to where the Military Road and canal is today, and if you drive from Rye to Appledore and look to your left, you can clearly see the original ‘Stone Cliff’, the ancient shoreline of the Isle of Oxney.

The Ferry Inn, along with many other buildings on the Romney Marshes and other nearby areas were Smuggler’s haunts, and in the corner of the main bar (by the Inglenook) can still be seen an Owler’s (smuggler’s) window, where people inside could signal to the smuggler’s boats to let them know whether it was safe to land the contraband. Knock House at the bottom of Knock Hill was virtually on the coast and was the HQ of the Customs and Excise men.

During the Napoleonic War, troops were quartered in the upstairs rooms and attic in case the French invaded. One soldier was murdered by another upstairs after falling out over the favours of a local lady! The murderer was executed at Chatham. There was also a barracks at Reading Street and also an army racecourse.

The Isle of Oxney, on which the Ferry stands, was a separate island from the Isle of Ebony (also called the Chapel Bank), which you can see from the bar windows quite clearly. You can see all this on one of the many maps in the bar, ‘Hasteds Hundred Map’, which also shows that even after the waters diminished and the bridge was built, the road North only went as far as Court Lodge Lane and not straight on to the old school crossroads, so that travellers to Tenterden, Ashford and further afield had to go right (Court Lodge Lane) through Appledore (B2080) and onwards.

The Ferry was originally a Free House, once owned by the Deedes family from Saltwood Castle (Bill Deedes MP’s ancestors). It was purchased by Edwin Finn brewery (Lydd) and leased by them to Style and Winch (Maidstone) who later purchased it from them. Courage Barclay Simmonds, later ‘Courage’ bought out Style and Winch, in 1953. It was sold by Courage as a Free House, which it still is today.

The Saxon Shore Way

The Saxon Shore Way takes its name from a line of fortifications built by the Romans along the East Kent Coast to repel Saxon invaders from Denmark. Built by the Romans in the 3rd and 4th centuries AD, long before the North Kent Marshes or the Romney Marsh came into existence, the route reveals how much the coastline has changed since the fifth century.

Pick up the Saxon Shore path at the Oxney Ferry, which provides an ideal location to set out on a beautiful walk along the old coastline of the Isle of Oxney and Ebony. On your return, you can pop-in for a few refreshing drinks, or choose from our extensive and innovative menus.

The Saxon Shore Way runs for 163 miles from Gravesend in Kent to Hastings in East Sussex. At Rye, it joins the 1066 country walk. From Rye, the route follows the Royal Military Canal as far as Winchelsea, and climbs over the Fairlight Fire Hills before ending at Hastings. It offers the walker a diversity of scenery from the wide expanses of marshland bordering the Thames and Medway estuaries to the White Cliffs of Dover, as well as panoramic views over Romney Marsh from the escarpment that marks the ancient coastline between Folkestone and Rye.

Originally opened in 1980, the Saxon Shore Way follows the coastline as it was about 1700 years ago, when the cliff lines to north and south extended further into the sea and when the Wantsum Channel provided a thoroughfare for boats between the Isle of Thanet and mainland England.

The route is also rich in historical sites and literary associations. It was here that the Romans invaded Britain and, later, St. Augustine landed to bring the Gospel to the Anglo-Saxon kingdom which would later fall to the Normans who, in their turn, erected great fortresses like Dover Castle to defend their conquests. Four Roman forts lie along the route, at Reculver, Richborough, Dover and Lympne.


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