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.