RIGHT bank Marina Engineering Co. Osney Mill, Mill Street, Oxford, OX2 0AN. Tel: 01865 241348
This section in The Stripling Thames by Fred Thacker

Site of Osney Abbey

Osney Abbey in 1640 -

Osney Abbey in 1640
Osney Abbey in 1640

The Marina is probably on the Mill Stream of Osney Abbey Mill.
1129: Foundation of Osney Abbey.
Walks in Oxford, by W. M. Wade, 1818 -

The foundation originated in the pious beneficence of Robert D'Oiley, nephew of the first of that name, who, in 1129 established it as a Priory of Augustinian Monks, and dedicated it to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The Priory was speedily elevated into an Abbey, and although not mitred, became one of the richest and most magnificent in the kingdom. Its buildings, especially the church, were extensive and splendid, almost beyond example.
The church stood on the eastern side of the quadrangle. It was a large and very beautiful structure, containing within it many chapels, and no fewer than twenty-four altars. It was also adorned with two noble towers, one in the centre of the building, and the other, in which were the famed bells of Oseney, at the west end.
The following story relative to the immediate occasion of its being founded is copied from Sir John Peshall's work:-

Edith, wife of Robert D'Oiley, the second of this name, son of Nigel, used to please herself, when living with her husband at the castle, with walking here by the river side, and under these shady trees; and frequently observing the magpies, gathered together on a tree by the river, making a great chattering, as it were, at her, was induced to ask Radolphus, a Canon of St. Frid, her confessor, whom she had sent for to confer upon this matter, the meaning of it.
"Madame", says he, "these are not pyes ; they are so many poor souls in purgatory, uttering in this way their complaints aloud to you, as knowing your extensive goodness of disposition and charity" ; and humbly hoped, for the love of God, and the sake of her's and her posterity's souls, she would do them some public good, as her husband's uncle had done, by building the Church and College of St. George.
"Is it so indeed", said she, "de pardieux. I will do my best endeavours to bring these poor souls to rest" ; and relating the matter to her husband, did, by her importunities, with the approbation of Theobald Archbishop of Canterbury, and Alexander, Bishop of Lincoln, and consent of her sons Henry and Gilbert, prevail on him to begin this building there, where the pyes had sat delivering their complaint.

Osney Abbey was probably behind the Marina as seen from the river, until Henry VIII decided to embark on an ambitious project of nationalisation (or should that be privatisation?). It was a building that would have dominated its surroundings - larger than any college -

Seated on a flat or low ground, but for the grove, and trees, and rivulets that encompassed it not a little pleasant.

1222: Oxford Inscriptions -

At a time when anti-Jewish feeling was at its height, a young Christian Deacon called Robert, a student of Hebrew at Oxford University, decided to become a Jew.
He had himself circumcised, changed his name to Haggai, and married a Jewess. When asked by the Church authorities to account for his conduct, he is reported to have said:
"I renounce the new-fangled Law and the comments of Jesus, the false prophet".
His outspokenness cost him his life and he was burnt alive for heresy.
His courageous stand and his suffering are commemorated on a plaque on the only surviving wall of Osney Abbey, which is to be found in the boat yard of Osney Marine Engineering Company at the end of Mill Street, euphemistically called Osney Marina

Near this stone in Osney Abbey,
Robert of Reading,
otherwise Haggai of Oxford,
suffered for his faith
on Sunday 17 April 1222 AD,
corresponding to 4 IYYAR 4982 AM.


Memorial to Robert of Reading, Haggai of Oxford, 1222

Other Oxford martyrs were Hugh Latimer, one time Bishop of Worcester, Nicholas Ridley, Bishop of London, and Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, burnt alive for their faith in 1555 and 1556.

1720: M Burghers' engraving of Osney Abbey buildings photographed by Henry Taunt in 1907 -

Osney Abbey in 1720
Osney Abbey in 1720
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; HT9933

Conjectural drawing of Osney Abbey buildings photographed by Henry Taunt in 1916 -

Osney Abbey drawing
Conjectural drawing of Osney Abbey buildings photographed by Henry Taunt in 1916
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; HT13582

Warning! Fiction -

It was in 1538 that the monks of Osney, faced with instant dismissal and no redundancy pay - and no pensions - came up with their own pension plan. The gold and silver of the Abbey had been seized instantly before they could hide it. But one set of portable items of value remained - the bells. No one could easily make off with them - or could they? Working together the brothers lowered all but one of them to the ground and finally into a barge on the river. The barge crew were carefully chosen and they set off downriver.
They let it be known that just above Magna Carta Island they had had to drop the bells into the mud to avoid the king's troops - and one day they could be recovered and then the monks would get their money.
Trust monks to judge the credulity of fellow monks to a nicety!
"Aargh", would say the landlord of 'The Bells of Ouzeley" (just above Magna Carta Island) "they do say that mud there be bottomless!"
And when the river is in full flood and the beer flowing nicely -
"you can 'ere them bells - tolling, tolling ... " -
"Osney Abbey? Never 'eard of it. I was at Ouzeley Abbey, 'for I came out and married landlord's daughter." -
"Yes, up in Yorkshire - in the west country, right?" -

"Nice brass candlesticks we have - aren't they?"

The above insight into what really happened just came to me in the night! Christchurch inherited at least one bell, and this is all rubbish - or is it?

Preachers' Pool

The Monks at Osney were Dominican Friar Preachers.

On 12th August, 1376, Edward III gave them "in so far as in him lies", a strip of water extending all along their bank twenty feet out into the stream, so that they might better protect themselves from its wash, "from which at times they suffered greatly". And the Sheriff and Mayor were to cause the waterward limit to be marked with stakes, "whereby it may for ever be known".

So as a loyal descendant of Edward III and probably most of his subjects, I will play my part - here, somewhere, is Preachers' Pool. The Preachers have gone but the name remains. 'Pool' suggests there was a weir, presumably the Abbey Mill Weir.