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Osney or Osney Island /ˈoʊzni/; an earlier spelling of the name is Oseney is a riverside community in the west of the city of Oxford, England In modern times the name is applied to a community also known as Osney Town astride Botley Road, just west of the city's main railway station, on an island surrounded by the River Thames, Osney Ditch and another backwater connecting the Thames to Osney Ditch

Until the early 20th century the name was applied to the larger island of Oxford Castle and New Osney between Castle Mill Stream and the main stream of the Thames on which Osney Abbey and Osney Mill were established during the Middle Ages The place plays a minor but significant role in The Miller's Tale in Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales1


  • 1 History
  • 2 Modern Osney
  • 3 New Osney
  • 4 Osney Mead
  • 5 References
  • 6 Sources
  • 7 External links
  • 8 See also


The name "Osney" is Old English, and means either "island in the Ouse" Ouzen Ait being a base form and Ouse being an Old English word for a large river2 or "Osa's Island"3 Until the early twentieth century the name was applied to the island formed by two streams of the River Thames immediately west of the centre of Oxford, Castle Mill Stream and the stream which is now the main channel of the river4 To the north the island is bounded by a short channel between the River Thames and the Castle Mill Stream, the Sheepwash Channel, which separates it from Fiddler's Island5

Osney Abbey was founded on the south part of the island in 1129, and Rewley Abbey was founded in the north of the island in 1280 Osney Mill was established by Osney Abbey on the west side of the island The lands of both abbeys passed to Christ Church following the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 15386 The island formed part of St Thomas's parish

In 1790 the mill stream feeding Osney Mill on the west side of the island became the main navigation channel of the river, when Osney Lock was opened7

Until the beginning of the 19th century, only the side of the island east of St Thomas's Church was developed In the nineteenth century the island changed significantly The Great Western Railway built its line across the island from north to south in 1850, with new bridges across the Thames at the south end of the island, and across the Sheepwash Channel to the north A new railway station was opened on the island two years later In 1851 the Buckinghamshire Railway opened its line from the north across Sheepwash Channel to its Rewley Road station next to the GWR station To house railway workers Osney Town was laid out in 1851 by George P Hester, on an island west of Osney leased by Hester from Christ Church In the 1860s New Osney was developed around Mill Street, south of Botley Road between the railway and the river The Cripley estate, north of Botley Road, was laid out in 18788 Osney Cemetery was opened in 1848 in the south of the island

Modern Osneyedit

The name Osney is today usually applied to Osney Town Most of Osney's two hundred-odd households live in 19th century terraced cottages built on Hester's original grid A minority of buildings are less than 50 years old, all on Bridge and West Streets, as well as a few significantly larger houses scattered throughout

The island presently has two public houses, The Punter and The Hollybush A Working Men's Club and Institute Union affiliate, the West Oxford Democrats Club has premises Osney is part of the ward of Jericho and Osney as currently named, wards being periodically redefined to avoid malapportionment

New Osneyedit

The name Osney is no longer applied to the island which historically bore the name The part of the island east of the railway is now usually called St Thomas The name survives on the island in New Osney, Osney Lane, Osney Cemetery, Osney Mill and Osney Marina Osney Bridge carries the Botley Road A420 west from the historic Osney island Osney Lock was constructed in the river in 1790, between the island then known as Osney and the island now known as Osney

Osney Meadedit

View along the main Osney Mead road

From 1961 an industrial estate, named Osney Mead in 1966, was developed on meadowland between Osney and Bulstake Stream, to the east of Ferry Hinksey Road9 The estate was initially intended to relocate badly sited existing local businesses10 Organisations based there include publishers Alden Mowbray, Holywell Press, and Oxford Community Church, the latter occupying a building on the estate formerly used by Oxford Instruments

Newspaper House was designed by Arup Associates with mostly open plan Bürolandschaft offices and built 1970–7211 It is the Oxfordshire headquarters of Newsquest which publishes local tabloid newspapers, including the weekly The Oxford Times and the daily Oxford Mail

It also houses the long-running comics anthology title 2000 AD


  1. ^ Canterbury Tales Miller's Tale, Chapter 4, line 88
  2. ^ Hibbert, C ed 1988 Encyclopedia of Oxford Macmillan ISBN 0-333-48614-5, sv Osney
  3. ^ Marriott, Paul 1977 Oxford Street Names Explained ISBN 0-9505730-1-9 
  4. ^ VCH vol4 Outlying parts of the liberty
  5. ^ "River Thames Sheepwash Channel" wwwcanalplanorguk UK Retrieved 15 September 2012 
  6. ^ VCH vol 4 Sites and Remains of Religious Houses
  7. ^ VCH vol 4 Communications:Rivers and river navigation
  8. ^ VCH vol 4 Modern Oxford: Development of the city
  9. ^ Ann Spokes Symonds; Nigel Morgan 2010 The Origins of Oxford Street Names p 166 ISBN 978-1-899536-99-3 
  10. ^ Modern Oxford: Economic History after 1918, Volume 4, Victoria County History
  11. ^ Sherwood & Pevsner, 1974, pages 334-335


  • Crossley, Alan; Elrington, CR eds; Chance, Eleanor; Colvin, Christina; Cooper, Janet; Day, CJ; Hassall, TG; Selwyn, Nesta 1979 A History of the County of Oxford, Volume 4 Victoria County History  VCH
  • Prior, Mary 1982 2011 Fisher Row: fishermen, bargemen and canal boatmen in Oxford, 1500-1900 Chichester: Phillimore ISBN 978-1860776526 Retrieved 26 September 2012 
  • Sherwood, Jennifer; Pevsner, Nikolaus 1974 Oxfordshire The Buildings of England Harmondsworth: Penguin Books pp 334–335 ISBN 0-14-071045-0 

External linksedit

  • Osney Island Residents' Association
  • Osney Town Conservation Area

See alsoedit

  • Osney Abbey
  • Osney Bridge 1885
  • Osney Cemetery 1848
  • Osney Footbridge
  • Osney Rail Bridge
  • Osney Lock
  • Osney Marina
  • Osney Mill
Next island upstream River Thames Next island downstream
Fiddler's Island Osney Island Rose Isle

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