Showing posts with label Rother River. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Rother River. Show all posts

Friday, February 6, 2015

Geography and Genealogy

 Once I found that my Tapply grandmother's family came from Wittersham in Kent and not from Whitstable, I set out to learn a bit about this place. Right away I read descriptions only of Wittersham sitting on the Isle of Oxney. I was intrigued. What was this about?

The early coastline of England was much further inland. The Rother river ran out to the coast at Romney and there was a large delta with many little islands right at the mouth of the river. Wittersham sat, in those days, right on one of those islands. But more and more silt built up at the mouth of the river. Violent storms in 1287 changed the coastline. Finally the river itself changed direction. From Romney it moved to Rye. Pretty soon the entire coast became salt marsh. Sheep were raised on the marshlands and this became the main source of income. The present coastline looks more like what you see in the map below.
The marshland is clearly still there, but the sea is far away from the Isle of Oxney. When you see photographs of the countryside, it's clear that this former island sits higher than the land around it. And the identification is clearly still on the map. The "family history" written by Alan Tapply puts various branches of the family in the area as far back as the 1600's. This would be long after the coast changed, but I can't help but wonder how different the land might have looked back then. Were there sailors and fishermen in the family? Smugglers? Sea captains?  Or were the Tapleys (old spelling) always the tradespeople?

Another thing that excited me was the identification of Romney Marsh. I was brought up on Disney and some of you may remember "The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh" starring Patrick McGoohan.
The scarecrow was a tale invented by Russell Thorndike. The story goes that Dr. Christopher Syn retired from a life of piracy to become the vicar of Dymchurch on Romney Marsh. He soon realized that his parishioners were smuggling goods from France to avoid high customs taxes. He took up the scarecrow disguise to ride to their rescue and protect them from the authorities. His adventures became so popular that some people still believe he was a real person.

Oast House Archive [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
I leave you with a view of the English countryside looking out toward the Isle of Oxney.
Nigel Chadwick, Wikipedia