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River Ock

The River Ock, also known previously as the River Cearn, rises near the village of Little Coxwell and joins The Thames at Abingdon under a bridge constructed by the Wilts and Berks Canal Company. It flows just to the south of Charney, which is one of ‘The Island Villages’, being ‘The Island in the River Cearn’.

The Environment Agency give the headsprings of the river as at Little Coxwell, Compton Beauchamp, and Woolstone. Early Anglo-Saxon charters of the 9th and 10th centuries refer to Woolstone as the headwater stream, if the number of mills in the settlements mentioned at the time of the 1086 Domesday survey is anything to go by, then Woolstone is the major stream. It had two mills, whilst Little Coxwell and Compton Beauchamp didn’t have any.

A polished flint axe-head was dredged from the River Ock at Charney Bassett in the summer of 1978.

 ‘Charney Manor’ was a grange, built by Abingdon Abbey, to house the steward or bailiff appointed to look after the Abbey’s lands around Charney. Charney had to provide the Abbey with a specified number of bushels of grain and barrels of fish every year, it was the bailiff’s job to see that these were delivered. The fish was principally salmon from the Ock (a pre-Saxon word meaning young salmon). Salmon was a staple part of the diet in the Thames Valley in the Middle Ages. The Ock also provided crayfish which were on sale in Oxford until c1900.

Charney Bassett has had a watermill since the 12th century. The history of the mill is given on the Charney Mill page.

The Ock “flood alleviation works” were undertaken in about 1974/5. Prior to this, a lot of the Ock water, perhaps nearly all of it, used to flow down the mill race, past Wick Cottage and then on through the Mill. Maps prior to 1974 show that any water that didn’t follow the route of the mill race had to flow through a rather tortuous route to the south of the millstream, until it rejoined the mill outflow, downstream of the mill. A simple sketch map shows some of the differences that were implemented in 1974. Other maps are given on the Maps Through Time page.

1973 Ock Route (Jim Gardiner)

Charney Wick Ditch is a bit of an enigma. It doesn’t seem to serve any function which would justify the large-scale civil engineering works which would have been required to construct it. It’s shown on all the old maps and so it pre-dates 1765. It seems likely that it was constructed by Abingdon Abbey before the abbey’s dissolution. Its modern purpose seems to be to confuse flood and drainage issues in Charney village.

A flood project was carried out for the Parish Council following the summer high water levels in 2007. The documentation describing this work of the flood project is available on the parish council website.

The bridge over The Ock on the Lyford road is a listed monument with the date of 1837 inscribed on the keystone on the upstream face. It is made of coursed limestone rubble with ashlar dressings and rubble coping. The central round arch is flanked by small round-arched openings. Two cutwaters face upstream.

Lyford Bridge (upstream face with date stone in middle)
Lyford Bridge Date Stone -1837

There is a similar bridge over The Ock at Charney, however, this does not appear on the Keck maps of 1765 and it appears to have been a ford at that time.

Millstream. Original Ock Bridge (2018 IG)
The Ock before 1974
The Ock after 1974

St Giles’ and Waterloo Bridges

(Pictures by Peter Busby)

There are the remains of a bridge at the southern end of ‘The Causeway’. It spanned the original line of The Ock and was called St Giles’ Bridge.

Due south and over the current line of The Ock was/is Waterloo Bridge.

Floods: June 1903

Rainfall recorded and reported at Faringdon

The following shows the quantity registered each day at Faringdon: –
Monday, June 5th …0.15″
Tuesday, 9th … 0.32″
Wednesday, 10th … 1.17″
Thursday, 11th … 0.39″
Saturday, 13th … 0.65″
Sunday, 14th … 2.17″
Monday, 15th …0.95″
Total … 5.8″

Faringdon Advertiser and Vale of the White Horse Gazette – Saturday 20 June 1903 Floods


Faringdon Advertiser and Vale of the White Horse Gazette – Saturday 20 June 1903
The road from Denchworth to Goosey was under water nearly all the way, and some of the cottages Goosey were flooded. In many places the land has been flooded where such a thing has rarely been known. The Charney, Lyford, and Denchworth districts suffered considerable inconvenience. At Charney, Mr Craddock’s yards were inundated, and the men had to milk the cows in water several inches deep.

The second part of this newspaper article shows some work on the River Ock to alleviate flooding. This would have been c1956.


Floods of May 1993 at Charney and Lyford

Charney Bassett, Ock Bridge looking west, May 27th 1993

Lyford Bridge looking towards Charney Bassett, May 27th 1993

Lyford Bridge looking towards Charney Bassett, May 27th 1993


Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard – Saturday 17 April 1869

Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard – Saturday 17 April 1869
ILLEGAL FISHING. Charles Haydon, Jesse Johnson, and William Haydon, all of Lyford, labourers, were charged with unlawfully fishing in the River Ock, at Charney. They pleaded guilty and were fined altogether £1 16s. 6d., to include costs.

1612 Map with figures illustrating Drayton’s verses

Bodleian Library, Rivers Map, 1612

Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford, 1612

Description: Map with figures illustrating Drayton’s verses on marriage, with rivers and forests taken from Saxton, in Micheal Drayton, Poli-Olbion or a Chorographicall Description of Tracts, Rivers, Mountaines, Forests, etc.

Engraver: Hole, William, d.1624

Cartographer: Drayton, Michael, 1563-1631.