Islip is in many ways a typical Oxfordshire village - it is not particularly big or particularly small (there were about 550 residents at the last census), and nowadays it might be regarded as a typical place inhabited by commuters who work in Oxford. However, it has a long and varied history, and still retains a lot of rural charm compared with some of its neighbours.

It's greatest claim to fame is as the birthplace, in about 1005, of St. Edward the Confessor, who was king of England from 1042 to 1066, and who was cannonised in 1161 (he is the patron saint of Kings and Queens, whether they need one or not...). It's not at all certain where he was born in the village, but there was a chapel erected on the supposed spot which was probably near to St. Nicholas church (but of which the Channel 4 TV series Timeteam could find no trace in 2005). Edward spent a lot of his life trying to prevent various Danes from getting a foothold in England, so he will be spinning in his grave in Westminster Abbey (which he founded) on the 20th September. In 2005, an historical trail, the confessor's way, was established around the village.

Edward left the village of Islip to Westminster Abbey (which is commemorated by a rather fanciful victorian painting of him in the church, surmounted by a copy of his death mask). As a result, the village has a long history of association with various prominent church people, since deans of Westminster were also rectors of Islip, and tended to use the village as their summer residence.

One of the most famous and flamboyant was William Buckland, an inovative geologist, biologist and palaentologist (he more-or-less founded the science of palaeontology, described the first dinosaur, and discovered the oldest human remains in Britain. He was also a confirmed eccentric, and is said to have regularly led a bear through the streets of Islip, as well as attempting to eat his way through the entire animal kingdom (and eating the heart of Louis XIV). He is buried in the church yard of St. Nicholas' Church.

The painting of Edward the Confessor in St. Nicholas Church

Islip bridge
The village of Islip dates back to at least Saxon times, and is recorded in the Domesday book. There is a local saying that "Islip was town when Oxford was a village". It grew up as a settlement at the confluence of the rivers Ray and Cherwell, probably initially as one of the few places that the meandering river Ray could be forwarded.

There has been a bridge across the Ray in the village for many centuries, and this was the scene of an important battle during the English Civil War, on 28th February 1645. The parliamentarians needed to cross the river in order to attack the Royalist capital in Oxford, but there was a Royalist garrison defending the bridge at Islip. Instead of storming the bridge, the parliamentarians got a local, "Fisher Beckley" to ferry a few commando troops across in his boat, and take the Royalists by surprise. As a result, the Beckley family were grated the fishing ries to the river Ray, which they held until the 20th century.

Last updated: Friday, September 12, 2008