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The History of Kent

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History of Reading Street

Reading Street is a hamlet approximately 3 miles south east of Tenterden

The church dedicated to St Mary the Virgin, and until 1858 sited at the nearby hamlet of Ebony, where it had originally been built in the 12th Century. Ebony is included in the 1070 list of churches in Kent, and there are many records of it on the island.

Until 1650, the Rother flowed through Robertsbridge, Bodiam and Newenden, then turned left handed to pass the Isle of Oxney on its north side. After passing Small Hythe, it forked at Ebony surrounding it on both sides and then in a broad estuary found its way to the sea past 
Appledore into Rye Harbour. At high tides, the salt water swirled all over the levels, leaving Ebony isolated by a sea of water. This changed when the landowners cut a new channel below Newenden to divert the Rother over the Wittersham levels to Iden and its old estuary at Rye. So long as the main sea channel flowed past it, Ebony benefited by the sea trade and could move its people and its crops by water.

The population deserted the island for the healthier and more accessible hamlet of
Reading Street the nearest house was three quarters of a mile away, and the fabric of the church needed repair. With great initiative, the new Vicar and his Churchwarden decided to pull the old building down, and move the stone work by horse and cart over a mile of rough track, where they rebuilt it on the new site.. The whole project took three months at a cost of £270 - to the credit of Mr S Teale the architect and with the help of a local builder Bourne and Chandle.