The Gentry is a history of England told through its families. This website contains family trees, a few maps and many images illustrating some of the background to the twelve families who carry the story of England in the book.

Read a sample chapter about Sir John Oglander, the 17th-century squire of Nunwell in the Isle of Wight, his life and family, his dreams and ambitions and the tragedies that struck him....

1620s–1660s The Oxindens, Kent

The Oxindens

The world of the Oxindens, south-east of Canterbury, is the network of dry valleys pushed into the North Downs. It is a mushroomy, private, creased country, where signs of the gentry are thick on the ground. No great houses dominate this strangely remote and unvisited province. The aristocracy was never important here. This is the gentry world above all else, every mile or two marked by another small manor house and its associated gardens and closes, so that the country itself comes to seem like a kind of social network.

 Go for a walk along its lanes draped in old man’s beard, between the orchards, the woods and the pastures, and you will find yourself buried in a world of small places, the threads and nodes of a gentry system, none of the significant houses more than a mile or two from its neighbour, twenty minutes’ ride away. It is like walking through a map of localism, of places shaped by a deep, shared attachment to place. It becomes clear that civility here was not an urban quality. If there is such a thing as an urbane landscape, this is it.