The name ‘de Whitney’ was assumed by Eustace, son of Turstin the Fleming, a companion of William the Conqueror, who was given possession of the land as mentioned in the Domesday Book. The choice of the name, meaning ‘white water’, may well have reflected the sudden and destructive flooding to which the river is subject.
The life of Whitney, both past and present, has been dominated by the river Wye. The remains of Whitney Castle, which was built to guard the Welsh border, were washed away by floods. So too, were three stone toll bridges crossing the river to Clifford. The present bridge, part stone and part timber, dates from 1802. Traffic crossing it still has to pay the toll in the old tradition. During the holiday season, groups of canoeists can be seen at the bridge ‘putting-in’ their canoes for a trip up or down the river. Angling is also an attraction on this stretch of water and from the bridge itself.
The Church of St Peter and St Paul was built in the nineteenth century from the stones of an earlier church that was washed away together with the rectory by floodwaters. ‘Wardour House’ at the end of the church drive and ‘West Hills’ to the east of the church are both former rectories.
A large neo-Tudor house is visible on high land north of the main road. It is Whitney Court, built around 1900 for the Hope family, who still own the Whitney Court Estate. The Court is now available to be hired for conferences or for private use. It is also licensed for weddings. The Whitney Court pumphouse, last used in 1976, and the former Whitney school are on the main road. Ruins of abandoned bridges indicate the line of the abandoned railway, which had a station in Whitney. The large chimney stack and powerhouse that provided power to Whitney Court Estate, can be seen near the site of the former railway station.
Today, farming is the major local occupation, the farmers mainly being tenants of the Whitney Court Estate. Many stone houses in the vicinity, which were built for farm workers are now restored and privately owned. There are several light industries, for example, Wye Valley Windows, and units are let to other enterprises in the old village hall. The cutting of timber is still carried on at Whitney Sawmills. In Whitney Wood there used to be a quarry and kiln. Shards of pots in a distinctive honey colour can still be found.
A newer village hall is used every day for a children’s playgroup and occasionally for WI and other meetings.
Whitney is on the old drovers road – there is an old inn where drovers rested, now a private dwelling complete with blacksmith’s cottage. The Boat Inn on the bank of the river offers meals and accommodation as well as wonderful views of the river and toll bridge. In contrast, another old drovers inn, the Rhydspence, lies further west along the main road and enjoys views from a higher vantage point.
The main A438 road has been straightened to eliminate a bad bend, thus cutting the original village into two halves.