Medieval Thatcham (2)

Thatcham granted to Reading Abbey

In 1125AD King Henry I founded the great Abbey of Reading and endowed it with many gifts of land, including the Manor of Thatcham.  At the same time Thatcham Hundred ceased to exist, the western part being transferred to Faireress Hundred, and the remainder to the Hundred of Reading.  The abbot of Reading was exempted from all taxes and feudal dues in respect of lands granted to him, and he was allowed to hold Manor courts.  Henry I also allowed the monks the privilege of holding a market each Sunday in Thatcham church.  Some authorities believe that a weekly market existed even earlier than 1125AD.

St Mary's Church, Thatcham
St Mary’s Church, Thatcham

In 1141AD Thatcham Church previously the property of the Diocese of Salisbury, was granted to Reading Abbey by the Empress Matilda, who at the same time confirmed her father’s gift of the Manor to the Abbey.

Royal protection

Thatcham prospered greatly under the patronage of the Abbots of Reading, most of whom were very powerful and exercised great influence at court.  This influence is manifested in many royal charters concerning Thatcham issued during the twelfth and early thirteenth centuries.

During his reign King Henry II issued three charters confirming the weekly market, and compelling the men of Berkshire to attend Thatcham Market or suffer a fine in default.  When the men of Newbury, jealous of the privilege enjoyed by Thatcham, attacked Thatcham market, overturning stalls and scattering merchandise,  King Henry II immediately issued an order forbidding the men of Newbury to injure or interfere with the market.  The close proximity of the two markets of Thatcham and Newbury intensified commercial rivalry and much ill fooling existed between them, at least until the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

In 1218AD King Henry III ordered the Market day to be changed from Sunday to Thursday and in 1222AD the status of Thatcham was further enhanced when the King granted the town a fair, to be held annually on the eve and day of the feast of St. Thomas the Martyr (the 6th and 7th of July).  Later this fair was abandoned and two one-day fairs were held instead during April and September lasting until 1888AD.

References

  • Barfield, S., Thatcham Berks and its Manors, 1901
  • Proser, A. W., Thatcham through the ages, Occasional Paper Number 2, Thatcham Historical Society: Thatcham, 1979
  • Young, N., Thatcham Then & Now, History Press, 2012