Medieval Thatcham (3)
In common with the inhabitants of other open field villages throughout the country, the people of Thatcham tilled the arable acres around the town growing their staple crops, wheat and barley and pasturing their herds and flocks on the common meadows. The names of these fields survive in one form or another, chiefly in street names and these include the North Field, the Worthy Field, Parsons Down (one third of which was held by the incumbent of St. Mary’s Church), the Widmede (or wide meadow), Stone Field, Red Field and the Moor.
Thatcham reached the peak of its Medieval prosperity around 1300AD and it was possibly granted a borough charter by King Edward I though there is no longer any record of this. Certainly during the reign of King Edward III (1327-1377) it was classed as one of the four boroughs of Berkshire, the others being Windsor, Wallingford and Reading.
The streets of the borough during the fourteenth century were known as:
|Church Lane||A name that survives to this day.|
|West Street||Now the High Street and Bath Road.|
|South Street||Probably the southern end of the Broadway.|
|Cheap Street||The centre of the town and/or part of the High Street around the old market cross, the stump of which still remains.|
East Street led out of Thatcham towards Reading, and it was renamed Chapel Street soon after 1304 AD, when the Chapel of St. Thomas the Martyr, now known as the Bluecoat School, was opened and licensed for divine worship by the Bishop of Salisbury. The Chaplain served in subordination to the Rector of Thatcham who, in 1317, after an application by the Abbot of Reading to King Edward II and Pope Clement V, was instituted Vicar.
Crafts in Thatcham
A large variety of light crafts were practiced in the medieval town of Thatcham, the chief of which were wood turning, coopering, flour milling, fulling, weaving and felt making. None developed into large-scale factory based industry as weaving did in Newbury during the Tudor period, under the direction of the enterprising Jack of Newbury and the Dolman family. The crafts in Thatcham were operated in cottage workshops, often on a part time basis; in support of the main occupation which was always open field farming.
Some of the names of residents of the borough, listed below, give us an excellent guide to the crafts practiced in the town:
|John the Taylor||1286AD|
|Richard de la Hammulle (Ham Mill)||1300AD|
|Humfray le Mol (Miller)||1300AD|
|John Faber (Smith)||1300AD|
|Ralph Scriptor (Writer)||1300AD|
|Paul of the Chapel (Chaplain)||1309AD|
|Walter le Wodeward (Gamekeeper)||1323AD|
- Barfield, S., Thatcham Berks and its Manors, 1901
- Proser, A. W., Thatcham through the ages, Occasional Paper Number 2, Thatcham Historical Society: Thatcham, 1979