What's in a Name?
The People of Thatcham will tell you
The names of villages throughout Berkshire tell us, at a glance, of their Saxon origins. These people were quick to set up their little hamlets in all available advantageous positions as they spread through the country. The flat gravelly land overlooking the River Kennet was one such perfect spot. Here a small group of Saxons decided to make their home. So, disembarking from the Kennet, the building began. While the men folk spent their days chopping down the woods on the high ground to the north, the women busied themselves making sure there was enough food for everyone to keep their strength up. It was not too long before the great wooden posts of the new halls were raised into their holes. Then the cross timbers were placed in position. It was hard work, which was not made easier by the children and dogs running all over the place. In and out of the new structures they ran: it was all a game to them, but the adults knew otherwise. Their new homes must be built quickly so their concentration could turn to farming. At last though, what had once been trees in the ground began to look like real homes; all except for one thing. They had no roofs. The bare rafters were open to the sky.
“If we are to move in tonight, and have a dry roof over our heads, we must start thatching at once,” noted one burley Saxon as they all stepped back to admire their work. Several of the others nodded in agreement, until a younger man stepped forward.
“No, no,” he exclaimed, “we must have the best. Straw will rot with age. there is no hurry. We must build some kilns and bake ourselves tiles. They will withstand the test of time.” His older fellows looked po-faced at this suggestion, though the younger men seemed very keen on the idea. The burley Saxon stepped forward and retaliated most assertively,
“No. The women and children need their homes now!”
“But we’ve been living in the open for a week,” argued the modernist, “a few more days will do us no harm. Then we can build in tile.” But his opponent would not back down. The exchange of words became quite heated and the supporters of both sides gathered behind the two men, egging them on.
As the shouts became louder, the sky became darker, The clouds rolled in and there was a loud rumbling of thunder; but the settlers could not hear it over the hullabaloo they were making. The argument was reaching its height and the chief opponents were about to come to blows: The big Saxon lifted his fist in anger. . . there was a huge clap of thunder and lightning lit up the sky! Everyone suddenly lost interest in the fight. they instinctively gazed into the sky above. there, above their heads, was Satan himself, flying down from the emerging storm. All were struck dumb. Only one voice was heard above all the rumbling thunder. the Devil opened his mouth and boomed, “Thatch’em”!!
Thus the place was named, and now when you drive into Newbury from the east it is not Tileham that you pass through, but Thatcham, with some of the thatched cottages still standing by the side of the road to remind us of the Devil’s decision.
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