I typically get asked about Henwick at many of the local history (Thatcham and Newbury) talks I give. Questions include where is it? Does it exist? Where was the manor? What does its name mean? I will cover this in two posts starting with the name.
Monk’s Dairy Farm
Margaret Gelling, who investigated place names, suggested one of the earliest names, Henewyk, could mean exactly the same as a place by the same name in Worcestershire. That is it refers to a dairy farm used by monks.
This is a possibility and there is a long held belief that when Thatcham was part of Reading Abbey the monks and/or abbots that were sent down stayed at Henwick. Indeed local historian Samuel Barfield in his book “Thatcham, Berks, and Its Manors” notes “Henwick being the place of residence of the abbots within the original manor of Thatcham.” He also says that the visitors stayed near a field called Abbot’s Croft and the Bowling Green.
This Barfield notes is today Henwick Manor Farm. He also gives further evidence saying “In a document containing an extract from the Court Rolls of Thatcham manor, in the possession of Mr. Mount, reference is made to some land at Henwick which is described as the Abbot’s Grove, and the Abbot’s Grafte.“
The other suggestion is that the name is derived from Hen-Vicus, a Celtic origin referring to an old town, presumably a settlement from the Roman period that is thought to have existed in the area.
Which is it?
I cannot prove which is correct and there is evidence to support both. Perhaps further research and documents will help figure it out, specifically a document from before the founding of Reading Abbey, 1121, or around that period.