Origin of the Whatton Name

Whatton (or Whatton-in-the-Vale) lies in the Nottingham portion of the Vale of Belvoir approximately three miles east of the ancient market town of Bingham.

The generally accepted origin of the name Whatton is that proposed by the English Place Name Society (‘EPNS’). Their interpretation is that the first part ‘What’ is a corruption of Wheat (as in Wheatley, Notts) with the Saxon suffix of ‘ton’meaning farm or settlement. This would describe Whatton as being a Wheat Farm or Settlement.  Given that the area was never heavily wooded and the quality of the land it would seem to be a fair description.

The Magna Britannia Antiqua & Nova was published in 1738 (described as being ‘a new, exact and comprehensive Survey of the Ancient and Present state of Great Britain’). In the Whatton entry it proposes that Whatton ‘takes its name from its watery situation upon the River Smite, that runs close by, and continues often full of water than other larger and swifter rivers do’, this was the interpretation offered by the eminent Nottinghamshire Historian Robert Thornton. Recent history lends a ring of truth to this interpretation.

The earliest documented reference to Whatton appears to be the entry in the Domesday Book (1086) in which it is referred to as Watone. The tone suffix, as the EPNS proposes is of Early Saxon origin meaning farm or settlement that leaves us with Wa. The Saxon word for wheat was whoet and it doesn’t seem plausible that Whoettone would contract to Watone.  However, the Anglo-Saxon words wæd (ford, water, sea, ocean), ’ta’ (wetness, moisture) and  ‘wætung’ (wetting)could easily contract to ‘WA’ or ‘WAT’’. This interpretation would provide the description Wet Farm or Settlement.

The earliest reference to Whatton in the Vale dates from 1375 and the ‘in-the-Vale’ suffix first appeared in 1783.

Irrespective of its meaning the Whatton name appears to be Early Saxon/Dane in its origin. Other names in the parish appear to have their roots in the Dane or Saxon language. The River Smite is almost certainly Germanic and its alternative name Cockerbeck is a fusion of both Danish and Saxon words.

Copyright 2002 – GR Redford all rights reserved.

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