Origin of the Whatton place name.

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.

Recently I reviewed the entry for Whatton in the Magna Britannia Antiqua & Nova 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’. Recent history lends a ring of truth to this interpretation.

The earliest documented reference to Whatton I can find, is the entry in the Domesday Book (1086) in which it is referred to as Watone. The tone suffix, as the EPNS proposes is of 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), ’wæta’ (wetness, moisture) and ‘wætung’ (wetting) could easily contract to ‘WA’ or ‘WAT’’. This interpretation would provide the description Wet Farm or Settlement.

So we have two choices:
Wheat Settlement or
Wet Settlement. On balance I prefer the second.

Gregg Redford