History of Hardwick

by Christine Kuch

CHAPTER 2 - PLACE NAMES

As the history and therefore the name of "Hardwick" is closely related to the city of Cambridge, a brief outline of the history of Cambridge may be helpful. It began as a Roman camp, "CESTER" from the latin 'castra' meaning camp. The river was originally called the Granta and so the old name for Cambridge was GRANTCHESTER. Danish armies used Cambridge as a base during their conquest of eastern England (9th century A.D.) and this too influenced place names in the area. This is important too for the village of Hardwick whose first written mention is in connection with a local man, the owner of the land in Hardwick in fact, who was killed fighting the Danes.

Historians agree that there was a Roman settlement at Comberton too, probably a villa situated between the village itself and the church. 'Ton' or TUN' as it was originally written, means a village or many dwellings. The name Comberton, therefore, seems to mean 'the village of the Cumbrians' (Romano - British people).

Early settlers in Hardwick came from Toft, which was a Danish settlement. The word 'Toft' simply meant a croft, little homefield or homestead. This place name is of pure Scandinavian origin.

The accepted view is that Hardwick was originally a shepherd's settlement subordinate to Toft and the evidence for this comes directly from place names. 'WIC' or 'WIK' in old english means a dwelling, village or place. 'HERD' or 'HEORDE' means a herd. The suggestion is that Hardwick was a sheep farm from the name meaning the place of the sheep. The pasture in the locality confirms this view, although the heavy soil in the area wasn't really suitable for sheep farming and there is no evidence in the Domesday book that any sheep were kept at all.

The name and spelling 'HARDWIC' appear in 1050. The spelling under went many changes throughout the centuries partly due to changes taking place in the language itself. For example, Hardwick Wood is written as as one word - 'HARDWYKWODE' - in 1496. The name of the village itself has been written as 'HERDWICK', 'HERDEWYK,' 'HERTHWYK', 'HERWICH' and 'HARWICKE' at various times in its history.

Finally the name 'STOCKINGS' a place name from the original village centre. This comes from the old English 'STOC' meaning stem or trunk. The name itself means a group of stumps and confirms what historians believe, that the heavily wooded parts in this area were being cut back all the time so that the land could be farmed.

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