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The Fenwicks

Updated: Aug 1, 2022

Fenwick Coat of Arms, "Always Loyal"

The name Fenwick first arose amongst the Anglo-Saxon tribes of Britain. This habitation name was originally derived from the Old English fenn, which means marsh and wic, which literally means a dairy farm. In this case the original bearers of the surname Fenwick most likely lived in a marshy area where they had a dairy farm.

The surname Fenwick was first found in Northumberland and in the West Riding of Yorkshire where the family held a family seat at Stamfordham from ancient times. "The church [at Stamfordham], erected about the 13th century, is in the early English style, and stands west of the market-cross; the chancel was built by the Fenwicks, of Fenwick Tower, and contains several monumental inscriptions to that ancient family..."

They formed a powerful clan and were the constant allies of the Percies. The family was characterized as "The Fierce Fenwicks" and "The Fearless Fenwicks" and their war-cry was:

"A Fenwyke! A Fenwyke!! A Fenwyke!!!"

The family were Lords of the Manor, Castle and Tower of Fenwick in the parish of Stamfordham, a few miles northwest of Newcastle. The place-name Stamfordham is first attested in the Pipe Rolls (The Pipe rolls are the records of the audits of the sheriffs' accounts, usually conducted at Michaelmas by the Exchequer, or English treasury) for 1188, where it appears as Stanfordhamn, which roughly translates as "village at the stony ford." It is located about 30 miles from Hadrian's Wall, a former defensive fortification of the Roman province of Britannia, begun in AD 122 in the reign of the emperor Hadrian. Running "from Wallsend on the River Tyne in the east to Bowness-on-Solway in the west", the Wall covered the whole width of the island.

Hadrian's Wall

Walter Fenwick, the first of the family to whom my branch has been traced, was, apparently, the first of the family to settle in Yorkshire. The first reference of him that has been found is in Holderness Wapentake, East Riding of Yorkshire, in an assessment by King Edward VI, who reigned from 1547-1553.

On 2 July 1578, Walter Fenwycke made his will. He lived in Moortown, in Brandsburton Parish, a few miles north of Hull, Holderness Wapentake. Holderness was a wapentake of the historic East Riding of Yorkshire, England consisting of the south-easterly part of the county. Established in medieval times, it ceased to have much significance in the 19th century when the wapentakes were superseded by other administrative divisions for most local government purposes. A wapentake was a term used for a county division and the equivalent of the Anglo-Saxon hundred in the northern Danelaw. According to the first-century historian Tacitus, in Scandinavia the wapentake referred to a vote passed at an assembly by the brandishing of weapons.

Walter's first wife was Sarah Constable, with whom he had 4 sons and 3 daughters. The last child, Susanna, was baptized 21 September 1573. His second wife was Anne, also called Agnes, the widow of William Constable, his brother-in-law from his first marriage. She was the daughter of Robert Watson, of Newcastle, Northumberland County. Walter and Anne were married as around 1574. They had 2 sons and a daughter.

George Fenwick, the son of Walter and Sarah, was apparently born in Brandsburton parish, East Riding of Yorkshire. The date of his birth has not been found, although it is approximated between 1555 and 1560. He married Margaret Oglestropp (Oglesthrorpe).

Their second son, Walter Fenwick, was baptized on 19 April 1593. He married Magdalene Hunt on 2 August 1628.

It was their fourth son, Thomas Fenwick, who was my immigrant ancestor. He was born between 1632 and 1635 and sailed to Maryland in 1669. His story will be told in a later post.


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