The Archer surname is occupational, meaning – as its name suggests – a professional bowman. The Old French name archier had been brought to England by the Normans at the time of the Conquest. It first appeared in English records in the 12th century and was replacing the native English word “bowman” by the 14th century.Curiously, the American actor Ralph Bowman made his breakthrough in a radio contest for which he was given an RKO contract under the name of John Archer. His daughter is the actress Anne Archer.
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England. The Norman surname Archer first surfaced in the county of Wiltshire in the west country. Edward and William L’Archier were recorded there in 1166.
The name moved west to Cornwall where John Archer was MP for Helston in the early 15th century and his line then devolved to the Archers of Trelaske. They remained the local squires until 1958 when the last of the line died. The Archer Arms still flourishes at Launceston. Another Archer family of local squires was to be found at Castle Eaton on the Wiltshire/Gloucestershire border.
The Archers in Warwickshire date from an earlier time. In the 12th century Robert L’Archer had married into the de Villiers family and been granted the estate at Umberslade near Tanworth-in-Arden. These Archers were many times the MP and
Sheriff for Warwick and were remain at Umberslade for the next six hundred years. Andrew Lord Archer, who died in 1778, was the last of the line.
Another Archer family was to be found at Theydon Garnon near Epping in Essex.
These Archers later held Coopersale House and included in their number the 17th century judge John Archer. Then there were the Archers traced from family history in and around Lodsworth on the Rother valley in West Sussex. The first recorded here was a William Archer in the late 17th century.
Ireland. The Archer name probably came to Ireland at the time of the Anglo-Norman invasion in the 12th century. An Archer family was long prominent in county Kilkenny, acting as sovereign and mayor of Kilkenny city during the 16th and 17th centuries. A prominent member of the family was the Jesuit priest James Archer. Because of his involvement with Spanish plots in Ireland in the 1590’s, he became a leading hate figure for the British Government of the time. Archers are few in Kilkenny today.
America. Gabriel Archer from Warwick had been part of an expedition with Captain John Smith to explore the Virginia coast. In 1607 they discovered a point of land on the James river which they named Archer’s Hope in his honor. He was one of the first planters in Virginia, but died in 1609.
Other early Archers in America were:
- Samuel Archer, a carpenter, who came to Salem, Massachusetts in 1630. His family were merchants in the town for several generations.
- Henry Archer, who came to Roxbury, Massachusetts in 1639
- and Jan Arcer, a Dutchman who later styled himself John Archer. He founded the hamlet of Fordham near New York in 1669.
John Archer came from Derry in Ireland to Harford county, Maryland in the 1720’s. This Archer family were first planters and then politicians. Three generations of this family were US Congressmen from Maryland. John Archer of Medicine Hall was the first to receive a medical doctor degree in America. Meanwhile, Patrick Archer, also from Ireland, came to Maryland in 1759. His descendants settled in Pennsylvania and Ohio.
Caribbean. There were Archers in Barbados as early as 1643. The Edward Archer who married Elizabeth Braithwaite died in 1693. The next Edward Archer, who married in 1715, was said to have had twenty five children. A number of Archers left the island in the early 1900’s, for America and other places in the Caribbean. Richard Archer came to England and his son John Archer became mayor of Battersea in 1913. But there are still many Archers in Barbados. Andrew Archer’s 1935 book The Archer Surname in Barbados recounted this Archer history.
Australia. Thomas Archer, a miller’s son from Hertfordshire, emigrated to Australia in 1812 and secured a plum job in charge of the government stores in Tasmania. He retired in 1821 to develop a 2,000 acre estate that he had acquired at Longford in
Thomas created Woolmers. It stayed with the family from 1817 until 1994 when Thomas Archer, the sixth of the line, died without children. William’s home at Brickendon, built seven years later, has remained with his family into the seventh generation. Kerry and Angela Archer live on the estate today.
Another Archer settler in Tasmania was John Archer from Ireland. Having helped with the design of Waterloo bridge and London bridge in London, he set off for Tasmania in 1827 to take up the position of civil engineer and architect for the colony.
William Archer, a timber merchant from Perth in Scotland, and his wife raised thirteen children, nine of whom were to spend time in Australia. The first to arrive was David Archer in 1834. He and his brothers took up sheep ranching, eventually settling in the Fitzroy valley in Queensland. Another brother, Thomas Archer, led a wandering life, spending some time at the California goldfields, before becoming an Agent General for Queensland.
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further stories and accounts:
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John Archer of Medicine Hall in Maryland was the first to receive a medical doctor degree in America.
Fred Archer was the leading jockey of the Victorian era. He was champion jockey for thirteen successive years from 1873 to 1886.
Jeffrey Archer is a highly successful English thriller writer. He has also had a chequered career in politics and was imprisoned at one time for perjury.
The Archers is a long-running British radio soap about rural life on Ambridge which has been on the air since 1950.
Select Archers Today
- 21,000 in the UK (most numerous in Nottinghamshire)
- 13,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
- 11,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)
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