Fearnley Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Fearnley Meaning
originates from the place-name Farnley, a village in the Harrogate
district of
north Yorkshire. The root of the name is
the Old English fearn leagh, meaning
“the farm in the clearing in the fern.” An
early spelling of the village and the family was Thomas de Farnlay, a
witness there in 1238.
The word “de”
here may mean “from” rather than “of.”
were two Farnley
Halls with different origins, but neither was held by a Fearnley. However, during the 13th century early
versions of the Fearnley name had spread to the Peak District of
Derbyshire and
to Cheshire

Fearnley Resources on

Fearnley Ancestry

England. One
Fearnley genealogist has commented:

is tempting to think of the spread of the Fearnley family from that
first known Henry de Farnlay, born possibly before 1205 in the village
of Farnley
in Yorkshire, then spreading down to the High Peaks of Derbyshire to
settle at
Fernilee in the Goyt valley. A further
spreading could have been to Rostherne near Tatton Park and from there
to Great
Budworth and Warrington in Cheshire.”

The Fearnley line from Farnley in Yorkshire to Fernilee in
the Derbyshire Peak District
may have happened at an early
time. Still, Yorkshire did account for 67% of all Fearnleys in
the 1881
census, with Lancashire a further 23%.

Yorkshire. Fearnleys in the Cleckheaton area of Birstall
near Leeds have been traced back to George Fearnley, born there around
the year
1530. Later Fearnleys were yeoman
farmers. In 1835 James Fearnley, at the
age of 20, was convicted of cattle stealing and sentenced to
transportation for
life in Australia. He was the forebear
of the Tasmanian Fearnleys.

Benjamin Fearnley, a well-connected lawyer in Leeds,
bought Oakwell
in Birstall sometime in the 1750’s. However,
his elder son Fairfax Fearnley,
heavily indebted, had to sell the estate in 1789. He
later fell asleep at a concert at Harewood
House and died there. This Fearnley line
continued through his younger brother Benjamin.

Robert Fearnley departed Birstall for America as a teenager in the
1850’s. There he became a railroad
engineer and started a real estate business.
He died in 1900 a rich man. His
body was embalmed, transported from Denver to New York and by ship to
Liverpool. There a special railway carriage was requisitioned and
arrived at Birstall station. Then Robert was laid to rest in the family

Lancashire. Fearnleys from Cheshire
in the village of Ashton-in-Makerfield near Wigan in the late 1600’s.
family line descended from Edward Fearnley who was born in Ashton in
1753. There were 78 Fearnleys recorded
there and in
nearby Lowton in the 1881 census. John Fearnley
from Ashton was a survivor of the Arley coal mining disaster
in 1932.

London  The
Fearnley name was also to be found in
London. The Rev. John Fearnley from
Yorkshire was a master at King’s College from 1831 until his death in
1869. He was known as “Infernal Jack” as
he was a strong disciplinarian.

had been a “beast” salesman at Smithfield market in
the early
1800’s. He inherited a brewery in
Watford from his cousin in 1822 on the basis that he changed his name
Fearnley-Whittingstall. He held Langley
Bury House in Hertfordshire until his death in 1856.

Among his 20th century descendants have been:

  • the portrait painter Edmund Fearnley-Whittingstall
  • the garden designer
    Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall
  • and her son
    the chef and food campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, best known
    for his River Cottage TV series and brand.

Norway. Thomas Fearnley, a merchant from Heckmondwike
in Birstall parish, emigrated
Halden in Norway in 1753. His son Thomas
Fearnley was the father of the romantic painter Thomas and the
astronomer Carl

The next Thomas founded a small ship-broking and agency business
in Oslo in
1869. By the mid-20th century the
Astrup Fearnley family
had expanded beyond their original
shipping base
to become
one of the business elites in Norway.
The Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art in Oslo, opened in
1993, is
their legacy.

Australia. Jack Fearnley
emigrated to Australia from Yorkshire with his brother Harry in 1924
under the
Dreadnought Scheme. They were assigned
to work at the outback town of Carcoar, NSW.
Jack’s son Terry made his mark as a rugby league player and
coach. Another descendant was the
Paralympian Kurt


Fearnley Miscellany

Fearnleys from Farnley and Fearnleys in the Peak District.  Was there a connection between the Fearnleys from Farnley in north Yorkshire and those in the Goyt valley of the Derbyshire Peak District?

A Henry de
Ferneley from Farnley near Otley in Yorkshire and a Richard de Weston
Weston near Otley probably traveled together to the Peak forest in
1250, but we
cannot know if they settled there; unless perhaps that Henry was the
Henry who had been granted ten acres of Peak land between 1227 and
1233.  There is just possibly enough data
to suggest
that this Henry was the Fearnley who migrated.

The Fearnleys in the 13th century appear to have been nibbling away at
the Peak forest, making their own assarts or clearances.
This perhaps helped the growth of Fernilee
and other communities in the Goyt valley.  Some
Fearnleys who had been fined in the Peak
forest lived at Rostherne.  There is a
long but unsure structure to the family tree of about seven generations
Rostherne from about 1250 to 1340.

The Fearnleys at Oakwell Hall.  In the 18th century Oakwell Hall in the parish of
Birstall in Yorkshire passed through the hands of several tenants, but
eventually bought by the lawyer Benjamin Fearnley.  His
son Fairfax Fearnley inherited his
father’s debt as well as creating much of his own.
He was quite an eccentric character with good
connections amongst the Yorkshire elite.
But eventually he had to sell the house in 1789 to help settle
some of these

sister Susannah accompanied her husband Benjamin Carlile, an artillery
officer, to the American War of Independence.
There he fought with distinction from Bunker Hill to Yorktown.  Having lost Susannah and two of his three
children to fever in Boston, Benjamin returned to Oakwell with his only
surviving child.  Some old American
sycamore stumps in the Oakwell grounds might well have been brought
there by
him as seedlings.

Carlyle, aka
Benjamin Fearnley Carlyle, was a descendant.
Schooled in the Oxford Movement, he founded in 1895 the first
Benedictine community for monks in south Wales.

Edmund Fearnley and the Watford Brewery.  William Smith is believed to have started a brewery on Watford High Street around the
year 1655.
Continuing under family ownership, his
brewery underwent modest expansion until 1790 when it was sold to

instigated more significant expansion of the brewery and tied estate
until his
death in 1822 when he left the brewery to a cousin, Edmund Fearnley, on
condition that he change his name to Edmund Fearnley-Whittingstall.

again continued.  However, upon Edmund’s
death in 1856, the
brewery estate become liable for debts arising from his other business
So the decision was made to lease the
brewery and tied estate to William Sedgwick, starting from 1862.  The brewery remained with the Sedgwick family
until they sold it in 1923. 

Fearnleys in Oslo.  Fearnleys dates back to the year 1869 when its founder, Thomas Fearnley established a ship-broking and agency business in
as the city of Oslo was known in those days.  The
little company soon prospered and engaged
in, among others, the trade in lumber, wine, pitch and ice.

In connection with its trading activities the
company bought shares in vessels and chartered vessels. Although the
began by chartering sailing vessels, by 1880 the age of the steamship
clearly begun.  In 1881 the partnership
of Fearnley & Eger established the Christiania Steamship Company
which contracted
for two newbuildings at the Kockums shipyard in Malmø.
Over time Fearnley & Eger became a ship-owning
company and invested in more and more units. The company engaged in
both liner
and tramp activities and survived the two world wars.

In addition to these ship-owning activities,
the firm continued to engage in developing its skills in the area of
services, primarily in dry cargo ship-broking. As the tanker industry
to develop at the beginning of the 20th century, Fearnleys became
involved here.  Later on,
when the transportation of gas by sea became an important area of
Fearnleys developed a broking department which specialized in this new

The company became involved
in car carrier transportation in the 1960s, offshore and rig broking in
1970s, coinciding with the onset of the development of the Norwegian
continental shelf offshore oil fields, and energy trading and financial
services in the 1980s.

Today the Astrup
Fearnley Group is a leading, independent and global provider of
research, financial and advisory services to investors and companies
in the maritime industries.

John Fearnley and the 1932 Arley Coal Mining Disaster.  One of the early volunteers of the rescue workers,
John Fearnley aged
25 years, a collier of Old Road in Ashton-in-Makerfield in Lancashire,
had an
amazing escape.  He had rushed from the
Arley mine when news of the disaster spread.  When
the first volunteers retreated from a
wall of gas it was discovered that he was missing.  His
family was waiting at the pit head. He was
last seen in the early hours of Sunday morning.

the day wore on it was four o’clock when
the news came that Fearnley had been discovered alive.
A doctor
went down the pit and took a bottle of brandy and the
took Fearnley to Wigan infirmary.

appeared that he went to the scene of the explosion and was overcome by
gas and became unconscious.  He
remembered nothing more until he found he was sitting up against a pit
with the debris of the roof around him. But he
was too weak to move and it was very quiet in this region of the

saw a glimmer of lamps and his
sprits rose. He called as loudly as he could in his enfeebled state and
rescued.  At the infirmary he had little
recollection of what had happened.

Duncan Fearnley and His Cricket Bats.  Duncan Fearnley was born in 1940 in the cricket hotbed
of Pudsey in Yorkshire.   His
father was a woodwork teacher and his
grandfather a cabinet maker who had worked with the grandfather of the
cricket captain Ray Illingworth.  So it
seemed destined that this young Yorkshire cricketer would also follow a
woodworking career.

In 1955 he had just
played for England Schoolboys and hoped for a career in professional
cricket.  However, during the winter months
he needed
to supplement his income.

decided he wanted to make bats.  Within
the boundaries of Yorkshire there were many small bat-makers. Duncan was fortunate to get an apprenticeship
with Senior Counties of
and made bats whenever he could around his cricket commitments.  The first bats he made were branded Tudor Rose, but soon they became known
as Fearnley of Farsley. In the winter
months Duncan would sell these bats onto his friends to supplement his

In the early 1970’s, as his cricket
career was
phasing down, Fearnley established his
highly successful bat-manufacturing company.
He got many of his ex-playing colleagues and opponents to use
products and built up the brand around these friends.  By the
early 1980’s
Fearnley had become the dominant brand within the market throughout the
world.  At that time it seemed that
everyone was using
or wearing its 3 wicket symbol.

the brand still operates from its Worcester base, with the factory
there producing
by hand up to 5,000 bats per year.


Fearnley Names

  • Thomas Fearnley was the founder of the Fearnley shipping
    business in Norway in 1869. 
  • Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is a British chef and food campaigner, best known for
    his River Cottage TV series and brand. 
  • Kurt Fearnley from the Australian outback was a three-time Paralympic marathon gold medallist in the early 2000’s.

Select Fearnley Numbers Today

  • 2,500 in the UK (most numerous
    in Yorkshire)
  • 800 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)


Select Fearnley and Like Surnames

Many surnames have come from Yorkshire.  These are some of the noteworthy surnames that you can check out.




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