Fearnley Surname Genealogy

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

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:

Fearnley Names

Thomas Fearnley was the founder of the Fearnley shipping
business in Norway in 1869.
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 200

Select Fearnleys Today

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




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