Fletcher Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Fletcher Meaning
The game of bowls was banned by Edward III and later by Henry VIII
because it “distracted bowyers, fletchers, stringers, and arrowhead
makers from their trades and diverted the nation’s bowmen from archery
Bowyers and fletchers were considered skilled jobs and they were
generally paid at the same rate as archers. They would accompany
the army on the march. Fletchers would have to maintain arrows
and keep them usable and ready for battle at all times. And they
had their own guild in London, the Worshipful Company of Fletchers.
All the medieval trades relating to archery ended up becoming
surnames (Bowyer, Fletcher, Stringer, and Arrowsmith), none more so
than Fletcher. The usually accepted origin of Fletcher is from
the old French word fleche,
meaning “arrow,” introduced into England at the time of the Norman
Conquest. However, Fletcher might have had other origins as well,
either from the old German name Fulcher
or from the occupational “flesher,” someone who cleaned animal skins in
order to prepare the leather.
The words de la flechiere
mean “archer” in French Swiss and this name could become Fletcher in
English (as with the early Methodist preacher from Switzerland, John

Resources on

Fletcher Ancestry

Wales. It was the Welsh
longbow archer who was instrumental in the English victories of Crecy
and Agincourt and hence many fletchers at that time came from south
Wales. There were references to Fletcher as a surname in Cardiff
during the 16th century when surnames were beginning to take root in

One Fletcher family traces its history back to the late
18th century in Cardiff. Philip Fletcher was baptized at St.
Fagans in 1795 and his descendants have begun to hold annual reunions.

The first record of a notable Fletcher family in England was in Bishop
Stortford, Hertfordshire where the clergyman
Richard Fletcher lost his job in
1554 because he had married. A later Richard was chaplain to
Queen Elizabeth. One of his sons was the Jacobean playwright John
Fletcher and two of his nephews, the poets Giles and Phineas Fletcher.

However, Fletcher has been much more a northern English name.

Cheshire A
Fletcher family has been prominent in Cheshire since the 16th century
and probably from an earlier date. John Fletcher purchased the Chester Chronicle in 1783 and it
stayed with his family until the 1960’s. Another John Fletcher
was chief engineer for the Chester canal in the early

Fletchers in Cumbria have been traced to
Fletcher of Cockermouth in the early 16th century. These
Fletchers, well-to-do
merchants of their time, lived at Cockermouth Hall. Fletcher
, who led the mutiny on the Bounty, grew up in this area.

Larger numbers of Fletchers were and are to be found in the county of
Lancashire, in particular in the Liverpool area. A Fletcher
family lived in the West Derby district of Liverpool from the 1500’s
and Fletchers were active in the slave trade out of
Liverpool from the
early 1700’s. Later Fletcher enterprises in Liverpool showed some
successes and some failures:

  • Jacob Fletcher, a descendant of
    the Cockermouth Fletchers, arrived in Liverpool in 1760 and made a lot
    of money as a free-booting privateer. His son built Allerton
    House in south Liverpool in 1815 on the proceeds and this house stayed
    with the family until 1944.
  • Thomas Fletcher, born in 1767,
    came from a family of hatters in Liverpool. He was apprenticed to
    a Jamaica merchant and then joined a bank where he later became a
    principal. Unfortunately, he and the bank were declared bankrupt
    in 1834.
  • James Fletcher was a prosperous
    Liverpool merchant in the second half of the 19th century. He had
    arrived from Scotland as James Jack and legally changed his name to
    Fletcher in 1855.

Elsewhere in Lancashire, the Fletcher name appeared in Burnley records
from the early 1600’s and in Rochdale and Bury records from the
early-to-mid 1700’s. There were Fletchers in coal mining
in Bolton

(where their presence went back to the 16th century) and in Denton in
south Lancashire (where they had been landowners).

Scotland. Fletcher was
anglicized form of the old Scottish clan Mac-an-Leister
who came from Glenorchy in Argyllshire. The clan held this land
with the MacGregors until the 17th century when it was taken from them
by the Campbells. After that time a number of subsidiary Fletcher
lines emerged in different places nearby:

  • the Fletchers of Dunans (the
    main line), who held property in the Cowal
  • the Fletchers of Bernice
  • the Fletchers of Inveroran
  • the Fletchers of Barran
  • the Fletchers of Tyndrum
  • and the Fletchers of Pubil (including Dickens’ friend Angus Fletcher)

A different line, originating probably from Yorkshire in England, were
the Fletchers of Saltoun in East Lothian. They produced Andrew
Fletcher, the noted Scottish patriot:

“Andrew Fletcher lived a life full of
incident. Perhaps that is putting it too mildly for a man who
fought in Monmouth’s Rebellion, was attainted for treason and sentenced
in absentia to be executed,
was imprisoned in Spain but escaped in mysterious circumstances, fought
his way around most of Europe, was pardoned by William of Orange and
restored to his Scottish estates and to his seat in the Scottish
parliament. Today Fletcher is remembered for his unflagging
opposition to the Treaty of Union in 1707.”

The history of the Fletcher clan in Scotland and its various branches
is to be found in Margaret Mason’s 1973 book, An Ancient Scottish Clan: The Fletchers of

There still remains a number of Fletchers in Argyllshire. But the
19th century saw a drift south to Glasgow and significant emigration.

America. Moses Fletcher
was onboard the Mayflower.
However, he died during the first winter and left no family in
America. Later came Benjamin Fletcher. But he didn’t
stay. A freewheeling soldier
of fortune, he had somehow been appointed Governor of New York in
1692. During his tenure he was in cahoots with the pirates of his
time, Tew and Captain Kidd, until he was eventually ousted in

Robert Fletcher
did leave a family. He had come to Concord, Massachusetts in 1635
and his
descendants have spread
across New England and elsewhere. A booklet, Historical Sketches of the Fletcher Family
by Edward H. Fletcher, was published in 1878 at the time of
their second family reunion (at which time there were an estimated
8,000 descendants recorded).

One line of this Fletcher family went through Calvin
Fletcher who brought his family to Indiana in 1821 and was one of its
pioneer settlers. His brother
Stoughton started the Fletcher Bank there, which grew into an national
bank by
1900. However, the next generation of Fletchers dissipated

Calvin’s brother was Elijah Fletcher, who bought the Sweet Briar
plantation in Virginia in the early 1830’s. Prior to emancipation this
plantation had between 80 and 100 slaves, including James and Lavinia
Fletcher who were married there in 1855. The descendants of their
son Patrick hold a reunion at the slave cemetery every year where they
remember the enslaved relatives buried long ago.

Canada. Early Fletchers
in Canada were probably Loyalists or Loyalist sympathizers, such as
John and Elizabeth Fletcher from New Hampshire who crossed the border
into Ontario sometime in the 1790’s. John and Alexander Fletcher
– originally from Scotland – crossed over a little later and were to be
found in Elizabethtown, Ontario in 1801.

Subsequent Fletchers came from both England and Scotland:

  • three brothers from England – William, John, and Dickson – arrived in
    Toronto around 1820 and then set out for Tecumseh township where they
    were among the first settlers. Fletcher House, built there in
    1849, still stands.
  • Francis Fletcher came with his parents to
    Nassagaweya, Ontario in 1825 (he later was an Oregon pioneer).
  • and various Fletchers from Scotland settled in Dunvegan,

South Africa. Patrick
Fletcher was one of the many Jura Fletchers who emigrated from Scotland
in the 19th century. He arrived in Cape colony in the 1850’s and
later became a surveyor and mining commissioner in Naquamaland.
Mount Fletcher on the Eastern Cape was named after him. Later
Fletchers were to be found in Rhodesia as it was then
called, as
as in South Africa.

New Zealand. James
Fletcher came to Dunedin from Scotland in 1908 and started up a
building business with his brother William. This business grew to
be Fletcher Construction, one of New Zealand’s largest companies.


Fletcher Miscellany

The Worshipful Company of Fletchers.  The earliest mention of the Worshipful Company of Fletchers was in 1371
when the fletchers presented a petition to the Lord Mayor of London –
where they agreed that, for the common good, the two trades of fletcher
(maker of arrows) and bowyer (maker of longbows) should be kept
entirely separate and that no man of one trade should do the other
(under a penalty of £4).

The longbow was primarily responsible for the English victories at
Crecy in 1346 and at Agincourt in 1415 and fletchers were kept busy
with the supply of arrows for the Hundred Years War in France and the
Wars of the Roses in England.  By the time of Henry VIII the
Fletchers Company had a hall in St. Mary Axe in London.

Fletchers of Dunans.  It was Archibald Fletcher who purchased the property known as Dunans in
Glendaruel in the early 1700’s and became one of the leading landowners
of the Cowal in Argyllshire.  He was known among his contemporaries as Gillesp-na-Crannaich or simply as
Gillesp.  He was good friends with Rob Roy with whom he had many

In 1745 Gillesp sent as substitute the poet Duncan Ban
to fight on his behalf for Bonnie Prince Charlie.  He also
entrusted with him his ancient claymore which was lost in the heat of
battle.  Duncan later wrote his Gaelic Song to the Sword of Fletcher,
which included the following (translated) verse:

“Then when I had homeward wended
To Gillespie of the Old Wood,
There he raged as savage-minded
As a gray brock in his hold would;
At that time he was right sorry
Weapon to draw he none at hand had,
At his loss great was the worry,
The heirloom claymore of his granddad.”

Angus, known as Aonghas Mor (Angus the great), was the
eldest son of Archibald.

“He was a gentleman, one of the most hospitable in the
West Highlands, and a man of great physical strength.  It was told
that while branding cattle, which were semi-wild highland beasts, one
of them broke loose.  Angus struggled to overcome the animal which
he held for a while by the hind leg.  The steer, however, left
Angus on the ground and jumped over the stone wall of the
enclosure.  When his brother scorned him for releasing the animal,
Angus simply replied by holding out the hoof of the beast.”

Aonghas Mor died in 1807 at the age of eighty

Angus Fletcher – Mr. Kindheart.  Angus Fletcher had a short career as a sculptor in which
he was moderately successful.  In the 1830’s he exhibited various
works at the Royal Academy, including a bust of the writer Charles
Dickens.  He and Dickens in fact struck up a friendship which was
to last the rest of his life.

Angus acted as a guide and companion to Dickens on a tour
of the Highlands in 1841.  Dickens wrote in one of his letters

“We are now in a bare white house on the banks of Loch
Leven.  A most infernal piper is practicing under the window for a
competition of pipers which is to come off shortly.  The store of
anecdotes of Fletcher with which we shall return will last a long
time.  It seems that the Fletchers are an extensive clan and that
his father was a Highlander.  Accordingly, wherever he goes, he
finds out some cotter or small farmer who is his cousin.”

The two also met in Italy three years later where Angus
was helpful to Dickens again.  Dickens in his letters referred to
him as “Mr. Kindheart” and expressed great sorrow when he heard of his
friend’s death in Leeds in 1862 after he had collapsed at the railway
station there.

Fletcher Christian’s Ancestry.  The line starts with William Fletcher of Cockermouth who died in 1540.  He it was who bought Cockermouth Hall.  It then continues as follows:

– son Henry, who offered refuge to Mary Queen of Scots during her
retreat into England.  He died in 1576.

– son Thomas, who married Jane Bullen.  He died in 1603.

– son Philip, who married Ellen Knipe.

– son John, who was MP for Appleby in 1680.

– son Richard, who was the last Fletcher at Cockermouth Hall.

– son Major Philip Fletcher, who died in 1744.

– son John Fletcher, who married Mary Christian and was the ancestor of Fletcher Christian.

Fletcher Christian was born in Cockermouth in
1764.  After his mother fell into debt they
moved to her family’s home on the Isle of Man.  Fletcher left
there at the age of
sixteen to join the navy.

Caleb Fletcher Recruiting for Seamen.  Caleb Fletcher was a Liverpool slave trader and privateer.  In 1779 he was recruiting
for seamen with the following poster:


Now fitting out to cruise for three months and then to proceed to Montego Bay in Jamaica where she will be immediately laden,
The ship Jamaica
Caleb Fletcher of Liverpool, Commander,
mounts eighteen six-pounders, with cohorns and swivels; carries 120 men
and is most completely fitted up for their accommodation, and has a
safe protection.
All brave seamen and landmen, who are willing to enter, are desired to
apply to Capt. Fletcher (at Mr. Joseph Fletcher’s in Whitehaven), who
will give them the greatest encouragement.
One fourth part of all the prizes to be divided among the crew.
Gos save the King and success to the Jamaica!”

The Double-Jointed Fletchers.  In 1737 a baby named John Fletcher was christened in
Burnley, Lancashire.  He married a local girl and they went on to
have several children.  This John must have owned the genetic
make-up for “double-jointedness” or hypermobility of the joints
(whereby the range of joint movement can be nearly double that of a
normal joint.  This trait is inherited in a direct line from
parent to child.  And such has been the case with John Fletcher
and his descendants.

Many of these double-jointed Fletchers have continued to live in and
around the Burnley area.  One line did move to Manchester and
another to the East End of London.  There are at least eight
hypermobile Fletcher children in London that are direct descendants of
the John Fletcher of Burnley.

Fletchers of Bolton.  A  greater contrast between grandfather and grandson
would be hard to find.

Colonel Ralph Fletcher was a suppressor of civil rights movements and
one of the magistrates whose decisions led to the Peterloo massacre in

Grandson Herbert was a mining engineer and colliery owner
who was mourned by rich and poor alike after his premature death in
1895 at the age of fifty three.   A man of infinite charm,
he enjoyed a reputation as an unusually considerate coalmine
It was his zest for life, however, which led to his early death:

“Entering Ladyshore colliery yard one morning, he saw a
bicycle leaning against a wall and said he would take a ride.
Before he had gone very far he was heard to say something about being
short of breath.  He then fell to the ground and died soon
afterwards.  Fletcher’s pet dog, a constant companion, stood by
his master and would not leave the body.”

The Fall of the House of Fletcher.  The Fletcher American National Bank had gone through a merger
and as a result had become the largest national bank in Indiana.
This gave Stoughton Fletcher the financial wherewithal to build Laurel
Hall.  The mansion was built upon 1,500 acres of farmland and
woods outside Indianapolis and was named after his mother.  It was
completed in 1916 at a cost of $2.1 million.

This opulent family home showcased his personal taste for the
extravagant.  Undoubtedly it led to a great deal of gossip, some
of it far-fetched.  With his hobby of horse breeding and
reportedly using “a cement mixer to make martinis,” Fletcher had a wide
reputation beyond the banking world, a reputation which contrasted with
the staid legacy of his father and grandfather.

However, financial problems were around the corner.  During World
War One, the Government needed turbine engines, to which Fletcher
responded with his own assets.  Fletcher expected to turn a profit
from his consolidation of two companies to facilitate the expedient
production of the engines.  But the end of the war halted the need
for his product.

By 1923, the Fletcher fortune had been decimated.  Stoughton
resigned as President of the Fletcher American National Bank and
relinquished all ties to the bank.  One year later, he declared
bankruptcy, with assets of $481.39 to his name while owing
$1,763,602.54.  Meanwhile, the Fletcher American National Bank
took ownership of Laurel Hall, selling it in 1925 to the Sisters of
Providence who opened Ladywood; a Catholic, all-girls boarding school.

Personal tragedy also hit the family.  Stoughton’s wife May took
her own life in 1921.  The event was the banner headline
of the Indianapolis News on March 23, 1921, a sad reminder of
the enormous influence of the Fletchers in Indianapolis.  And his
eldest son “Bruz,” a nightclub singer in Hollywood, also killed himself
some twenty years later.  The man who built and lost Laurel Hall
along with a banking fortune, Stoughton A. Fletcher, lived on and died
of natural causes in 1957.

Reader Feedback – Angus Fletcher from Scotland to Canada.  I have been working on my genealogy since a few years now and know my one great great great grandfather came from Scotland in 1802 with the MacMillan delegation, apparently from Lochaber in Invernesshire to Canada.  I have his land grant information in Quebec.

I was wondering do you have any towns or locations that they have record of his coming to Canada.  I still haven’t found a Angus that left Scotland at this time on a ship called Friends.  He is not listed unless he was a worker on the ship or came under another family name.

I have information that a relative that he came to Canada via the USA, but maybe this is not my direct line.  All my cousins here are much older than me and I am trying to locate our Scotland location before everyone leaves us.  Best Regards

Faye Fletcher-Zsadany (fzsadany@icloud.com)

Annie Fletcher’s Journey to Bulawayo.  In 1894 Robert Fletcher moved to Bulawayo and with his elder brother
Patrick founded the firm of Fletcher and Espin, government
surveyors.  His wife Annie remained in Pretoria until 1895, when
she made a nightmarish journey to join her husband with two of her
sons, one of whom was a mere babe in arms.

The trip was made by mule coach and the passengers had to endure bumpy
roads, terrific storms and floods, even having to travel on foot at
times when the coach had to contend with especially difficult
conditions. Annie had a small stock of condensed milk for the baby
which proved invaluable, as no fresh milk was obtainable on the journey.

At one point the coach had to make a particularly hazardous river
crossing and, to the consternation of the passengers, it became stuck
in the swirling waters.  A boat had to be sent to rescue
them.  With much difficulty they scrambled out of the coach
windows and into the little craft which in turn stuck in the sand some
little way from the river bank.   They were lifted out by
natives and dumped in the sand to struggle up as best they might.

Miraculously almost, the trip to Bulawayo was eventually completed and
Mrs. Annie Fletcher was deservedly acclaimed later in her life as
having been one of the true pioneers of the country.


Select Fletcher Names

  • John Fletcher was the noted Jacobean
    playwright who followed Shakespeare as playwright for the King’s Men.
  • Andrew Fletcher was the
    Scottish patriot who fought the Treaty of Union with England in 1707.
  • John William Fletcher was a
    contemporary of Wesley and one of Methodism’s first great theologians.
  • John Gould Fletcher was a
    Pulitzer prize winning poet and author from Little Rock, Arkansas.
  • Harvey Fletcher was the
    American physicist credited with the invention of the hearing aid.
  • Sir James Fletcher was the
    founder of Fletcher Construction, one of New Zealand’s largest firms.

Select Fletcher Numbers

  • 60,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Lancashire)
  • 31,000 in America (most numerous
    in Texas).
  • 30,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia).


Select Fletcher and Like Surnames   

The various medieval trades and occupations were a source of surnames as John the baker would over time would become known as John Baker.  Some skilled craftsmen – such as chandlers, fletchers and turners – were able to form guilds, protective organizations, and style themselves Worshipful Companies.  These are some of the occupational surnames that you can check out.




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