Fowler Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Fowler Meaning
surname Fowler is believed to have come from the Old English fugal meaning “fowl” and fugelere,
a hunter of wild
birds. In the medieval period a fowler
would have been an important position and all major houses would have
employed one.
name of Richard Fugelere appeared as a witness in
Lancashire’s assize courts in 1218. But
the Fowler spelling had taken hold by 1300.

Fowler Resources on

Fowler Ancestry

first Fowler

of record was Richard
Fowler of Foxley
in Buckinghamshire.
He accompanied
the Lionhearted to Palestine in 1191 and was rewarded for his valor
with lands
and a coat of arms.

The subsequent
line would seem to have gone via Reginaldus le Fowler, who was recorded
in Shryvenham,
in 1301, and later onto:

  • Sir
    William Fowler, who lived in Rycote, Oxfordshire. He was granted
    Preston Manor in Buckinghamshire for his services to King Edward IV and
    he died there in
  • his
    son Sir Richard Fowler, who was the Chancellor of the Exchequer under
    Edward IV
    in 1469 (although his son, known as “Sir Richard the Foolish,” was a
    great spendthrift and lost most of the family estates).
  • and
    later Fowlers who resided at Harnage Grange in Shropshire.

Sir Richard the elder died in 1477,
he left money for a monk to sing a daily service at St. Dunstan’s
chapel in
Westminster Abbey “where my father lies buried.”

Fowler name cropped up in Islington, then a village outside London, in
Tudor times. Thomas Fowler, a merchant
in Calais when it was still in English hands, acquired Barnesbury Manor
1542. Queen Elizabeth seems to have been
partial to Islington and made frequent visits to the Fowler home there. The male line died out in 1656 and the manor
passed to Sir Thomas Fisher who had married the heiress Sarah.

Fowlers in Gloucestershire were:

  • the
    Fowlers of Bisley, starting with
    Thomas Fowler who was born there around 1520. One
    line of this family moved to Derbyshire and then, with Deacon John
    Fowler, crossed
    the Atlantic
    to Connecticut in the 1640’s.
  • the
    Fowlers of Stroudwater who prospered in the local cloth
    industry. Richard Fowler was a clothier
    who took a lease on a mill at Stonehouse in 1533. These
    Fowlers remained clothiers there until
    the late 18th century.
  • and
    the learned printer John
    Fowler, born in Bristol in 1537, who opposed the Protestant tendencies
    England and took his press to Antwerp to aid the Catholic cause.

The later distribution
of the Fowler surname
showed it widely spread, but with
three concentrations – one
around London in the southeast, a second in the southwest with
Gloucestershire prominent, and a third around
Yorkshire and

Robert Fowler was a
Protestant clergyman from Lincolnshire who settled in Ireland in the
1760’s and
became the Archbishop of Dublin. His
son, also named Robert, was Bishop of Ossory.
A later Robert of this family, born in Meath, earned schoolboy
for his all-round performance in the 1910 Eton vs. Harrow cricket match
came to be known as Fowler’s match.

Scotland. The Fowler name
extended into Scotland, mainly on the East Coast from
Edinburgh to Aberdeen. The early
spelling was Foular:

  • John Foular was an Edinburgh notary who kept the town
    records from 1500 to 1534 in his Protocol
    . Then there was William Fowler, a prominent merchant
    and burgess who lived around that time at Foular’s or
    Fowler’s Close, now Anchor Close. His
    son is thought to have been the poet and courtier William Fowler.
  • David
    Foular’s birth was recorded in Nigg,
    in 1686. One Fowler line has been traced from the
    of William and Isobel Fowler there in 1751.

In 1657
Robert Fowler
from Bridlington in Yorkshire led the second party of Quakers to
Massachusetts. He departed London for America with eleven Quakers
on his small sloop the Woodhouse,
with few of them having any experience of sailing. Remarkably
they all landed safely on Long Island only
a few miles from their intended destination and moved up the coast to
the Quaker safe haven in Rhode Island.

Another Fowler arrival in Rhode Island was Henry Fowler from Rutland
who had come in 1653 and married Rebecca Newell in Providence two years
later. Their son William was in Queens, Long Island
in New York state by 1680 and later moved to Westchester

In the early 1700’s there was an Indian at Montauk, Long Island by the
name of James Fowler. A descendant David Fowler was one of
the founders of Brothertown in Oneida county, New York in 1775.
By the time of the Revolutionary War, Fowlers in America were most
numerous in New York state. Sylvanus Fowler, born in Newburgh,
migrated to Tennessee in the 1790’s.

Many Fowlers entered America via Virginia. Among the early
arrivals were:

  • Francis Fowler who came with Captain Roger Smith in 1622 as a
    young lad and survived the massacre in Jamestown the following
    But he was dead by about 1640.
  • and the Quaker John Fowler from Wiltshire who came on the Hopewell in 1662 and settled in
    Henrico county. His line has been covered in Grover P.
    Fowler’s 1940 book The
    House of Fowler

Joyce’s 1991 book Annals of the
Fowler Family
traced early Fowlers in Virginia and the lines of
Joseph Fowler in North Carolina and Godfrey Fowler in Kentucky.

New Zealand. John
Fowler had been a policeman in Ramsbury, Wiltshire.
It was said that when he had to arrest some
striking farm workers, he decided to resign from the force rather than
them to Tasmania as their jailer. Instead
he departed for New Zealand with his family, arriving there in 1842. They were one of the early settlers at Riwaka
Nelson. Their young son George, born in
New Zealand, was drowned in the Riwaka river in 1848.
But the rest of the family survived. John
lived onto 1888.


Fowler Miscellany

Richard Fowler at the Third Crusade.  Richard Fowler of Foxley accompanied King Richard the Lion
Hearted to Palestine in 1191 during the Third Crusade.
He took with him and maintained during this
crusade a body of British bowmen, all of whom were his own tenants at
Foxley estate in Buckinghamshire.

It was during this crusade that the Fowler
coat of arms came into existence.   At
Acre, a crucial stage had been reached in the campaign when the enemy
the Crusader camp one night.  Richard
Fowler and his skilled bowmen were keeping watch and, through their
fighting, held the enemy at bay until the rest of the army had been
thus saving the forces of King Richard from destruction.
In reward for his service Richard Fowler was
created a nobleman and received with this honor a large grant of land
and the
privilege of a coat-of-arms.

The Fowler coat bears a helmet of silver,
representing nobility; above the helmet is a wreath – symbol of
chivalry, the
emblem presented the favorite knight by a lance during a tournament. 

Fowlers in the 1881 UK Census

County Numbers (000’s) Percent
Yorkshire    2.2    13
London    2.1    12
Lancashire    1.7    10
Surrey    0.8     5
Gloucestershire    0.7     4
Elsewhere    9.6 56
Total   17.1   100

Fowler’s Match.  In 1910 public school
cricket in England was important, no more so than the annual match
between the two elite schools, Eton and Harrow, held at the home of
cricket, Lord’s in London.

Playing in this
particular two-day match was one who would later become a Field Marshal
(Alexander), another an Air Vice-Marshal (Blount), and a third an
Attorney General (Moncton), together with various sons of
But it was another schoolboy playing in the match, Robert St. Leger
Fowler, who would become famous for what he did.

He dominated with
both bat and ball, as the scores below suggest:

232 (Fowler 4-90) and 45 (Fowler 8-23)
lost to
Eton 64 (Fowler 21) and 219 (Fowler 64)
nine runs.

However, these simple facts do not show the drama of the occasion. 
Eton appeared to be losing when they were required to follow on and
were  subsequently 65-5.  But Fowler’s innings rallied the
side and they ended their second innings 55 runs ahead.  It was
Fowler’s sensational bowling figures of 8-23 which saw Eton squeeze
home by nine runs.  When the last wicket went down, it was said
that the cheering from St. John’s Wood could be heard as far away as
London Zoo in Regent’s Park and Paddington Station.

After the match, the cricket journal Wisden
exclaimed: “In the whole history of cricket, there has been nothing
more sensational;” while The Times
opined: “A more exciting match can hardly ever have been played.”

For Fowler, everything afterwards in his life was anticlimax.  He
fought in the trenches during World War One, but died an early death of
leukemia at the age of 34 in 1925.

Robert Fowler’s Voyage on the Woodhouse.  In 1659 Robert Fowler penned a narrative of his voyage on the Woodhouse with eleven other
Quakers from Yorkshire to Long Island two years earlier.  He
described the voyage as follows:

“A true relation of the voyage
undertaken by me Robert Fowler, with my small vessel called the Woodhouse, but performed by the
Lord, like He did Noah’s Ark wheri He shut up a few righteous persons
and landed them safe, even at the hill Ararat.”

Of the eleven who crossed the Atlantic, five of them landed at New
Amsterdam on June 1 after a voyage from London of two months.  The
rest left New Amsterdam in Robert Fowler’s vessel on June 3 and,
passing through Long Island Sound, reached Newport, Rhode Island safely.

The House of Fowler.  Grover P. Fowler’s 1940 book The
House of Fowler
. covered the descendants of John Fowler from
Wiltshire who came on the Hopewell
in 1662 and settled in Henrico county, Virginia.

The table of contents of this book reads as follows:

Chapter I. The Fowlers and their name

Chapter II. John Fowler, the first in America

Chapter III. Descendants of John Fowler, oldest son of Godfrey Fowler

Chapter IV. Descendants of Mark Fowler, son of Godfrey Fowler

Chapter V. Descendants of Richard Fowler, son of Mark Fowler

Chapter VI. Godfrey Fowler, the second, and his descendants

Chapter VII. Thomas Fowler, son of Godfrey Fowler the second

Chapter VIII. Richard Fowler, son of Godfrey Fowler, the second

Chapter IX. John Fowler, son of Richard Fowler of Laurens, S. C.

Chapter X. Francis Fowler, son of Godfrey Fowler, the second

Chapter XI. Capt. Moses T. Fowler of Greenville County, South Carolina

Chapter XII. William Perry Fowler of Spartanburg County, South Carolina

Chapter XIII. Fairview Presbyterian Church and history of Spartanburg County, South Carolina

Chapter XIV. Thomas Fowler of Spartanburg County, S.C. and Cobb County, Ga

Chapter XV. Nicey Fowler Peden Family, and her son, Mark Simpson Peden

Chapter XVI. Mark Fowler Family of Cobb County, Ga., and the Cassandra Fowler Cooper Family of Laurens, Greenville and Spartanburg Counties, S.C., and the Aris Fowler Family

Chapter XVII. America Fowler and Cynthia Eliza Fowler Wallace Families

Chapter XVIII. History of Greenville County, S.C.

Chapter XIX. Descendants of Joseph Fowler of Wake County, North Carolina

Chapter XX. Godfrey Fowler of Wake County North Carolina

Chapter XXI. Descendants of Bullard and Bathsheba Crudup Fowler of Carroll County, Tenn., and William and Mourning Crudup Fowler of Wake County, North Carolina

Chapter XXII. Descendants of Joseph Fowler of Wake County, North Carolina and Greene County, Tenn.

Chapter XXIII. Miscellaneous Fowler records, including those of William Fowler of Laurens, S.C., and Joshua Fowler of Laurens County, S.C. Records of Richmond and Bedford Counties, Virginia

Chapter XXIV. Records of Alexander Fowler of Goochland, Va., and Sherwood Fowler of Amelia County, Va. and Marshall County, Tenn.


Fowler Names

  • Richard Fowler of Foxley was an English commanding officer in Palestine
    in the 1190’s during the Third Crusade. 
  • Henry Watson Fowler was an early 20th
    century writer on English usage, best known for his A
    Dictionary of Modern English Usage. 
  • Henry Fowler was US Secretary of the Treasury from 1965 to 1968 under the Johnson administration.
  • Kevin Fowler is better known as the actor Kevin Spacey (his
    grandmother’s maiden name)

Select Fowler Numbers Today

  • 29,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Yorkshire)
  • 37,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 24,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)


Select Fowler and Like Surnames

These were status positions within the feudal position of that time – usually positions serving noble families, lords of the manor, or in the church.  Here are some of these status position surnames that you can check out.





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