Fuller Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Fuller Meaning
The name Fuller comes from the wool trade. The raw cloth had to
be “fulled” – i.e. scoured and thickened by being in water – a process
known as walking because it was originally done by men trampling in a
Both Walker and Fuller appeared as surnames, Walker in
Yorkshire and the northeast and Fuller in the southeast. The
greater importance of the wool trade in the northeast has meant that
Walker is now the much more common surname.

Select Fuller Resources on The Internet

Select Fuller Ancestry

England. The Fuller
surname first appeared in Kent and is mainly to be found in East
Sussex, Kent,
and East Anglia
. Fuller emerged as a surname in the
1500’s in the wool trade around Tenterden in Kent and in the wool towns
of south Suffolk.

East Sussex. A
Fuller family can be traced back to the early 1500’s in East
This Fuller family found another and more lucrative occupation than
wool-making. The rich woodlands of
the Weald provided a valuable if wasteful resource for

From the 1690’s, John Fuller was the iron master at
Heathfield where cannon was made for the Royal Navy. The family
invested their profits in sugar plantations in Jamaica. However,
are probably best remembered for “Mad Jack” Fuller who blew most
of his
inheritance away in the early 1800’s by a series of follies that he
built in Sussex around Brightling.

Elsewhere. The
Fullers also produced Catholic-leaning clergymen. John Fuller
was merciless in hounding out heretics in Norfolk during the bloody
reign of Queen
Mary. William Fuller, the Dean of Ely, and Thomas Fuller, the
church historian, trod a more dangerous line during Civil War
times. However, we find another Fuller on the other side.
Nicholas Fuller was a radical Puritan lawyer of the early 1600’s who
fought against the entrenched powers of the church courts in his

A Fuller family from Wiltshire invested in a new brewery venture in
London in 1829. That brewery was and is still Fuller’s brewery,
makers of London’s Pride.
The family home remains at Neston Park near Corsham where they recently
opened an organic food shop. The estate itself has period charm
and has been used in many TV productions.

America. Fullers came
early to America.

New England Samuel Fuller
from Redenhall
near Harleston in
Norfolk was in
fact on board the Mayflower.
His descendants seem noted through their many branches for their
longevity and their large familiies (they included Melville Fuller who
rose to become Chief Justice of the United States in 1888). Other
early Fuller immigrants were:

  • his brother Edward (also on the Mayflower)
  • John and Elizabeth Fuller (on
    the Abigail)
  • Robert Fuller who
    settled in Salem,
  • and Thomas Fuller who arrived in 1638 and settled in Woburn.

The Rev. Timothy Fuller, born in 1707, was ordained as the first
minister of Princeton, Massachusetts, but was later dismissed because
of his anti-slavery views (although he was said to have owned slaves at
one time). He and his wife had ten children.

They included
Elizabeth Fuller, whose diary of rural life in Massachusetts at that
time has been handed down, and Timothy Fuller who became a US
Congressman in the early 1800’s. Timothy’s daughter Margaret was,
in the 19th century, an early advocate of women’s rights.
Also in this family line were that American genius, Buckminster Fuller,
and the founder of the Seattle Art Museum, Richard Fuller.

Not all of these Fullers stayed in Massachusetts. Ferdinand
Fuller from Worcester had led a pioneer group of abolitionists to
Kansas in 1854 to try and keep this new state a free state. He
was an architect and designed the first buildings for the University of
Kansas. Another early settler was Perry Fuller, an Indian
contractor who set up a profitable trading post at Quenemo.

Fullers in the South
The first appears to be
Ezekiel Fuller
who was born in the Virginia tidewater region in
1675 (a book by Grady P. Fuller, Ezekiel
Fuller and Some of His Descendants

written in 1987, narrated the history of this line). Two
brothers, Henry and Nehemiah Fuller, left Maryland for North Carolina
in the 1740’s. Their descendants are to be found in North
Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee.

One unusual Fuller ancestry was that of Solomon Fuller. His
grandfather John Lewis Fuller, born a slave in Virginia, had been able
to buy his freedom and move his family to Liberia. Solomon
returned in 1895 for his medical studies. He was a professor at
the Boston University School of Medicine for many years and became the
first practicing African American psychiatrist.

Today, American Fullers
outnumber English Fullers by some margin. They are probably
augmented by Fullers from Germany and
French Fourniers anglicized to Fuller.

Canada. A Fuller family
in Nova Scotia dates back to the 1760’s and a merchant,
William Fuller. One of his descendants was Alfred Fuller, the
founder of the Fuller Brush Company. Thomas Fuller came to
Toronto in the 1850’s and became the town’s leading architect.
His family-run business still thrives.

South Africa. Henry and
Susannah Fuller from London were among the first band of English
settlers to the Cape Colony in 1820. They were British loyalists
during the Boer War. Kathleen Bell (nee Fuller), who lived to see
a hundred, recorded her reminiscences of early Johannesburg at the turn
of the century. However, eighty years later when Alexandria Fuller
was writing, southern Africa was very different.

New Zealand. John Fuller
had arrived in Auckland from Kent in the 1850’s. A little later,
Frederick Fuller, who had left his native Suffolk for Australia in
1849, reached Christchurch. There he discovered his true metier,
taxidermy. As a taxidermist he delighted in all the new specimens
that New Zealand had to offer.

The Fuller theatrical family moved from
London to New Zealand in the 1890’s. Their eldest son Benjamin
developed the Fuller theater circuit which, expanding as New Zealand’s
cities grew, eventually spread to Australia.


Select Fuller

Early Fuller Wills

In Kent

Date Name Place
1558 John Fuller Deal
1558 Joan Fuller Westwell
1568 John Fuller Canterbury
1576 Guy Fuller Maidstone
1580 John Fuller Tenterden
1592 James Fuller Wittersham
1592 Beatrice Fuller Wittersham

n East Anglia

Date Name Place
1553 William Fuller Nedging (Suffolk)
1563 Hugh Fuller Nedging (Suffolk)
1575 William Fuller Redenhall (Norfolk)
1578 William Fuller Wetherden (Suffolk)
1587 Richard Fuller Nedging (Suffolk)
1591 William Fuller Bildeston (Suffolk)

Thomas Fuller, Church Writer.  Thomas Fuller was one of the first men to make a living
by writing, no mean feat since he wrote during the tumultuous years of
the English Civil War and the Restoration.  He would later remark,
with some exaggeration: “All that time I could not live to study who
did only study to live.”  In actuality, he got on well with men on
both sides, loved by Charles I on the one hand and by some of the men
who manoevred Charles’ death on the other.

A genuinely amiable man, Fuller took as his motto Paul’s
words to Timothy: “Let your moderation be known to all men, the Lord is
at hand.”  Because of his moderation, fellow Royalists accused him
of lukewarmness. In reply he asked: “Why should Peter fall out with
Thomas, both being disciples of the same Lord and Master?”
Although the Puritans imprisoned and questioned him, his good humor and
clever replies won him quick release.

Fuller’s fame rested chiefly on two books, A Church History of Britain and Worthies of England.  These
and other books were larded with pithy sayings such as:

  • “Two things a man should never be angry at – what he can
    help and what he cannot help;”


  • “There are two kinds of people, those who do the work and
    those that take the credit.  Try to be in the first group.
    There is less competition there.”

Samuel Fuller of the Mayflower.  In 1608, a band of Puritans left England for Protestant
Holland and settled in Leyden.  They remained there until 1620
when they decided to emigrate to America.  Samuel Fuller, a
doctor, formed part of the company that embarked from Southampton on
the Mayflower.  He left
behind his wife to care for their young child. But his brother Edward
and wife Ann joined him.

Upon arrival at Plymouth Rock, Samuel was a signer of the
Mayflower Compact, along with the other adult male settlers.  He
did what he could to relieve those settlers stricken with scurvy and
disease.  However, nearly half of the settlers died during that
first disastrous winter.  Samuel’s brother Edward and his wife Ann
were among the dead.  They were buried in an unmarked mound so
that the militant natives would not know how many had died.
Edward was survived by his son Samuel whom Dr. Fuller took into his

In 1623 Bridget Fuller took passage on the Anne and came to Plymouth.
Four years later they had a son they named Samuel who later became the
Rev. Samuel Fuller of Middleboro.

Fuller himself became ill and died during the epidemic that
struck the Plymouth colony in 1633.  In his last will and
testament he forgave the indigent of doctor’s fees yet owed, bought
gloves for many of the colonists, and bequeathed the very cloak off his
back to a needy person.  Some of his letters are preserved in a
collection called William Bradford’s
.  He was survived by his wife and son, as well
as several children entrusted to his care on the death of their

Ezekiel Fuller.  Ezekiel Fuller of the Isle of Wight, Virginia was born around
1675.  While his origins are unknown, the earliest surviving
document places him in Virginia in 1703.  A carpenter and
prosperous farmer, he married Deborah Spivey and named her and his
twelve children in his 1722 will.  From those twelve children, the
Fuller surname spread out across the South.  Many families with
southern Fuller lineage can be traced back to Ezekiel.

Mad Jack Fuller.  Mad Jack Fuller was the squire of Brightling Park in East Sussex.
At twenty two stone, he was a larger-than-life character.  He
loved eating and drinking and talking loudly, and he had a heart of
gold!  He put up a weird and wonderful collection of buildings.

The strangest of all was his 25-foot high pyramid tomb in
Brightling churchyard.   Legend has it that in order to gain
permission to erect his pyramid in the churchyard, the vicar asked that
Jack Fuller move the local pub to a new location.  He was
concerned that too many village folk, including the bell ringers, were
spending part of their Sunday at the pub.

Jack Fuller died in 1834.  One tale handed down is
that he was buried at a fully set dinner table with a bottle of claret
in hand, dressed for dinner and wearing a top hat!

Some Sayings of Buckminster Fuller:

  • “Dare to be naive,” his motto in many of his speeches and writings.
  • “Don’t fight forces, use them.”
  • “Nature is trying very hard to make us succeed, but nature does not depend on us.  We are not the only experiment.”
  • “The most important thing to teach your children is that the sun does not rise and set.  It is the Earth that revolves around the sun.”
  • “God is a verb.”
  • “When I thought about steering the course of “Spaceship Earth” and of all humanity, I saw most people trying to turn the boat by pushing the bow around.  I saw that by being all the way at the tail of the ship, by just kicking my foot to one side or the other, I could create the low pressure which would turn the whole ship.”

Alexandria Fuller in Rhodesia.  Alexandria Fuller was the third of five children born to
Tim and Nicola Fuller in England in 1969, during a brief attempt by her
parents to live away from Africa.  “A bloody awful dreary place,”
her mother called England afterwards.  So it was back to Africa in
1972, to Rhodesia where the Fullers became absorbed, more and more, in
that country’s intensifying bloody struggle for independence.

They were not wealthy landowners, but hardscrabble
tobacco and cattle farmers – although hardscrabble came with a cook, a
gardener, a driver, and all you could possibly drink.  They were
soldiers for white supremacy.  That was why they had moved from
Kenya to

In the comfort of their home, they were surrounded by
barbed wire, thorn hedges, packs of dogs, and with loaded guns at
bedside.  “We’d cheer when we heard the faint stomach-echoing
thump of a mine detonating,” Alexandria Fuller writes.  “Either an
African or a baboon had been killed or wounded.”

Gone to the Dogs
is Alexandria Fuller’s story of a girlhood growing up in Africa.



Select Fuller Names

  • John Fuller was the ironmaster at Heathfield in Sussex. 
  • Thomas Fuller, the worthy master Fuller, was a high-regarded church historian of the 17th century.   
  • Alfred Fuller from Nova Scotia
    started the Fuller Brush Company in the early 1900’s.
  • Alvan Fuller, born in Boston,
    was an automobile pioneer who later became Governor of Massachusetts. 
  • Buckminster Fuller was an
    American visionary, designer, architect, poet, author, and inventor. 
  • Dr. Ray Fuller from
    Illinois was the co-discoverer of the drug Prozac in the 1970’s. 
  • Simon Fuller, born in Sussex,
    was the creator of the Pop Idol
    and American Idol television

Select Fuller Numbers Today

  • 28,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Norfolk)
  • 41,000 in America (most numerous
    in Texas).
  • 20,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)


Select Fuller and Like Surnames

Some surnames have come from SE England, in particular the counties of Kent, Surrey and Sussex.  These are some of the noteworthy surnames that you can check out.





Click here for return to front page

Leave a Reply