Select Fletcher Surname Genealogy

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 practice." 

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 William Fletcher).      

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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 Wales.  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.

England.  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 1800's.  

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

Lancashire  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 prinicipal.  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 the 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:
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 Glenorchy.

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 1698.

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 this inheritance.

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, Ontario. 
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 well 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.

Select Fletcher Miscellany

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

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

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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