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Surname Origin: This name is of ancient Anglo-Norman origin, and comes from the Anglo-Saxon word "Fugal", meaning fowl. It seems that the early bearers of this name not only "pursued the captured wild fowl", but also sold them, for in its early form the French suffix,"ere", following "fowl", meant an agent or dealer.

19th century distribution of the Fowler surname

Our Fowlers originate from the South West of England and can be traced back to Whitchurch Canonicorum, Dorset, the birth place of James Fowler in 1771. His mother is recorded as Sarah but unfortunately there is no recorded fathers name. James, who was later described as a 'flax dresser' married Mary Legge of Symondsbury, in Whitchurch Canonicorumin in 1799. They had four children that we are aware of, their second son being Benjamin who was born in 1803. By this time James and Mary had moved from Dorset to Taunton in Somerset.

Ben Fowler was a flax dresser and ostler before becoming a foundry fireman at Edward Whightmans Foundry in Chard. He was to work in the foundry until he was in his 70's. Ben married Hannah Lickey of Cothelstone in 1826 and they had 7 children. Ben outlived Hannah and married again to Mary Pearce in 1867. Ben and Hannah's oldest surviving son was James who was born in Taunton in 1837. James followed his father into the foundry and married Emma Gooding in 1859 and they had two girls before Emma's death. In 1863 James was married a second time to Rebecca Warry. James and Rebecca had five children, their youngest son also being named James Fowler.

By this time the family had moved to Bedford, probably in search of work, and it was here that James (jnr) was born in 1870. After a brief spell in Bedford the family moved again, this time to Nottingham and settled in Sneinton. James married local girl Eliza Peck in October 1891 and they had 7 children. The first being Harry, born out of wedlock in 1889.

The Fowler family 1944

Left to right -Percy Peck's wife, Harold Clark, Pat Samples (front), June Drury, Harold Samples, Eliza Clark (nee Peck, formerly Fowler - front)
May Drury (nee Fowler - back), Clara Samples (nee Fowler), Jean Drury (front), Hilda Samples (Horace's wife), Bill Drury, Hilda's mother (Granma Elliott), Percy Peck

James Fowler was a railway bridge painter and gas fitter and soon after the birth of Horace, his youngest son, he disappeared leaving his wife Eliza with a young family to raise. He was said to have died around 1907 but no record of his death has been found so it is possible that Eliza and James separated.

Harry Fowler (Peck), married Lavinia Wileman

Lily Fowler, married Harry Lee

Clara Fowler, married Harold Samples

John Fowler (Jack), married Annie Hackett

Bert Fowler, killed in 1917 aged 21

May Fowler, married Bill Drury

Horace Fowler died in 1913 aged 6


Children of James and Eliza Fowler

Tragedy was to strike the family after James has left them. Firstly Horace, the youngest child dies in 1913 at just 6 years of age. Bertie Fowler joins the Sherwood Foresters during the First World War and was killed at Ypres in Belgium in 1917.

May Fowler, their youngest daughter married Bill Drury.

Eliza Fowler was eventually remarried to Harold Clark in 1915 and they brought up their family in Manvers Street Sneinton. Eliza lives on until 1948 and is known by everyone as 'Grandma Clark'.


Current Research : Further research needed into the Dorset roots of the family. Trying to discover more about James Fowler (b.1870). Have been unable to trace a record of either his birth or death to date.

Click here for full details of our Fowler ancestry

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December 18, 2014