FENNER, Edward (d.1612), of Crawley, Suss.; later of Hayes, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer




Family and Education

s. of John Fenner of Crawley by Eleanor, da. of John Goring of Burton, Suss.; bro. of Thomas. educ. New Inn; M. Temple 1557, called. m., 3s. 5da. Kntd. 1603.

Offices Held

Bencher and Autumn reader M. Temple 1576; serjeant-at-law Nov. 1577; justice, Queen’s bench 1590.1

J.p.q. Surr., Suss. from c.1579.


Fenner’s family had held property in Crawley, Ifield and Worth, Sussex, early in the sixteenth century, one branch establishing itself at Wittering and Earnley, near Chichester. Fenner presumably owed his return to Parliament in 1571 jointly to his cousin, George Goring I and his nephew, John Shurley I of Lewes. His constituency in 1572 was the home of his brother Thomas.

Fenner had an active career in the House of Commons. On 23 Apr. 1571 he was appointed to draw up a bill for the preservation of woods, and served on the committee discussing the bill on 10 May. He also served on committees concerning vagabonds (23 Apr.), religion (28 Apr.), and respite of homage (2 May). There is no record of his speaking in the extant journals for 1571. In the course of the 1572 Parliament, Fenner served on at least 15 legal committees. He served on a further eight committees concerning a variety of topics such as a private bill for the Earl of Kent (21 May, 9 June 1572), weights and measures (23 May), Tonbridge School (28 May), grants by corporations (30 May), a private bill for William Isley (14 Feb. 1576), letters patent (25 Feb. 1576) and children of aliens (25 Jan. 1581). He was an active speaker in 1572. On 16 May he urged the Duke of Norfolk’s speedy execution, and when, next day, the question arose as to whether Arthur Hall was fit to remain a Member on account of his speech on this subject, Fenner advised: ‘Let the liberty of the House be maintained and him be held a madman’. He spoke again on 4 June concerning the Earl of Kent’s bill, on 7 June concerning Mary Queen of Scots, and on 28 June supporting the bill for jeofails. He again spoke on legal matters on 18 Feb. 1576 and on 8 Feb. 1581.2

In or about 1595 Fenner moved from Crawley to Hayes, where he inherited property under the will of Lady Dacre, who had appointed him an executor of her will. He and the other executors were sued in Chancery in 1598 by her brother Thomas Sackville, Lord Buckhurst. This celebrated case was the first described in Coke’s Reports. The solicitor-general, Thomas Fleming I, with Francis More, appeared for the defendants, and Coke himself, with Christopher Yelverton for the plaintiff. As a judge, Fenner took part in major state trials such as those of Dr. Lopez and the Earls of Essex and Southampton. Writing about the shortage of effective judges in 1603, Cecil commented, ‘Justice Fenner will never run mad with learning’, and many complaints against him led Fenner by 1606 to fear dismissal from his circuit. Coke, however, proved friendly, telling Cecil that he knew Fenner to be a religious, ‘upright man and very well learned’. The ‘old man’, Coke wrote, was ‘much perplexed’ and grieved by the rumours about him, asking only for a chance to defend himself. By January 1608, Fenner was pensioned off. He died 23 Jan. 1612, a nuncupative will committing his children and the disposal of all his goods to his son Edward.3

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: J.E.M.


  • 1. W. Berry, Co. Genealogies, Suss. (Comber’s copy at Chichester), 139; Foss, Judges, vi. 152-3; I. Dallaway, Western Division of Suss. i(2), pp. 15-16; Vis. Suss. (Harl. Soc. liii), 107-8; PCC 1 Fenner, 32, 78 Lawe; DNB.
  • 2. CJ, i. 85, 86, 87, 88, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 101, 105, 106, 108, 110, 119, 120, 121, 122, 124; Trinity, Dublin, Thos. Cromwell’s jnl. ff. 16, 22, 50, 55, 67, 68; D’Ewes, 178, 180, 181, 182, 206, 207, 213, 220, 222, 244, 249, 285, 288, 289, 291, 292, 294, 295; Neale, Parlts. i. 254.
  • 3. Suss. Rec. Soc. xiv. 88, 89; PRO Assizes, 35, S.E. Circuit, Suss. 7-10, 37; CSP Dom. 1591-4, pp. 173, 186, 448, 459; 1595-7, p. 271; 1598-1601, pp. 575, 578; 1601-3, p. 285; 1603-10, p. 396; Lansd. 77, ff. 82-4; 78, f. 93; 86, ff. 164 seq.; 94, f. 127 seq.; 115, f. 204; APC, xxxi. 258, 283-4, 294; HMC Hatfield, xviii. 186; PCC 1 Fenner; DNB.