beginnings.gif (7680 bytes)

In William Hoyt Fancher's 1947 Foreward to "The Fancher Family", the first Fancher genealogy,  he writes "Candor compels the admission that no royal blood courses through Fancher veins. We can lay no claim to any noble lineage. We have no Coat of Arms... We descend from humble folks..."

This remains true today. For while we have discovered that our American Fancher surname originated from the English Fanshawe surname, we still can not lay claim to royal blood, noble lineage, or a Coat of Arms.

The English lineage of the progenitor of the Fancher family in America, William Fancy/Fanshaw, Sr., remains unknown. The Fanshawe family in England did not have royal blood. Only one branch of the English Fanshawe family became prominent when Henry Fanshawe (1560-1616) became Queen Elizabeth I's Remembrancer of the Exchequer and acquired extensive estates in Essex. He was Knighted by James I, and his family suffered severely during the Commonwealth for their loyalty to the King. At the Restoration, Richard Fanshawe was made a Baronet by Charles II. (Baronet is the lowest hereditary title that can be bestowed.) This family's influence had faded by the early 1700's. Our ancestor, William Fancy/Fanshawe, does not fit anywhere in Sir Henry Fanshawe's family tree. For centuries in England, the majority of Fanshawes were yeoman farmers, just as the early colonial American Fancher generations were. Yes, we probably had humble beginnings in England...

There are several Fanshawe Coats of Arms. Most of them belong to Sir Henry Fanshawe and his descendants. Heraldry is the study of Coats of Arms, and The College of Arms in England are the Heralds for the British Isles who are empowered to decide who is authorized to display a certain Coat of Arms. Contrary to what all of those websites selling Coats of Arms, Family Crests, and other related merchandise, may say, in the British Isles there is no such thing as a "Family Coat of Arms." A Coat of Arms is issued to only one person, never to a family. And if a person does not have authorization from the Heralds, they are not authorized to display any Coat of Arms. For a Fancher to have a legitimate right to a Fanshawe Coat of Arms, it would have to be granted to them or they would have to be descended in the legitimate male line from a person to whom the Arms were granted or confirmed in the past. No, even though we can trace our origins to Fanshawes, a Fancher can't use or display any Fanshawe Coat of Arms...

But we do have an ancestral Family Seat in England...

                                                         FANSHAWE GATE

                                                        Fanshawe Gate Hall Today

The Fanshawe family in England draws its origin from Fanshawe Gate, located on the edge of the Peak District National Park, in Holmesfield, Parish of Dronfield, in The Scarsdale Hundred, Derbyshire. Fanshawe Gate is both the name of the property, and the name of the house.

"Gate" means a point in the hills at which a road or path crosses a crest. In the shadow of Hallamshire Moors, Fanshawe Gate stands between two roads running from the Sheaf Valley to the Holmesfield Ridge.

                                          wpe99108.gif (72142 bytes)
                                                          Fanshawe Gate Hall, 1991

It is difficult to accurately determine when the first Fanshawe came to Holmsfield. In 1411, Joan, the daughter of John Fanshawe, was "admitted to one messuage and seven bovates" at Holmsfield by Lady Alice d'Eyncourt. (The d'Eyncourts held Holmsfield from 1086.) Estimates of John Fanshawe's birth date place it as early as 1375, and the family may well have been settled there another 100 to 200 years earlier. Lady Ann Fanshawe (1625-1680) said that she had seen several very ancient gravestones in Dronfield Church, from which it appeared that the Fanshawes had been seated at Fanshawe Gate for some hundreds of years before her day. (The earliest monument now remaining is 1578.) 1260 seems to have become the generally accepted date that the Fanshawes were in Holmsfield.

The house at Fanshawe Gate was referred to as "le ffaunchall gat hede" in 1456, "hede" being the Anglo-Saxon for "house". In 1491 "unum toftum iuxta fownchallgatehed" appears in the Holmesfield Court Rolls.  Although by 1571 the house and property were usually described collectively as "Fanshawe Gate", it was still being called "ffanchawegathed" in the Court Rolls of that year. Today the house is usually referred to as "Fanshawe Gate Hall".

The original house is believed to have been "quite a grand fifteenth century edifice" with later alterations, which was dismantled, according to one account, in 1636. When Sir Henry Fanshawe became a Remembrancer of the Exchequer, he received substantial estates in Essex, where his heirs settled permanently. The next three generations were also courtiers. Another account says that it was this last generation, who was raised to the Irish Peerage as Viscount Fanshawe in 1661, who was responsible for dismantling his Derbyshire house because it was remote from his six Home Counties estates. The title became extinct in 1716, and the Fanshawe Gate estate passed to T.E. Fanshawe of Great Singleton, whose descendant Rev. C.S. Fanshawe sold it to his relative, Captain Basil Fanshawe (1857-1944).

The present house is a mid-seventeenth century L-shaped gabled farmhouse, built of coal measure sandstone rubble, with low mullioned windows. In the modern notes appended to the "Memoirs of Lady Ann Fanshawe" (originally published in 1829), the building is described as "a substantial yeoman's dwelling of Tudor times, similar to many others in the neighborhood... Two sets of square stone pillars, one surmounted by pine cones and one by pyramids of balls, still mark the approach to the house; such pillars commonly marked residences of the gentry in the 16th and 17th centuries."

                        wpe10060.gif (67885 bytes)
                                        Fanshawe Gate Hall Remaining Structures, 1991

Two earlier buildings also remain. The first faces north, and is a very tall four-story structure built of rubble, "brought to course with a single-light windows, one above the other on the top three floors with a straight coped gable, described as a dovecote." It has all the attributes of a stair tower from a tall house. Beside it, separated by a few feet, is a lower building "two by two bays, again with quoins and a straight coped gable". It has two-light mullioned windows, and may have been the kitchen wing of the larger house to which the taller building was once attached. These two buildings are believed to be all that remain of the original fifteenth century house.

Fanshawes owned Fanshawe Gate from 1260 to 1944. After 700 years of being in the Fanshawe family, when Basil Fanshawe died in 1944, it passed out of the hands of the family. The present owners purchased it in 1959. Since that time the Ramsdens have restored the house and gardens, and have opened Fanshawe Gate Hall's beautiful gardens to the public. 

Today, the Fanshawe Hall Gate Gardens are only open to the public on certain weekends in May, June, July and September.
Admission, plant sales, Ploughman's lunches, and cream teas benefit local and national charities.

Some Fanshawe Links:                                                            

Fanshawe Portrait Gallery

The Wicked Lady - Lady Katherine Ferrers (married to Thomas Fanshawe) - The Legend Of The Lady Highwayman

Memoirs of Lady Fanshawe - By Anne (Harrison) Fanshawe

Fanshawe Family of Barking and Degenham