The surname of FENWICK was a locational name, local 'of Fenwick' a township in the parish of Stamfordshire in County Northumberland and a township in the parish of Campsall, West Ridings, Yorkshire. The name is usually pronounced FENIK, and other spellings of the name include FENNICK, FINNICK, VINNICK, FENIX, PHOENIX, PHENIX and FENWICH. The earliest known bearer of this name is Robert de Fenwick, who was living in the late 12th century at Fenwick in Northumberland. The name is still very much more common in Northumberland than elsewhere, but it spread right down the east coast of England from the Moray Firth to East Anglia, quite early on, and can now be found as far afield as Glasgow and Wales. Local surnames, by far the largest group, derived from a place name where the man held land or from the place from which he had come, or where he actually lived. These local surnames were originally preceded by a preposition such as "de", "atte", "by" or "in". The names may derive from a manor held, from working in a religious dwelling or from literally living by a wood or marsh or by a stream. Following the Crusades in Europe a need was felt for a family name. This was recognized by those of noble blood, who realised the prestige and practical advantage it would add to their status. Early records of the name mention Robert de ffenwic of Scotland in 1220. Thomas de Fenwyk of County Northumberland, in 1279. Thomas a Fenyk of Lytell Harle, County Yorkshire in 1563. Johannes de Fenwyk was listed in the Poll Tax of Yorkshire in 1379.
In many parts of central and western Europe, hereditary surnames began to become fixed at around the 12th century, and have developed and changed slowly over the years. As society became more complex, and such matters as the management of tenure, and in particular the collection of taxes were delegated to special functionaries, it became imperative to distinguish a more complex system of nomenclature to differentiate one individual from another.
The associated arms are recorded in Sir Bernard Burkes General Armory. Ulster King of Arms 1884.
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