This is an English locational name from the various villages so called in the counties of Lincolnshire, Northumbria, Staffordshire, South Yorkshire and Cumbria. All share the same derivation, which is from the Olde English pre 7th Century word "fen" meaning a marsh, and "tun", a fenced enclosure. This later developed into a homestead, then a hamlet of few houses, and later a village, town, or even a city. The surname of Fenton is ancient and in some cases it denoted the lord of the manor, as in Sir Thomas de Fenton of Staffordshire, recorded in the Heraldic Rolls of King Edward 111 (1327 - 1377). In general locational surnames were given to people who moved away from the original homelands and went to live or work in another village or town. Early examples of the surname taken from medieval records include Adam de Fenton of Derbyshire in the year 1230 a.d. and William Fenton of Lincoln in 1332. Captain Edward Fenton (1536 - 1603) was one of the British sea captains who with Sir Francis Drake and Sir John Hawkins, broke the power of Spain, and secured the colonies of New England in what is now Virginia. Edward Fenton may well have been the first Fenton to set foot in America, but the first settler of the name was the Rev. Michael Fenton, who is recorded as being buried at 'Elzabeth Citty, Virginea' on January 23rd 1624. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Walter de Fenton, which was dated 1199, in Pleas Rolls of the county of Yorkshire, England, during the reign of King Richard l, known as 'The Lionheart', 1189 - 1199. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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