The Celts, originally from Austria, began to spread throughout Europe under pressure and invasion from the Romans, possibly as early as 500 B.C. The Celtic tribes that survived settled in present-day Northern France, Southern England, Ireland and Scotland. Three of those tribes, the Scots, the Picts, and the Fens, migrated to Britain.
In 55 B.C., Julius Caesar began to invade Britain. When the Romans would come to Britain, some of the people would retreat into the swamps and marshes. This frequently confounded the Romans, and they would go home empty handed. Among the groups that retreated to the marshes and swamplands were the Fens. The Fens must have been extremely successful people, because the marshes and swamplands were eventually named after them. Many researchers believe that the name Fen or Fenner comes from the term for marsh or swampland. The marshes, however, were probably named after the Fens.
The Romans were finally able to gain control of Britain, but the Britons were allowed to maintain their political freedom in exchange for a handsome fee. This continued until A.D. 43, when Claudius I began another conquest of Britain. In AD 61, the Romans invaded the eastern part of Britain, home of the Iceni people. Led by their queen, Boudicca, they attempted a bloody rebellion, but were defeated. Boudicca eventually committed suicide, and some of her people escaped to Amorica, in northern France. Some of the Fens were among the refugees. The land was eventually renamed Brittany because of the strong influence of the Britons. The Fens also changed their name to the French form, Venour.
The Fens that had stayed behind in England eventually became associated with the mysterious King Arthur. The poem Roman de Brut, written by the poet Wace in 1155, is a French translation of the original accounts of Arthur written by Geoffrey of Monmouth in 1139. Wace’s poem contains the name Fenner.
The Fens fled to Wales (now western England) upon the arrival of the Angles and Saxons in the 400’s, where they became experts at the Welsh long bow. In 1066, William the Conqueror, from Normandy, invaded England and defeated the Anglo/Saxon King Harold at the Battle of Hastings. William brought with him the French Venours. Baron LaVenour is recorded on the famous Bayeux Tapestry that depicts William’s conquest. Also helping in the battle were the Welsh from the West, who had an axe to grind with the Anglo/Saxons. The Welsh included the Fens. Harold was reportedly killed by an arrow from a Welsh long bow, which was a popular weapon among the Fens. Since Hastings was given as a gift to Sir William Fenner after the battle, it wouldn’t be any stretch of the imagination to insist that a Fenner killed King Harold and helped William the Conqueror win the decisive Battle of Hastings. Sir William Fenner and Baron LaVenour are recorded in theDomesday Book, which was a record of all the landowners in England, as ordered by William in 1086.
In Switzerland, Fenners settled in the county of Dubendorf, Kanton Zurich, in 1306. The name was associated with Gevenner, meaning swampland, and/or the town Gefenn. Some researchers have asserted that the Fens were named after this type of marshy land, while others believe that the lands were named after the Fens.
COAT OF ARMS
According to Burke’s General Armory, the coat of arms belonging to the Fenner Family is as follows for the Fenners of Sussex:
"Vert a cross argent charged with a cross formee gules between four eagles displayed of the second."
And above the shield and helmet is the crest described as:
"An eagle displayed argent membered or."
Translated: “Green, a silver cross charged with a red cross between four silver eagles with spread wings.” Above the shield and helmet, “a silver eagle, wings spread, beak and legs in gold.”
Vert—Green; signifies hope, joy, and sometimes loyalty in love. Cross—Being crossed at each four points is said to signify “the fourfold mystery of the cross.” The cross also signifies faith, hope, and charity. Gules—Red; denotes military fortitude and magnamity; the “Martyr’s Color.” Eagles—Which is usually represented with wings spread, signifies a man of action. Eagles are a symbol of power.