- 17th century-20th century (Creation)
Level of description
Extent and medium
21 folders, 41 volumes, 5 envelopes, 5 packets, 2 boxes, 7 booklets, 1 box file, 1 roll, 11 papers, 1 notebook, 2 gatherings, 2 bundles, 1 file
Name of creator
Baptised 12 Nov 1739 at St Mary in the Marsh, Norwich, the son of John Fenn (1707-1741) surgeon of Norwich, and Mary (b. 1712) nee Emerson. Fenn was educated at grammar schools at Scarning and Botesdale, Suffolk, then Gonville and Caius Cambridge, graduating BA in 1761 and MA 1764. At university his friends included John Norris (son of the antiquary Anthony Norris) and John Frere. He married Frere's sister, Ellenor Frere (1744-1813), daughter of Sheppard and Susanna Frere, in 1766. The couple settled at Hill House, East Dereham. They remained childless, but brought up an heiress, Mary Andrews, and later their nephew, William Frere (1775-1836). Ellenor wrote instructive children's books under the pseudonyms Mrs Teachwell and Mrs Lovechild.
Fenn served as Deputy Lieutenant of Norfolk in 1766; churchwarden of St Nicholas’ church, East Dereham 1768-1775; a director of Gressenhall House of Industry from 1775; magistrate from 1776 onwards; and High Sheriff of Norfolk in 1791-1792. He inherited an estate in Edgefield, including the manor of Edgefield Bacons, after the death of his father in 1741.
A protegee of the antiquary, Thomas Martin of Palgrave (d. 1771), Fenn also helped publish final sections of Parkin’s continuation of Francis Blomefield’s ‘History of Norfolk’. After Martin’s death Fenn catalogued Martin’s library for its new owner, John Worth of Diss, before its sale in 1773-1774. He also listed Worth’s collection after the latter’s death in 1774. Around this time Fenn acquired the Paston letters. He published the first two volumes of the Paston letters in 1787, which proved so popular they sold out within a week. In May 1787 Fenn presented the original letters to George III and was knighted. When the manuscripts disappeared, there were accusations that they were fakes, but their authenticity was proved when the originals reappeared in 1889. Two further volumes of letters were published in 1789. Fenn died from a paralytic stroke on 14 Feb 1794 and was buried at Finningham, Suffolk. His manuscript for the fifth volume of Paston letters was published by William Frere in 1823.
Immediate source of acquisition or transfer
Content and structure area
Scope and content
H.L. Bradfer-Lawrence was a keen collector of antiquarian papers. This section includes material by Guybon Goddard, Anthony Norris, Benjamin Mackerell, Sir John Fenn, Revd G.H. Dashwood, and G.H. Anderson. There are separate sections for the papers of Edward Milligen Beloe (BL/BE), Revd George Hunt Holley (BL/HO), Revd George Munford (BL/MF) and for H.L. Bradfer-Lawrence's own papers (BL/LW). Most of the papers listed in this section relate to north-west Norfolk or to King's Lynn.
Appraisal, destruction and scheduling
System of arrangement
Conditions of access and use area
Conditions governing access
Conditions governing reproduction
Language of material
Script of material
Language and script notes
Physical characteristics and technical requirements
Allied materials area
Existence and location of originals
Existence and location of copies
Related units of description
Place access points
Name access points
Genre access points
Description control area
Rules and/or conventions used
Dates of creation revision deletion
Created 16/03/2009 by Droip. Modified 11/09/2019 by Drojr.