Sir John Fenwick: The Flower Among Them All

For my book on the Fenwick family history, I am including a section of Fenwicks in Song and Verse.  There is a pretty Northumberland tune called Sir John Fenwick; Flower among Them All (probably nicked from the Scots) which is usually played as an instrumental these days. See eg Alistair Anderson, Richard Thompson & Kathryn Tickell at for a lovely performance.

But we know that there were once lyrics, when the tune was used as a rallying song for Sir John Fenwick 3rd Bart in his fight with William of Orange (later King William) at the end of the 17th century.  Bates’ History tells us that John Fenwick of Rock was singing it the night before his fatal duel with the MP Ferdinando Forster in Newcastle in 1701:

John Fenwick of Rock came in singing the popular ballad, ‘Sir John Fenwick’s the flower among them’. This gave umbrage to Ferdinando Forster of Bamburgh, one of the knights of the shire. A violent altercation took place, which was appeased by some of the company. Next morning, however, Fenwick and Forster happening to meet near the White Cross, drew their swords on each other, and Forster fell. Fenwick was immediately indicted for murder. In spite of the popular feeling in his behalf, which found expression in the doggerel,

Noble squire Fenwick, he must be put down,

For killing squire Forster of Bamburgh town,’

he was hung during the following month. The gates of the town were shut for fear of a rescue by the miners in his employment at the Kenton collieries.

But where are the lyrics? Does anyone still have them?



Filed under Culture, History

6 responses to “Sir John Fenwick: The Flower Among Them All

  1. Adrian Palmer

    You are usually not quite so cryptic, so consider it googled

  2. I hope this is now fixed, and that the post is visible.

  3. According to Sir Walter Scott in Redgauntlet I think and in around about way, Scott says that it was a common tale amongst Jacobite supporters, mainly in the Borders and Northern England, that the eponymous Sir John Fenwick’s demise was influenced in some way by William of Orange who after the execution, impounded some of Sir John’s property for himself. This included a fine horse which William of Orange thought a great deal off. However it came into his possession this horse is said by the Jacobites to have been the one that put it’s hoof into a mole hill and then promptly rolled over, fatally injuring William. I’m sure you know the old Jacobite toast….’Here’s to the velvet coated gentleman.’ It is also said that rioting of some kind happened in Newcastle after Sir John’s execution and this tune was associated with it.
    The tale is most probably not true, but it makes an interesting story. I only pass it on making no claim to the veracity of any of it, except that there was a Sir John Fenwick and he was executed. Scott gets muddled and calls him Sir John Friends or Fellowes in the notes, but wiser heads than mine say he undoubtedly meant Sir John Fenwick. Thanks for your time.

  4. The story is certainly true. The horse was called Sorrell, and was stolen by King William from Sir John’s stud after he had Sir John executed. Sir John and King William hated each other since the time they had served together as officers in Holland. I have much more about this in my still uinfinished book.

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