Fenn, Sir John

, knt. an English antiquary, was born at Norwich, Nov. 26, 1739, and educated partly at Scarning, in Norfolk, and partly at Boresdale, in Suffolk, after which he was admitted of Gonville and Caius college, Cambridge, where he proceeded B. A. 1761, M. A. 1764, | and was an honorary fellow till Jan. 1, 1766, when he married Ellenor, daughter of Sheppard Frere, esq. of Roydon, in Suffolk, by whom he had no issue. He was afterwards in the commission of the peace, and a deputy-­lieutenant, and served the office of sheriff for the county of Norfolk in 1791, with that propriety and decorum that distinguished all his actions; and he left a history of the duties of the office of sheriff, which might be serviceable to his successors. Among other things, he revived the painful duty of attending in person the execution of criminals, as adding to the solemnity and impressive awe of the scene; and he was the first to admit Roman catholics on juries, under the new statute for that purpose enacted. He died at East Dereham, Norfolk, Feb. 14, 1794.

Sir John Fenn distinguished himself early by his application to the study of our national history and antiquities, for which he had formed great collections, particularly that of Peter Le Neve, for the contiguous counties of Norfolk and Suffolk, from the wreck of that of Thomas Martin, to erect a monument to whose memory in the church where he was buried, he left a large sum of money. Among the rest was a large collection of original letters, written during the reigns of Henry VI. Edward IV. Richard III. and Henry VII. by such of the Paston family and others, who were personally present in court and camp, and were, in those times, persons of great consequence in the county of Norfolk. These letters contain many curious and authentic state anecdotes, relating not only to Norfolk, but to the kingdom in general. Two volumes of them were published in 1787, 4to, and dedicated by permission to his majesty, who rewarded the merit of the editor with the honour of knighthood. Two more volumes appeared in 1789, with notes and illustrations by sir John and a fifth was left nearly ready for the press, which, however, if we mistake not, has not yet been published. Though he contributed nothing to the “Archaeologia” of the Society of Antiquaries, of which he was a fellow, he was a benefactor to them, by drawing up “Three Chronological Tables” of their members, which were printed in a 4to pamphlet, 1734, for the use of the society. His biographer concludes his character with observing, that “if the inquisitive antiquary, the clear, faithful, and accurate writer, be justly valued by literary characters; the intelligent and upright magistrate, by the inhabitants of the | county in which he resided; the informing and pleasing companion, the warm and steady friend, the honest and worthy man, the good and exemplary Christian, by those with whom he was cpnnected; the death of few individuals will be more sensibly felt, more generally regretted, or more sincerely lamented.1


Gent Mag vol. LXIV. Several of his letters are in Malcolm’s “Granger’s Letters” from p. 79~114.