Drewrys in England

The Drewry name has a well established history in England dating back to the time of William the Conqueror in 1066 A.D. The first mention of the name comes from the Norman Conquest when John de Drury (de Roueray), a knight in William's army, accompanied him from France to England. John de Drury distinguished himself by his valor and bravery on the battlefield at Hastings, October 14, 1066, and his name appears in the "Roll of Battle Abby," prepared by William I to preserve the memory of his valiant knights who distinguished themselves during this bloody engagement.

Thomas Drury, a cadet of the senior line during the reign of James I, outlined seven generations of Drurys derived from the Drury, "a Norman gentleman," who accompanied William the Conqueror in the following pedigree:

The Genealogie, pedigree, and descent
of the ancient family of Drury.

This right worshipful, and most plentiful family of the Drurys descended from a gentleman of that name who (as in the roll of the Bataile Abby in Sussex appeareth) came from Normandy with King William the Conqueror 1066 in which Duckdome of Normandie anno 15 there was a place and (family) of the surname remaining. The offspring and issue of this Norman gentleman have multiplied, greatlie encreased, and prosperouslie continued untill this tyme 1602 beinge divided and spread by sondrie braunches into severale braunches, and setteled howses of good estimation in sondry counties of this realme. Parte of which are particularlie hereunder delineated with their matches and issues expresse, and armes depicted, together with certain colateralls and heritable howses with which they have joyned. In which the travaills and endeavours of Thomas Drury (of the Inner Temple, Gent), fourth sonne of Robert Drury of Rougham in the county of Suffolk, Esquire, hath been very great, as well in searching of sundrie evidences, notes, and monuments, (approvinge the true descent of the families) as by being the occassion to have this pedigree reduced into the form and method following; as appertaining (in first place), to his said father, the eldest house of all the familie-linilly descended from Katheryne Swinford, daughter of Katheryn Lady Swinford, (third wife of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster) and of Sir Thomas Swinford, knt. her first husband. This familye hath continued many years in very good reputation; replenished with Knights and Squires, and greatlie hounoured with souldiers of notable fame and memory.


John de Drury was granted a domain by the Crown in County Suffolk, England. The estate, named "Thruston" or "Thurston," remained in the family for six hundred years.

The precise origin of the Drewry surname, along with its counterparts Drury, Drewrey, Drewerey, Drewrie, etc. is not known. However, there is strong belief that it is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word "Druid." The "Druids," members of the clan of ancient CELTS of England, Ireland, and Gaul, were a class of priests and learned men who also served as judges and were respected by all classes of people.

The word "Druid" may be related to the Celtic word "daur" which means "oak." Oak trees, mistletoe and human sacrifices played an important part in Druidic rituals. Sacrificial victims were often burned in large wicker baskets. Because of these acts and their fierce resistance the Romans suppressed the Druids in England and Gaul. It was only in Ireland that they survived until 500 A.D. During my research I came across a family legend which specifically mentions the Druids sacrificial habits and offers some conclusions as to how the Drewry clan was born. The legend is as follows:

During a Saxon invasion of England in AD 249, a Saxon girl was captured by the Britons and devoted as a sacrifice to the Gods of the Druidical worship. But, when the priest was about to offer her upon the altar, touched by her youth and beauty, he resolved to save her and hastily thrust her under the sacred robe that covered the feet of the God. For a year she was concealed. Eventually, she gave birth to a daughter and soon thereafter the Saxons broke into the Sacred Grove. The brother of the girl being among the band was so enraged at finding his sister having embraced a Briton and a priest, that he struck her dead on the spot. In the melee, the priest made his escape with the infant and found refuge for a time on the Island of Anglesea.

The child grew to womanhood and was called Druide by the people of Anglesea. Finally the father and daughter passed over to France. There they were called Druide and later by the abbreviation Druri. The ex-priest lived to a great age. Having brought away in his flight many of the jewels and robes that belonged to the throne and altar of his God he was able to bestow a rich marriage dowry upon his daughter. As the matter of surnames had not been established at that time, the man whom she honored with her name made no great sacrifice in taking it and relinquishing his own. Her descendants lived in France until the Norman Conquest, when one of them went with the Conqueror to England, and as names began to form, we found our ancestors in England called Drury. Therefore our ancestors are of Saxon and British origin, and the founder of the family a woman.

Dr. William Sidney Drewry of Richmond, Virginia, a noted historian, and Patrick Henry Drewry of Petersburg, Virginia, a member of Congress and Drewry family historian, also believed the origin of the family name was somehow connected to the Druid religion. Dr. Drewry's basis for that belief was because of the Druids great love for the out-of-doors, especially trees, nature, and the heavens. He stated that "every Drewry he ever knew well loved the out-of-doors and the woods."

Patrick Henry Drewry, in a letter to Dr. J.J. Kindred, a Drewry descendant and noted nerve specialist in New York City, wrote:

The Drewry family were of Normandy, living at a place called "Rouie" sometimes spelt "Roueray." John de Roueray came over with William the Conqueror and was knighted on the battlefield of Hastings in 1066. His name appears on both rolls of the Battle Abbey.

The above is only conjecture and offers no positive proof of the factual origins of the Drewry surname. The only authoritative study found to date of the Drewry (Drury) family in England is contained in the book, "The History of the Family Drury in the Counties of Suffolk and Norfolk from the Conquest" by Arthur Campling, published in England in 1937. This book traces several English branches to the time of the Conquest and a "Norman gentleman" named Drieu. It is not clear whether this Drieu is a forebear of the Drewry (Drury) family in England. There is even evidence, circa 1100, from the family of a Saxon priest, which is purported to be factual.

Regrettably there is no direct evidence relating the Drewrys in Virginia to the Drury family documented by Mr. Campling's book. However, I firmly believe there is a connection which may, in time, be proven with factual records. If only we could prove this link to the Drury's documented in Campling's book we would have a proven and documented history of the Drewry family back to the time of William the Conqueror. Few families can trace their beginnings back to 1066. What an exciting possibility this is!

Some interesting Drewry facts documented in Campling's book:

Sir Dru Drury was sent to Fotheringhay Castle to assist in the Wardership of Mary, Queen of Scots. In that capacity he was present at the execution of Her Majesty. In 1596 Sir Dru Drury was appointed Lieutenant of the Tower of London.

One, born about 1335, supposedly accompanied John of Gaunt on his expedition against Castile in 1386-7.

The Drurys of Suffolk were a prominent knightly family in medieval days with a total of eighteen Knights, five of whom were Sheriffs of Norfolk and Suffolk, and four Knights of the Shire. Four Drurys, Sir Robert Drury of Rougham (died 1626), Sir Henry Drury of Hedgerley (died 1617), Sir Anthony Drury of Besthorpre (died 1638) and Sir Dru Drury of Rollesby (died 1626), were knighted in the Royal Garden at Whitehall on July 23, 1603 before the coronation of James I, a remarkable achievement for a single family.

A lady Drewry gave Queen Elizabeth her first eating fork, a two-pronged jeweled utensil.

The London town house of the Drurys of Hawstead (ca. 1550-1600) in the time of Elizabeth I was Drury House on Drury Lane built by Sir William. It was a five story house with eleven small windows on each story, intersected by Doric and Ionic pilasters. The entrance was through a pair of gates which led into a large coach yard, and at the back was a handsome garden. The house was torn down in 1808. Sir Robert, who inherited the house from his father, preferred the surname spelling Drewry and attempted to have the name Drury Lane changed to Drewry Lane. The Olympic Theater was built on the garden plot of the old house. It burned in 1847 and was rebuilt. Drury Lane, before the Drurys built there was "via Aldwych." Izaak Walton in his "Life of Dr. John Donne," Dean of St. Paul's says: "That the earnest persuasion of friends became at last to be so powerful as to cause the removal of himself and family to London where Sir Robert Drewry, a gentleman of a very noble estate and a most liberal mind assigned him and his wife a useful apartment in his own large house on Drury Lane and not only rent free, but was also a cherisher of his lander and such a friend as sympathized with him and his in all their joy and sorrows."

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Drewry Family History in America
Harry Moss, 1886-1970, & Eunice Adna (Edwards) Drewry
The Drewrys in Charles Parish, Virginia, 1649 - 1789
John and Deborah (Collins) Drewry, circa 1649 - 1735
The Drewrys in England
Drewry Artifacts in England Today
The Drewry Coat of Arms
Drewrys in Southampton County, Virginia
Drewrys in Georgia
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