William Greenwell was born in 1820 at Greenwell Ford, a little to the south of Lanchester, Co.Durham. He lived a long and full life, dying a few weeks short of his 98th birthday in January 1918 - and, being born into a life of some privilege, he was accorded many opportunities during his extended stay on the planet. However, Greenwell is best remembered for something remarkably trivial.
He was educated at
and at Durham
School , University
before shunning a career as a barrister in London,
deciding instead to return to the North-East and a life in the church. In 1854,
he was appointed canon of Durham Cathedral (a post which he held until his
death), and dabbled, too, in the life of the university. He was also an
archaeologist, and became a leading light in the various clubs and societies of
the region which were dedicated to the pastime. He excavated sites at Danes
Graves, Yorkshire, and Grimes Graves, Norfolk,
and amassed an immense collection of artefacts, which is now held by the . British
His greatest claim to fame, though, is the delightfully named ‘Greenwell’s Glory’ - a trout fly for flyfishing, created for him by famed fly-dresser, Jimmy Wright of the Borders. It came about following a day of disappointment for Greenwell whilst fishing in the
whereupon a visit to Mr Wright brought about a new creation based on the
canon’s observations of the day. The new design was fashioned thus:
The wings, inside of a blackbird wing; body, red and black hackle; tied with yellow silk.
Simple, yet highly effective, as, the very next day, Greenwell returned to Mr Wright’s abode with his creel and pockets bulging with trout - and the name ‘Greenwell’s Glory’ was born in the ensuing celebration. This is all thought to have happened in the mid 1850s, but the new fly soon caught on, and, indeed, is still with us today.