He was a native of Nottinghamshire. In 1577 he sailed, in command of the Gabriel, with Sir Martin Frobisher's second expedition for the discovery of the Northwest Passage, and in the following year he took part as second in command in Frobisher's third expedition, his ship being the Judith.
He was then employed in Ireland for a time, but in 1582 he was put in charge of an expedition which was to sail round the Cape of Good Hope to the Moluccas and China, his instructions being to obtain any knowledge of the northwest passage that was possible without hindrance to his trade. On this unsuccessful voyage he got no farther than Brazil, and although defeating a Spanish fleet at São Vicente he was unable to trade with the Portuguese residents there. To add to his woes he was engaged in quarrelling with his officers, and especially with his lieutenant, William Hawkins, the nephew of Sir John Hawkins, whom he had in irons when he arrived back in the Thames.
In 1588 he had command of the Mary Rose, (not the preserved vessel), one of the ships of the fleet that was formed to oppose the Spanish Armada. He died fifteen years afterwards, and was buried in St Nicholas's Church in Deptford.
Edward Fenton was married to Thomasina, daughter of Benjamin Gonson the elder, and was brother-in-law to Sir John Hawkins, who married Katherine Gonson, Thomasina's sister. The mother of the girls, wife of Benjamin, was Ursula, daughter of Anthony Hussey.
- One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Fenton, Edward". Encyclopædia Britannica. 10 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 259.
- Taylor, 1959
- C.S. Knighton, D. M. Loades (Eeds.), The Navy of Edward VI and Mary I (Ashgate Publishing, 2011), Appendix 2: Biographical Notices, 'Benjamin Gonson (I)', pp. 545–46.
- E. R. G. Taylor, The Troublesome Voyage of Captain Edward Fenton 1582–83, The Hakluyt Society/Cambridge University Press, 1959.
- Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. .