In seeking my family history, I had been very fortunate. Some of this I described in ‘Soulsby-searching’ and ‘Praying to the Dentons’ above. I had not even known where my middle name had come from and this was only just over a century earlier. So, I set out expecting to run out of agricultural labourer antecedents in the early nineteenth-century.
I was rather disappointed to find that most of my eighteenth- and nineteenth-century antecedents were not only lowly agricultural labourers, but Scousers too. There is nothing wrong with the occupation, but where were the cattle rustlers and vagabonds to make the journey interesting? There is nothing wrong with coming from the Liverpool area, but if I was to prepare a list of where I would have liked to have descended from it would not be there, largely because of the accent (they probably think the same about a Bristol accent).
But I managed to get back to my GGF11 Sir Thomas Denton (1504-1558) and my GGF12 Thomas Denton of Fyfield (1465-1560!). They provided a much more entertaining group of antecedents. James Denton LLD (1474-1533) almoner and chancellor to Henry VIII’s daughter Bloody Mary. Dr William Denton FRCP physician to Charles I who went with him on his 1639 campaign against Scotland. There was a whole raft of Denton MPs for Banbury, Berkshire, Buckingham, Buckinghamshire, Oxford, Wallingford, Wendover.
In amongst this august group I found a John Denton (1561-1617) who had started out working as a page in the household of the Bishop of Carlisle, at Rose Castle. He trained as a lawyer and was a crown agent for Cumbria. He was given the task of discovering ‘concealed lands’ for the crown, and given ready access to the Episcopalian records. From 1600-1601 he worked in the Tower of London where the nation’s records of the time were kept.
John’s 1603 manuscript Accompt of the most considerable Estates and Families in the county of Cumberland detailed the gentry of Cumberland from the Conquest until the latter part of the reign of Elizabeth I. It provided me with my family tree back to the year 935. There I finally found I did have cattle rustlers in my lineage – along the Picts’ Wall.
So, I now know that either side of 1000 lived my 25th great-grandfather Sims of Yetherham (the younger) (970-1050). He married Ada of Northumberland and had a son Beuth, for whom the ruins of Bewcastle (Beuth’s castle) are attributed. So my ancestors in the year 1000 were what became known as Anglo-Scottish reivers, raiders operating on either side of the border, using the remnants of Hadrian’s Wall to create forts for themselves and hold on to what they accumulated. Provocatively Beuth had a son called Mac-Beuth, but after much research I proved to myself that this could not have been Macbeth – that was disappointing because the Shakespeare plauy had been one of my O-level set-books.
I had OU essays to prepare on the Hundred Years’ War (1337-1453) and learned from John’s Accompt… document that Sir Richard de Denton (1282-1363), my 21st Great Uncle, had been involved. In 1337 Sir Richard accompanied the 1st Earl of Northampton, William de Bohun to Flanders and set off the Battle of Sluys (aka Battle of l’Ecluse) on 24 June 1340 – a naval encounter that virtually wiped out King Philip VI of France’s fleet. This was one of the opening salvos of the Hundred Years War, a Denton appears to have started it!
When I returned to the topic in Autumn 2022 I had another stroke of good fortune – and managed to trace the family history back to my 104th Great Grandfather and 4,004 BCE!
If you are interested in this then my document, the Denton Family Bible, gives much more information on the family history I uncovered.