Foreword DFB – Cherchez la femme

Note: this featured image is of my paternal grandmothers - GM1, GGM2 and GGM14

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Note on shorthand acronyms being used in the DFB (Denton Family Bible):
GGF1 / GGM1 – means first great-grandfather /mother;
GU11 / GA11 – means eleventh great-uncle / great-aunt;
1C3 – means first cousin three times removed

Genealogy follows the surname and thus the male line. It is startling below to note how frequently the spouse’s name went completely unrecorded, women tend to be unjustly sidelined in history. One of the things I learned about history was to seek to study ‘against the grain’ of historical records.

Shockingly across twenty-nine generations, from Sims of Yetherham the elder to me, almost a third (nine) of the wives have completely eluded my research!

Just as history is the record of the victorious, ignoring those who came second, it is as often silent about the female of the species. Daughters only occasionally carry forward the surname and therefore females tend to drop away from the accounts, becoming marginalised from particular families, and this includes the Dentons.

Let’s set out to remedy this straight away.

In the family tree you will find two women, Sigreda Beuth and an unnamed ‘Heiress of Vaux’ who were necessary to jink our lineage around two lacks of a male heir to get back to my 26th GGF. This was Sims the elder of Yetherham from Roxburgh in Scotland just across the border. My 25th GGF Sims the Younger married Ada of Northumberland, south of that border. The Sims were alive pre-Norman-Conquest, the elder was born in 935 and his son in 970, but that was far as I could get with my tree.

However, in Summer 2022 I came back to research this afresh, and appear to have now got this back to thirty-one generations to my GGF29, a tyrant called Ælla (800-867), who became King of Northumbria, either as a usurper or brother to his predecessor, He threw a Viking leader into a snake pit – but was then killed in revenge by the Viking’s sons at the battle of York in 867.

You might imagine my surprise when I discovered that Uhtred the Bold (971-1016) was a cousin, because I am a fan of Bernard Cornwell’s ‘Last Kingdom’ series.

Uhtred of Bebbanburg from the Last Kingdom

I see his Uhtred is fictional, loosely based on that relative of mine. He is for example connected to Bamburgh Castle where several of my GGFs were born and lived. Even more intriguing was to learn that Bernard Cornwell is also relatedto this branch of my family!

See this latest research here...

In a forward direction one genealogical site shows Sims of Yetherham as connected to President George Washington, Winston Churchill and Prince Charles, but do see Cautionary Tales!

I needed to track back to the Sims to give proper context to the origins of the Dentons. We might instead have followed more strictly the Denton name from Thomas (20th GGF) to his father John, and on to his grandfather Robert de Denton, also called Anketin. Robert’s father was also known as Anketin and the first to style himself as de Denton, and therefore was a progenitor – but he was only my 22nd GGF and post-Conquest. Much more on these characters later.

I discovered if I looked against the grain and considered the maternal track there proved to be a host of powerful women in our gene bank. Let’s ensure they don’t remain marginalised.

We start with something of a mystery with my paternal grandmother and grandfather. Betsy Walton and the first Robert Soulsby Denton. Betsy was born in Willenhall in the Black Country, just three miles outside Wolverhampton. It is clear from family lore that she went into service.

Betsy Walton (1888-1965) my paternal grandmother

She did not marry until she was thirty-one years oldon 27 Sep 1919, post WWI, so perhaps four years or so of her conventionally late marriage might be accounted for by that war, but even 27 was quite old for a first marriage in that era.

Somehow she had moved from Willenhall to live in Chorlton-upon-Medlock, today an inner city part of Manchester. As a servant perhaps it was her employers who effected this move? Here, she lived just a few doors away from the man who was to became my grandfather, the first Robert Soulsby Denton.

He married her when he was a thirty-seven year old journeyman locksmith. I can find nothing about what he did in WWI. He was 32 years old in 1914 and would have been called up as were all single men aged between 18 and 41. Presumably his journeyman status was because he was retraining after the services. Intriguingly much of the lock fabrication was performed in Betsy’s birthplace.

He had moved to Manchester, from Bishop Auckland in Durham, where he was born and raised. For both of them this was a late marriage by the norms of their time. There is no family word-of-mouth or anything my research could find to explain how these two thirty-somethings came together in Manchester, presumably this was simply the happenstance of their living near to each other?

By the way, her mother Betsey Walton (née Hill) my 1st GGM must have been illiterate (many were) as she placed her mark, the ubiquitous X, on my grandmother’s birth certificate.

Betsey Hill (1856–1908)
– my GGM1

One of my 8th GGMs was Agnes Farrar, the attached picture is said to be her sitting by a fireside.

Agnes Farrar (1550-1614) – a GGM8

She married the middle of a series of three Fenland Williams, William Denton, in 1572 and had three children with him. We don’t know his death date, but thereafter she remarried a notable Quaker, William Scarborough, in 1680 and had nine further children, the last when she was 62! No wonder she needed to relax beside the fireside.

Records show the Scarboroughs were resident in Hosier Lane, London and attended Quaker meetings at Peel Court, London. One Scarborough descendant, John born in 1649, responded to William Penn’s invitation to go to America. He arrived in 1682 to live on 250 acres of land he purchased along Neshaminy Creek, near Langhorne in Bucks County, just north of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania.

However, in 1684 he and his wife returned to England, leaving his son John behind. They planned to return to America having collected the rest of their family but Anne had other ideas. Disliking the sea journey she convinced him not to return. Son John spent ten years in the wilds of Bucks County living with the Indians. He married Mary Pierson, half Indian, and they had eight children. See also American Dentons.

All Saints, Fettiplace memorial
– Edmund, Margaret (GGM10) and their progeny

detail showing Margaret Mordaunt

One 10th GGM was Margaret Mordaunt (1509-1576). She was daughter of the first Baron Mordaunt of Turvey and Elizabeth de Vere. At sixteen years old she married Sir Edmund Fettiplace of Bessels Leigh and they had eleven children. When Edmund died in 1540 Margaret left this brass memorial to him in All Saints Church, Marcham, Oxfordshire. The Fettiplaces obviously enjoyed a good memorial. The one below is in St Mary’s Swinbrook, near Burford Oxfordshire and shows Sir Edmund, his father and his uncle

Fettiplace effigies

Margaret is mentioned here because in 1542 she married my GGF11 Thomas Denton, a lawyer of Hillesden, and had another two children with him. She outlived him and he left her a lifetime interest in Hillesden where she produced a memorial to him in the adjoining All Saints Church.

Hillesden memorial to Thomas Denton

A 13th great-grandmother was Lady Alison Dauncy or Dauntsey (1429-1453) who was born and died at Baddesley Clinton in Warwickshire.

Baddesley Clinton House

Baddesley Clinton church

Alison married Thomas Denton and their child was John Denton – who married Isabel Brome, daughter of John Brome, Esq and Beatrix Shirley. This moated manor house was home to the Bromes, Dentons and Ferrers for many years. Today it is a National Trust property.

Thomas died at twenty-six years of age, Alison only twenty-four, as both died in 1453 it begs the question why? Was it the pague? I can find nothing about their deaths.

ASIDE: 1453 was a momentous year for other reasons. It was when the Hundred Years’ War between England and France came to its unsatisfactory end. It was when the Eastern Roman Empire at Constantinople fell to the Ottomans. In fact many historians suggest that 1453 marks the end of the Middle Ages, believing the period ran for a millennium from the fall of the Western Roman Empire (476 CE according to Gibbon) to the fall of the Eastern Roman Empire (1453).

Another GGM who caught my eye was Agnes Danvers, perhaps because of this rather stern portrait?

Agnes Danvers
(1398-1478) – GGM14

Agnes was a GGM15 who lived until she was eighty. She most likely died in Thame, Oxfordshire, where I live now, or perhaps at Adderbury, a little north of Bicester. Of course Danvers derives from d’Anvers, meaning of Antwerp. She married five times.

Her first marriage was in 1420 to Sir Thomas Denton (1401-1427). She remarried at 30, 38, 69 and 76 years of age, and each time it was to a knight of the realm, clearly a redoubtable woman.

Johanna [or Joan] de la Launde (1378-1401) would have been mother-in-law to Agnes, she was married to John (or William) Denton, but she died in the year of Sir Thomas Denton’s birth (perhaps during childbirth?). Johanna’s family was associated with a village called Ashby de la Launde, a little north of Sleaford, Lincolnshire. The Ashby Manor which was in the Domesday Book became a preceptory in 1150, a headquarters for the Knights Templar. Called Temple Bruer it was funded from the wool business, becoming the second wealthiest preceptor in England to fund crusades. The family also had connections to Laceby Manor in NE Lincolnshire towards Grimsby.

My furthest identifiable GGM was my 24th, Ada of Northumberland (975-1050). In 990 she married Sims of Yetherham from across the border in Roxburgh, Scotland. They were born during the reign of the Saxon king Edgar The Peaceful, who was acclaimed as king of all England. But this was weakened after his son Edgar the Martyr was assassinated in 978, and succeeded by the uninspiringly named Æthelred the Unready.

From 980 the Vikings began their second set of invasions, in 991 Æthelred paid them £10,000 to desist. He paid them more in 1002 and 1007, and in 1012 following the capture and murder of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the sack of Cante another £48,000 was paid. As a result Æthelred introduced an annual land tax to fund a force of Scandinavian mercenaries to defend his realm. [Following Æthelred the kings of England used the same tax collection method to fund their own standing armies.]

By 1016 Knut was king of England and taxed his new realm heavily. The Viking attention moved off to Brittany and Normandy where they also settled. Vikings/Normans would be back fifty years later.

ASIDE: When Ada [GGM24] was ten years old, 985, King Æthelred granted lands at Hēatūn to Lady Wulfrun by royal charter, this founded what would become Wolverhampton, where Betsy Walton (GM1) would be born some 903 years later.

Anglo-Saxon warrior
from Sims period

Sims and their son Bueth are both described as chieftains. Surprisingly for fighting men they both lived to an old age, Sims was eighty and Beuth sixty at death (or is it that records were a tad vague back then?). Bueth also built the castle at Bewcastle, believed to be named after him – Bueth-castle (Bewcastle?).

Bueth took over another Roman outpost at Hadrian’s Wall and used material from the wall to create this stronghold which overlooked Kirk Beck, protecting one route south into England.

Beuth or Bewcastle

Sims’s father was also called Sims of Yetherham. He was born in 935 and married to someone born in 940 and only ever referred to as the wife of Sims. She was a 25th GGM and demonstrates quite well how women can drop off the edges of history. 

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