20/05/2022

2C10 – Sir Alexander Denton (1596-1645)

Forward to 2C10 – Dr William Denton FRCP (1605-1691) – Forward to American Denton’s Index
Back to 3C11 – Rev Richard Denton (1603-1663) – Back to Denton Family Bible

Alexander, the eldest son of Sir Thomas, was educated at Christchurch, Oxford matriculating in 1612 aged seventeen. In 1617 he married Lady Mary Hampden from Wendover, the daughter of Edmund Hampden of Hartwell.

ASIDE: My two English grandchildren will be interested to learn that Mary’s uncle was John Hampden as both of them attended John Hampden School in Thame Oxfordshire.

Alexander Denton pictured in Hillesden church
©Bob Denton 2016

They had many children:

  • Edmund Denton of Hillesden ( – 1657) who married Elizabeth Rogers, daughter of Sir Richard Rodgers of Estwood Gloucestershire. Their children were Alexander Denton (1654-1698) (who married Hester Harman heir of Nicholas Harman of Middleton Stoney) and had seven children – Sir Edmund Denton (1676-1714), Sir Alexander Denton (1679-1740), John Denton (1680-1701), Elizabeth Denton (1675-1722), Carey Denton (1677- ), Edmund and Nicholas.
  • Elizabeth Denton (1618 – ) who married Francis Drake of Walton-on-Thames
  • Susan Denton (1620 – ) who married Robert Townsend.
  • Margaret Denton who Married Sir William Smith of Ratcliffe, Bart.
  • Mary Denton (1627 – ) who married John Townsend (an alderman of Oxford)
  • Anne Denton who married George Woodward of Stratton Audley
  • John ( – 1644)
  • Thomas ( – 1678)
  • George
  • Arabella
  • Sophia ( – 1640)
  • Dorothy ( – 1712)

This Alexander was knighted in 1617 and became MP for Wendover in 1624; this probably owed much to the interests of his wife’s family. He was MP for Buckingham in 1625, 1626, 1640 and 1644.

In 1626 he and his father were among those appointed to investigate a bill based around a Chancery decree to divide up a fen between the lords, tenants and other inhabitants of Feltwell in Norfolk. He was a JP for Buckingham in 1630 and appointed High Sheriff of Buckingham from 1637-8.

In the latter role he was criticised by the Privy Council for his poor performance in collecting Ship Money, one of the many contested taxes introduced by Charles I in his extra-parliamentary period. Ship Money was a tax on coastal counties to fund ships required in time of war. Charles introduced it to inland counties in peacetime. This was one of the provocations leading to the Civil War.

Alexander’s royal sympathies saw him appointed Captain of Buckinghamshire’s troop of horse by the Duke of Buckingham. Although Alexander was elected an MP to the Long Parliament of 1644 his being a royalist at arms saw him excluded in January 1644.

Perhaps as a result of this, also in January 1644, parliamentarians attacked Hillesden House but they were initially rebuffed. In February Colonel William Smith and a garrison of 260 men were based at Hillesden from where they could support the king who at the time was based at Oxford. The house was occupied by many of the Denton family and some of the Verney family.

HILLESDEN SACKED BY OLIVER CROMWELL

In March 1644 some two thousand men led by Oliver Cromwell and Samuel Luke laid siege to the Hillesden Hall. The overwhelming odds inevitably enabled them to take and sack the house. Colonel Smith and Alexander Denton were captured and imprisoned in the Tower of London.

The current door on the Hillesden church is said to have been salvaged from the sacked Hillesden Hall and still bears musket holes.

Hillesden hall/church door – ©Bob Denton 2016

Their ‘fall’ did not end there. In May the Parliamentarians seized Abingdon and destroyed its famous cross. The Royalists mounted three major assaults to try to retake Abingdon and on 22 August 1644 Alexander’s second son John (1623-1644) was slain, having received thirty wounds. Alexander died in the Tower the following year on 1 January 1645 and was buried four days later at the war-damaged parish church of Hillesden.

ASIDE: The tutor on my OU course told me he had attended the Royal Latin School in Buckingham which had a Denton House, and every week they had a prayer to commemorate ‘those through whose bounty this school was endowed’ including Alexander Denton. 

A GLIMPSE OF THE HILLESDEN ACCOUNTS

The Hillesden accounts for the period showed income from rents, the sale of timber and faggots, the sale of crops and wool, sales of cattle, income from trustees and loans that summed to an average of £1,450 per annum across the period of the book (1661-7).

Expenditures were shown as rates and taxes (averaging £96pa), William Hayne’s fee as steward (£20pa for first five years and £28 11s in 1666-7), labour (averaging a total £76pa) plus cattle purchase, interest, annuities, the minister’s stipend (£35pa), rent of the rectory (£38pa), payments on land and to trustees and, for only the last three years, the cost of the children’s school (£30pa). These totalled an average of £1,418 across the period.

The estate therefore made on average only £36 per annum – not too bad for an outlay of just £63 6s 8d paid out over a century earlier. Intriguingly, the steward proved none too successful with cattle sales at £451 10s 2d across the six years versus expenditure of £508 8s 0d. In his defence there is no opening and closing headcount of the cattle so he may have been charged with building up the herd and flock. Prices appear very changeable. Purchasing ten heifers cost the estate £35 in 1661 and only £23 in 1667. The cost of a tegg (a sheep in its second year or before its first shearing) was 16s 9d in 1663 and just 12s in 1667. The sale of wool fetched £1 2s 6d per tod (about 28lbs) in 1665 and £1 in 1666.

VERNEY FAMILY

Hillesden was also home to the Verney family who intermarried with the Dentons. Sir Edmund Verney (1616-1649) was a professional soldier who had served in Ireland in 1641 and become a colonel by 1644. He returned to England as lieutenant-general of Chester but the city was lost to Parliamentarians. Edmund escaped to Le Havre and Paris. In 1648 he was back in Ireland defending Drogheda against Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell’s assault on 11 Sep 1649 was successful and he followed through with a massacre of the defenders, boasting I do not think Thirty of the whole number escaped with their lives.

Edmund survived the massacre but three days later, walking beside Cromwell in his camp where he assumed he was safe, he was called aside by the son of Lord Ropier. He assumed this was to renew an old acquaintance but Ropier barberously rann him throw wth a tuck.

Many of the lands and leases of Alexander’s father had been sold back in 1633. The loss of Hillesden therefore led to a bankrupt inheritance.

HILLESDEN CHURCH, BUCKINGHAM

Thomas’s and Mary’s effigies and a close-up of their heads at Hillesden church – ©Bob Denton 2016

Hillesden church is festooned with Denton memorials. It has a hybrid Denton coat of arms on the wall, twice including the original trefoil version.

Denton coat of arms in Hillesden church – ©Bob Denton 2016

This floor plaque in the church claims to be for Dorothy the ‘seventh daughter’ of Alexander and Mary. I can only find six daughters and Dorothy appears to have been the third-born.  She was seventy-five when she died in 1712 and there is no record of a marriage or children.

Dorothy Denton marble floor panel at Hillesden church – ©Bob Denton 2016

In 1850 a wall at the Manor Farm in Hillesden fell or was pulled down and an account book of the Denton Estate for the years 1661-1667 was discovered. It was bound with calf, around 14.5” x 9.5” in size and held with two brass clasps. It makes for interesting reading as to values back then.

The small book shows that in 1662-3 there were thirty rents collected from tenants, mostly paid in instalments. The most fruitful tenants were Robert Brashead who paid £104 that year for part of the new Parke, his home-stall, Mareway ground and Kingsbridge Meade in Hillesden; George Adams paid £102 for the nether ground and meadow in Cowley; Dr Robert Townshend paid £98 for House and lands in Cowley; Robert Friday paid £96 for part of the West Field, the Windmill ground, the middle Don meadow and his part of the great meadow in Hillesden. However, the Widow Atkins paid just 1d per annum for her house and homestall. Within his agreement another tenant Thomas Paxton had to pay 2 couple of rent capons annually at Christmas.

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

Forward to 2C10 – Dr William Denton FRCP (1605-1691) – Forward to American Denton’s Index
Back to 3C11 – Rev Richard Denton (1603-1663) – Back to Denton Family Bible

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