I acknowledged at the beginning of this family history that I owe a debt of gratitude to John Denton, a resident of Cardew Hall where he was born. John’s circa 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. Sixteen original copies still exist today and he has been much used by historians. As a result of this he was heralded as ‘The First Historian of Cumberland’.
John first worked as a page in the household of the Bishop of Carlisle at Rose Castle. He trained as a lawyer and was appointed as a crown agent for Cumbria. He was then given the task to discover concealed lands for the crown. His relationship with the bishop gained him ready access to the diocesan records of Carlisle between 1598 and 1616.
However, one source suggests that John then fell out with the bishop and was imprisoned in the Tower of London but that seems unlikely (the Tower for a local Carlisle issue?). The national records of the time were kept at the Tower of London and whether he was visitor or prisoner, between 1600 and 1601, he certainly used his time fruitfully adding to his locally-obtained knowledge.
One of his contemporaries Reginald Bainbrigg complimented John saying, he goes by no hearesaies but by ancient records. However, John was an early historian who worked decades before any scholarly medieval English history approaches were developed and in his pioneering enthusiasm there were errors. Perhaps the fact that his work created suspicion and concern among Cumbrian gentry suggests we should accept his information was as good as it gets for this era.
You can access the full text of his Accompt here.