GGU21 – Sir Richard de Denton (1282-1363) and Margaret de Denton (1377-1426)

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Sir Richard was from the senior part of this ancient family that initially lived in Gilsland at Denton Hall in Nether Denton. Denton Hall no longer exists, but the church still stands:

St Cuthbert’s Church

The original Denton Hall was described as a fortified manor house with a peel or pele tower. These towers were popular in the borders area as they performed multiple functions. They could act as small fortified keeps to protect from attackers. Their very height made them useful watchtowers and if flat-topped they could be used for signal fires to alert others to Scottish insurgencies.

A Cumberland pele tower

Today the site is a farm with outbuildings, seemingly with a horsey theme. The tower is still apparent internally from its two-metre thick walls but its height has been reduced and the top gabled over. There are still signs of a deep moat to the south and east of the site.

Today’s Denton Hall in Cumbria

Denton Hall still provides the name for a local railway level crossing.

Denton Hall level crossing

Ainstable Manor to the SE of Carlisle had originally been held by Adam Skirelock who went off crusading to the Holy Land in 1271 and did not return. It was then acquired by Guido de Boyvills in 1276 on his marriage to the heiress. It was held by this family until John de Boyvill died in 1319. His widow Agnes married Sir Richard de Denton yet the manor passed to John’s brother Edmund de Boyvill. Andrew de Harclay (aka de Hartcia or de Hecla) the then Earl of Carlisle subsequently acquired Ainstable in 1322.

On 10 March 1322 Richard was living at Denton Hall and from there assisted in the arrest of Andrew de Harclay. Harclay was accused of treacherous dealings with Robert the Bruce. He had become frustrated by Edward II’s passivity and unilaterally initiated peace talks with the Bruce and signed a treaty. He was tried, executed and hanged, drawn and quartered the following year. His parts were put on display around the county and only brought together for his burial five years later.

On 5 April 1323 Richard was commissioned to array (gather and provision) 2,000 foot soldiers from Cumberland and Westmorland. They were to be armed with haketons (a stuffed jacket worn under mail or plated with mail), basnets (light steel helmets) and palettis (some sort of staff or pike?). Richard had to assemble these men and get them to Newcastle to assist in the king’s latest assault against the Scots. They had to arrive by the Nativity of St John the Baptist (24 June).

On 23 Dec 1324 he was again tasked to array 120 hobelers (mounted infantry) from Cumberland and Westmorland and have these assembled in Portsmouth before mid-Lent. This was to face a threatened, or at least suspected, French invasion.

On 16 February 1330 he was appointed to enforce the treaty with Scotland in Cumberland and on 3 November 1331 he was given the power to receive Scotsmen who desired to cease hostilities.

On 2 June 1335 Edward II rewarded Sir Richard in fee simple with all the lands in Cumberland, Westmorland and Yorkshire that had been acquired by Andrew de Harclay. He also obtained the land that Richard’s wife Agnes held in dower from her first husband John de Boyvill and the lands held by Joan, widow of William de Boyvill. This included the manors of Ainstable and Thursby; Ainstable became his family seat.

The following year Sir Richard was appointed as the Sheriff of Cumberland.


In 1337 Sir Richard was going overseas accompanying the 1st Earl of Northampton, William de Bohun. He appointed attorneys to act on his behalf during his absence in case he did not make it back.

I could not establish what Richard did on this campaign, but the Earl of Northampton travelled to Flanders at this time and became involved in the Battle of Sluys as one of Edward III’s lieutenants.

This was a naval battle fought on 24 June 1340 between England and France. It took place in the roadstead of the port of Sluys (French Écluse), on a since silted-up inlet between Zeeland and West Flanders. The English fleet of 120–150 ships was led by Edward III of England and the 230-strong French fleet by the Breton knight Hugues Quiéret, Admiral of France, and Nicolas Béhuchet, Constable of France. The battle was one of the opening engagements of the Hundred Years’ War. The French lost 16,000–20,000 men and the battle gave the English fleet naval supremacy in the Enlish Channel.

Impossible not to try to imagine that Sir Richard de Denton was therefore involved too – but as yet no documented evidence.

Battle of Sluys from Jean Froissart’s Chronicles, 14thcentury

On 18 November 1341 Richard inquired into a complaint made by the Bohun, Earl of Northampton. He claimed that his men (from Annandale) crossed the Solway Firth to reach Carlisle to sell their goods at the fairs and markets. His accusation was that the deputy-keeper of the Solway Firth was hindering and unduly taxing them.

In 1346 Richard clashed with Adam de Copley and Margaret his wife concerning the manor of Denton in Gilsland – remember de Copley as we will come back to him later.

On 6 Jul 1350 Richard was appointed Constable of Carlisle and Sheriff of Cumberland.

For all his good services to the king’s grandfather, father and to the king himself, in 1351 Sir Richard was granted exemption for life from serving at assizes and juries, or being appointed to offices against his will. By then he had passed the age of three-score-years-and-ten, yet in 1352 Bohun, Earl of Northampton and now Constable of England, appointed Sir Richard de Denton and others to travel to and receive control of Lochmaben Castle and the Vale of Annan (Annandale).

Lochmaban castle
– to the west of Lockerbie

In 1356 Agnes de Denton, Richard’s wife, made her will at Uluesby (today Ousby near Penrith). She bequeathed to the church of Denton her second-best animal (rather like Shakespeare leaving his second-best bed to Anne Hathaway), gave ten shillings to the nuns of Armathwaiteten and two shillings to Thomas del Hall (more about him later). The residue was left to her husband whom she appointed an executor, together with John his brother and William de Denton, rector of the church of Uluesby. The will was proved at Rose Castle (the Bishop of Carlisle’s residence) on 2 Dec 1356.

In 1362 upon the death of the Duke of Hereford, King Edward III put the stewardship of Lochmaban Castle and of Annandale (Robert the Bruce’s hereditary lands) under the custody of Sir John de Denton of Cardew until Hereford’s heir came of age.

Margaret de Denton – 2C20 (1377-1426)

This main Denton line would peter out when a second Sir Richard de Denton left no sons only a daughter, Margaret de Denton.

However Margaret married Sir Richard Copley of Batley, Yorkshire who by that marriage acquired Denton Hall and Nether Denton. This property remained with the de Copleys for three generations.

Subsequently, the Denton family was restarted by Isabel de Denton (de Copley) below.

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 1C21 – Sir John de Denton – Forward to Middle Ages Index
Back to GGF21 – John de Denton – Back to Denton Family Bible

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