DENTON, John (by 1514-76), of Ambrosden, Oxon.
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Family and Education
Commr. tenths of spiritualities, Oxon. 1535, musters 1539, relief 1550, goods of churches and fraternities, Oxford 1553; other commissions, Oxon. 1544-64; j.p. Oxon. 1536-d., q. 1554 only; escheator, Oxon. and Berks. 1539-41, 1549-50; sheriff 1557-8.2
Said to be Cumbrian in origin, from the family which produced William Denton, the Dentons of Berkshire had long been settled there and in neighbouring counties. John Denton’s father was a substantial landowner, mainly in Oxfordshire, and had been sheriff of Oxfordshire and Berkshire in 1526. By his will of December 1533 John Denton was left a lease at Caversfield, although if by this was meant the manor of Caversfield the Denton lease may in fact have already expired: he also inherited the manors of Foscott, Buckinghamshire, and Appleton, Berkshire. He was then probably of age, but livery of his inheritance was granted only in November 1536. The visitations, of slightly later date, identify his mother as Jane, daughter of John Webbe of Cardiff and Hertfordshire, widow of an unidentified Cheyne of Chesham Bois, Buckinghamshire, and sister of the Elizabeth Webbe who was married to Sir Robert Cheyne; although this seems to be wrong, the families of Cheyne and Denton were to be connected later through Thomas Denton’s marriage to a Mordaunt.3
Caversfield, although administratively a Buckinghamshire parish until the 19th century, was geographically within Oxfordshire and only a mile north of Bicester in that county. When, like his brother Thomas, John Denton bought former monastic property, he tried to concentrate his estates around Bicester. He was described as of Blackthorn, three miles from Bicester, when on 25 Oct. 1542 he received a grant of the manors of Nun’s Place or King’s End in Bicester and of Ambrosden near Bicester in exchange for his manor of Foscott and a payment of £58. He must, however, have been only a tenant of Blackthorn, which had been held with Ambrosden by Ashridge college, Hertfordshire, and he did not obtain the manor itself until January 1564, when it was granted to him and his wife in survivorship, with remainder to their eldest son, for £612. Three months later the Dentons alienated Appleton to John Fettiplace, a stepson of Thomas Denton.4
John Denton was involved in a number of quarrels and lawsuits including a dispute begun by his father over Caversfield manor with the Langston family; the riot by Denton’s servants against John Harman into which the Privy Council ordered an inquiry in 1541 was probably connected with this dispute. Another involved Denton’s brother-in-law William Anne of Aylesbury who during Gardiner’s chancellorship sued him for retaining deeds relating to the Oxfordshire manor of North Aston. In the reign of Elizabeth a number of Denton’s copyhold tenants in Blackthorn brought actions against him in the court of requests. Their chief grievance was his attempt to prevent them felling trees or leasing their tenements at will. The court ruled that the copyholders must enjoy their customary rights but Denton was later charged with ignoring the order despite the threat of a £200 fine.5
As sheriff Denton returned his brother Thomas as one of the knights for Oxfordshire to the Parliament of 1558 and himself as Member for Banbury, thus breaking the rule forbidding the election of sheriffs within their own counties: his brother Thomas had been the town’s first Member in 1554. Denton was of the quorum on the commission of the peace only under Mary, a possible indication that he shared the Catholic sympathies of his wife’s family, although the only recusant in the Denton family at this time seems to have been his sister Susan, a former nun of Studley.6
Denton made his will on 30 Oct. 1573 and died on 10 July 1576. His eldest son and namesake had predeceased him, so that his heir was his second son Edward, married to Joyce, a daughter of Anthony Carleton† of Brightwell Baldwin, Oxfordshire. Denton left 40s. to his sister Susan, and named one of his younger sons, William, residuary legatee and executor, and his brother-in-law Sir Christopher Brome, his nephew Alexander Denton, and Edward Denton overseers. His wife Magdalen survived him for 20 years and in her own will provided £20 for a tomb or monument of marble to be erected in Ambrosden church.7
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: T. F.T. Baker
- 1. Date of birth estimated from first reference. Vis. Berks. (Harl. Soc. lvii), 116; Vis. Oxon. (Harl. Soc. v), 229.
- 2. LP Hen. VIII, viii, xi, xii, xiv, xvi, xvii, xx; CPR, 1547-8, p. 88; 1553, pp. 338, 357, 417; 1553-4, pp. 23, 27, 34; 1563-6, pp. 25, 41; R. Letters addressed to Oxf. ed. Ogle, 180.
- 3. PCC 11 Hogen; VCH Berks. iv. 338; VCH Bucks. iv. 159, 170; LP Hen. VIII, viii, xi.
- 4. VCH Bucks. iv. 157; VCH Oxon. v. 17-18; vi. 24; LP Hen. VIII, xvii; CPR, 1563-6, pp. 44, 134.
- 5. VCH Bucks. iv. 159; LP Hen. VIII, xiv-xvi; C1/1327/46; Req. 2/45/73, 68/29, 71/44.
- 6. A. Beesley, Banbury, 222, 225-7; A. Davidson, ‘Catholicism Oxon. 1580-1640’ (Bristol Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1970), 143-8, 254-5, 265.
- 7. Bodl. wills Oxon. 185, ff. 404v-406; C142/178/61; Vis. Oxon. (Harl. Soc. v), 57; PCC 72 Drake.