DENTON, William (by 1523-65), of Southwark, Surr. and Stedham, Suss.
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Family and Education
b. by 1523, s. of Nicholas Denton of Cardew, Cumb. m. by 1561, Margery, 3s. 2da.3
Jt. (with fa.) clerk of the watch, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumb. 1544; steward, household of Sir Anthony Browne by 1548; commr. sewers, Kent, Surr. 1564; surveyor, lands of Anthony Browne, 1st Viscount Montagu by 1564.4
William Denton, whose father came south from Cumberland, was to enjoy a parliamentary career unique in its length and continuity, his election to eight consecutive Parliaments for Midhurst being unmatched in any other Sussex borough during the 16th century. This achievement he owed to the Browne family of Cowdray, the owners of Midhurst and its parliamentary patrons throughout these years.5
No No trace has been found of Denton’s upbringing, but he had probably entered the service of Sir Anthony Browne by 1540 and may have attended him or his son on foreign missions, thereby acquiring the assortment of possessions which he listed in his will—the damask tablecloth bearing the Emperor’s arms, with matching towel, cupboard cloth and a dozen napkins, the maps, cards and pictures. Browne also saw to Denton’s advancement, obtaining for him when they were in the north together in 1544 the clerkship of the watch at Berwick, and in 1546 the reversion of the clerkship of the Exchequer there. When Browne died in 1548 Denton was steward of his household.6
Under Browne’s successor, created Viscount Montagu in 1554, Denton made further headway. He acquired considerable property both from the crown and through private transactions: in January 1549 he and Thomas Dalston of Cumberland spent £254 at the augmentations, in 1557 he bought the manor of Stedham, hard by Midhurst, for £760, and on the eve of his death he added the rectory of Tonbridge, Kent, which he acquired from Alexander Culpeper. As Lord Montagu’s surveyor of lands and trusted man of affairs he undertook many important duties and his regular Membership of the Commons is to be regarded as an extension of his service to the family. His master’s staunch Catholicism and high favour with both Queen Mary and her consort explain why Denton, in common with his Midhurst colleagues, is to be found on none of the lists of Members opposing the government during their reign, just as his continued Membership under Elizabeth answered to Montagu’s loyal acceptance of the new regime. It is as ‘my bountiful good lord’ and ‘my very good lady and mistress’ that the viscount and viscountess appear in the will which Denton made shortly before his death on 28 July 1565. His widow married Thomas Martin.7
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: R. J.W. Swales
- 1. Bodl. e Museo 17. The indenture (C219/21/157) is defaced, and Denton’s surname is missing.
- 2. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
- 3. Date of birth estimated from first office. Vis. Kent (Harl. Soc. xlii), 171; CPR, 1566-9, p. 127; C142/142/150.
- 4. LP Hen. VIII, xix; PCC 10 Coode; CPR, 1563-6, p. 39; Suss. Arch. Colls. vi. 60.
- 5. Lysons, Magna Britannia, iv, p. lxxi.
- 6. LP Hen. VIII, xix, xxi; PCC 10 Coode, 26 Morrison.
- 7. CPR, 1554-5, pp. 329, 399; 1560-3, p. 66; 1563-6, p. 305; 1566-9, pp. 222-3; Suss. Arch. Colls. vi. 60, lxxvii. 256; PCC 26 Morrison; C142/142/150; Vis. Cambs. (Harl. Soc. xli), 47.