DENTON, Sir Thomas (c.1574-1633), of Hillesden, Bucks.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press

Family and Education

b. c.1574, o.s. of Alexander Denton of Hillesden, and a da. of Richard Willison of Sugwas, Herefs.1 educ. All Souls, Oxf. 1589, aged 15.2 m. by c.1595, Susan, da. of John Temple of Stow, Bucks.,3 at least 4s. incl. Sir Alexander*, 2da.4 suc. fa. 1578;5 kntd. July 1603.6d. 19 Sept. 1633.7 sig. Tho[mas] Denton.

Offices Held

?Capt of ft. France 1591.8

Sheriff, Bucks. 1600-1;9 recvr. and surveyor of Tutbury manor, Staffs. 1604;10 commr. inquiry into lands of Gunpowder plotters, Bucks. 1607;11 j.p. Bucks. 1608,12 Buckingham, Bucks. 1618-30;13 dep. lt. Bucks. by 1608-at least 1625;14 steward, hundreds of Rowley and Stodfold, Bucks. 1608;15 commr. charitable uses, Bucks. 1608, 1610, 1621, 1629-30,16 oyer and terminer, Norf. circ. 1616-23,17 Home circ. 1620;18 commr. subsidy, Bucks. 1621-2, 1624;19 sub-commr. exacted fees, Bucks. 1623;20 commr. Privy Seal loan, Bucks. 1625-6,21 Forced Loan 1626-7,22 knighthood fines 1630-1.23


The Denton family owed its rise to the legal career of Thomas Denton in the mid-Tudor period.24 From 1547 its principal seat was at Hillesden in Buckinghamshire, although it also came to hold land in Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Herefordshire. Marriage alliances and property transactions with the Hampden,25 Temple26 and Verney27 families confirmed the Dentons’ place in the upper ranks of Buckinghamshire society in the early seventeenth century.

An only son, Thomas Denton was probably born in c.1574. His mother predeceased his father, Alexander, who was dead by June 1578, leaving Thomas in the care of his grandmother, Margaret Denton, and Alexander’s brother-in-law, George Fettiplace.28 No details of his education are known before he matriculated at All Souls College, Oxford in June 1589. A Thomas Denton was paid as a captain of an English foot company in Normandy in the summer and autumn of 1591, but whether this was Denton himself or a namesake is unclear.29 Before mid-1595 Denton married Susan, daughter of John Temple of Stow, even though she brought him no portion:30 their eldest son, Alexander, was baptized in March 1596.31 The Temple family had, since 1572, owned the principal manor and fair in the borough of Buckingham,32 whose corporation provided Denton with a seat for much of his parliamentary career.

Denton’s local prominence depended on his landed estate, which he expanded during the first two decades of the seventeenth century. His most significant purchase was the prebend and parsonage of Sutton cum Buckingham, which he acquired for £4,500 in 1613.33 That same year Denton agreed to provide a portion of £2,500 for his daughter Margaret upon her marriage to Sir Edmund Verney*.34 However, by 1624 he was probably in financial difficulties, as he sold three manors to his brother-in-law, Sir Peter Temple.35

As a senior county figure in Buckinghamshire, Denton was consulted by the Privy Council over such matters as wool sales, the treatment of prisoners and Privy Seal loans.36 He also appears to have been one of the county leaders instructed by the earl of Northampton on behalf of the king to investigate discreetly the conduct of Sir Francis Goodwin* in the aftermath of the Buckinghamshire election dispute in April 1604,37 although he himself was then serving in the Commons. As a prominent Buckinghamshire gentleman, Denton was able to command a seat in every Parliament in this period bar one, but his contribution to Commons’ proceedings was modest. Nevertheless, there were enduring themes - appointment, for example, in successive parliaments to the committee for privileges and to committees on bills dealing with the estates of individuals - as well as an intermittent interest in grievances over purveyance and recusancy.

Denton’s putative military experience may explain why he was appointed on 26 Mar. 1604 to consider the needs of English captains who had served in Ireland; he was later named (25 Apr.) to a committee to examine a bill for the enforcement of statutes against the use of guns and for the preservation of pheasants.38 In mid-May he was appointed to a committee on a bill to preserve sea fish. A month later he was required to help consider a bill to prevent married men, their wives and children residing in colleges.39 But he was also called upon to help deal with more important matters - to consider bills to restore Philip, late earl of Arundel’s only son to his inheritance and the 3rd earl of Southampton to his estate after his attainder following Essex’s revolt (2 Apr.), and to serve on deputations to King James over the Goodwin v. Fortescue dispute (28 Mar.) and over the abuses of purveyors (7 May), as well as to a conference with the Lords on the proposed Union with Scotland (14 April).40

Denton was apparently much less busy in 1606, 1607 and 1610 than he had been in the first session. In 1606 his only committee appointments were to meet the Lords over the enforcement of the laws against recusants (3 Feb.); to examine a bill to discharge parishes from the burden of bastard children (19 Mar.); and to consider an offensive sermon (26 May).41 In 1607, beyond being added to the committee for the bill dealing with the town of Southampton’s charter on 29 May, he went unmentioned.42 Three years later his only recorded contribution to proceedings was to get himself named to bill committees concerning the estates of Humphrey Mildmay (20 Feb.), Lord Bergavenny (7 July), and the Jenison family of co. Durham (29 Mar.), and on the power of bishops to make and take leases (25 April). In addition, he formed part of the delegation which presented the king with the Commons’ grievances on 7 July. His inclusion on the committee for the bill regarding Lord Bergavenny’s lands suggests that Denton had an eye on the interests of Sir Robert Brett, whose mother-in-law was the daughter and heir of the 6th Lord Bergavenny. 43 He played no recorded part in the poorly recorded fifth session.

If Denton’s service in his first Parliament was modest and attracted no attention, his record in 1614 is equally thin. Aside from the committee for privileges he was appointed to just two bill committees, one for the relief of the king’s tenants in case of forfeiture for non-payment of rent (15 Apr.), a potentially delicate matter if royal interests were adversely affected, and a second to confirm letters patent granting a manor in Gloucestershire (31 May).44 In the next Parliament, Denton was again appointed to the committee for privileges.45 That same day, 5 Feb. 1621, he was also named to a sub-committee instructed to petition the king to execute the laws against Jesuits, seminary priests and recusants.46 Ten days later, he was nominated to the committee for the Sabbath bill and, on 2 Mar., to the committee for the bill to reduce the number of recusants and increase the king’s revenues whilst reducing frauds that favoured Catholics.47 In secular matters, apart from his nomination on 18 Mar. to a committee for a bill dealing with a private estate, his appointments were to consider measures concerned with bribery in the courts (27 Apr.) and secret offices and inquisitions taken on the king’s behalf to the prejudice of his subjects (30 April).48 How far these nominations reflected a critical attitude towards James’s rule is impossible to determine.

Denton served as knight for Buckinghamshire for the first time in 1624. His appointments during that Parliament reflected no discernable pattern of interests. Named to the committee for privileges on 23 Feb.,49 he was appointed to bill committees concerned with the sale of the lands of Thomas Cope and his son (16 Mar.),50 and of Sir Anthony Aucher* and others (28 May).51 He was also nominated to consider a measure to naturalize the Scottish diplomat Sir Robert Anstruther (10 April).52 Denton was appointed, on 6 Apr. and 30 Apr. respectively, to help confer with the Lords over the monopolies’ bill and the bill of limitations and pleadings in the Exchequer. He was also appointed to consider the bill on concealments (22 May) and the patent for surveying coal (25 May).53 On 28 May he was added to the committee for the bill dealing with the lands of the recently disgraced Lord Treasurer Middlesex (Sir Lionel Cranfield*).54 What did, however, make this Parliament noteworthy, was that he delivered his maiden speech: on 27 Apr., in his capacity as a knight of the shire, he identified the 6th Lord Windsor as a Buckinghamshire recusant.55

Denton did not sit in 1625, but the following year he again served as one of Buckinghamshire’s knights. Appointed to the privileges committee on 9 Feb., he was subsequently named to consider bills to settle the property affairs of four individuals and of one manor.56 He was also one of 64 Members appointed on 4 Mar. to confer with a Lords’ committee over a message from the duke of Buckingham. On 3 May he was a teller for the yeas in a division over whether the Speaker should write to the archbishop of Canterbury and other members of the High Commission over proceedings against Sir Robert Howard* that were in breach of the House’s privileges: the vote was lost.57 Finally, on 25 May, he was appointed to a committee to consider the abuses of purveyors and to prepare to present them to King Charles.58

Following the dissolution, Denton openly advocated the Benevolence demanded after the Parliament’s failure to supply Charles I and was subsequently a commissioner for the Forced Loan.59 Perhaps because he was a supporter of unparliamentary taxation, Denton was not re-elected for the county in 1628, but was instead obliged to resume his former seat at Buckingham. Once again, he played little recorded part in the Commons. Reappointed to the committee for privileges on 20 Mar., on 17 May he was named to consider the bill to assure the jointure of the wife of Sir Thomas Neville.60 He left no trace at all on the records of the 1629 session.

Denton’s last years were marked by prolonged ill-health,61 and spent under the shadow of accumulated debts. His will, signed on 15 Apr. 1633, provided for the settlement of those debts from his lands in Buckinghamshire, Herefordshire and Oxfordshire, and the sale of his household plate and goods. His sons and his son-in-law, Sir Edmund Verney, were released from the bonds they had entered into on his behalf. Small annuities were left to his younger sons and to his daughter Susan, who was also to have a portion of £1,000 within two years of her marriage.62 Denton died in September 1633 and was buried as his will instructed in the chancel of Hillesden church. His son and executor, Sir Alexander, sat for Buckingham in 1625, 1626 and in the Short and Long Parliaments.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Christopher Thompson


  • 1. PROB 11/60, ff. 227-8v; PROB 11/57, ff. 152v-3. Thomas Denton is not mentioned in his grandmother’s will: PROB 11/78, ff. 81-2v.
  • 2. Al. Ox.
  • 3. Lipscomb, Bucks. ii. 576.
  • 4. PROB 11/164, f. 217r-v identifies 4 sons 1 daughter (Susan). A 2nd daughter, Margaret, married Sir Edmund Verney: BL, mic. 636/2; Cent. Bucks. Stud. PR96/1/1. Vis. Bucks. (Harl.Soc. lviii), 38 incorrectly identifies Denton’s mother as Mary, daughter of Sir Roger Martin, and names 5 sons and 4 daughters.
  • 5. PROB 11/60, f. 228v.
  • 6. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 111.
  • 7. Letters and Papers of Verney Fam. ed. J. Bruce (Cam. Soc. lvi), 157.
  • 8. Lansd. 149, f. 50.
  • 9. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 9.
  • 10. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 179.
  • 11. C181/1, f. 130v.
  • 12. SP14/33.
  • 13. C181/2, f. 338; 181/4, f. 68.
  • 14. HEHL, EL 1692; Eg. 860, ff. 48v, 115v; SP14/33, f. 7v.
  • 15. E315/310, f. 56v.
  • 16. C93/2/29; 93/3/6, 26; 93/8/15.
  • 17. C181/2, f. 258r-v; 181/4, f. 146v.
  • 18. C181/3, f. 14v.
  • 19. C212/22/20-3.
  • 20. HEHL, Temple Corresp., Box 5, STT 877.
  • 21. E401/2586, p. 363.
  • 22. C193/12/2, f. 3v; T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 2, p. 144.
  • 23. E178/7154, pt. 2, f. 107; 178/5156, ff. 4, 7.
  • 24. R.M. Johnson, ‘Bucks. 1640 to 1660. A Study in County Pols.’ (Univ. of Wales M.A. thesis, 1963), p. 10.
  • 25. BL, mic. 636/2; Cent. Bucks. Stud. D/LE/1/103, 127, 129; E. Suss. RO, GLY/670.
  • 26. Northants. RO. Th. 291, 755.
  • 27. BL, mic. 636/2; F.P. Verney, Mems. of Verney Fam. During the Civil War, i. 72-4.
  • 28. PROB 11/60, f. 228.
  • 29. Lansd. 149, f. 50.
  • 30. PROB 11/164, f. 217.
  • 31. Lipscomb, i. p. xviii; ii. 560.
  • 32. V. Hodge, ‘Electoral Influence of the Aristocracy, 1604-41’ (Columbia Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1977), pp. 397, 401, 416, 425.
  • 33. Cent. Bucks. Stud. B/Buc/8/5/4. For his additional purchases, see VCH Oxon. xi. 134.
  • 34. BL, mic. 636/2.
  • 35. Northants. RO, Th.291.
  • 36. Lansd. 152, ff. 225-6v; SP14/180/7; 16/10/8; Letters and Papers of Verney Fam. 123-4, 126, 129.
  • 37. Bodl. Rawl. D918, f. 35.
  • 38. CJ, i. 153a, 184a.
  • 39. Ibid. 209a, 238b.
  • 40. Ibid. 162a, 172a, 202a, 938a.
  • 41. Ibid. 263a, 286b, 312b.
  • 42. Ibid. 376b.
  • 43. Ibid. 397b, 416b, 421a, 447a.
  • 44. Ibid. 456b, 465b, 503b.
  • 45. Ibid. 508a.
  • 46. CD 1621, ii. 26, n. 31.
  • 47. CJ, i. 523a, 534a.
  • 48. Ibid. 562a, 595a, 597a.
  • 49. Ibid. 671b.
  • 50. Ibid. 737b.
  • 51. Harl. 6806, f. 274; CJ, i. 762b.
  • 52. CJ, i. 761a. For Denton’s attendance at bill cttees. see C.R. Kyle, ‘Attendance Lists’, PPE 1604-48 ed. Kyle, 197, 199, 206. In two cases, he attended all the cttee. meetings but in another he only attended one out of eight.
  • 53. CJ, i. 695a, 757b, 793a, 794b.
  • 54. Ibid. 714a.
  • 55. ‘Holland 1624’, ii. f. 51v.
  • 56. Procs. 1626, ii. 7, 86, 195, 216, 321, 385; iii. 155, 180, 189, 404.
  • 57. Ibid. iii. 142.
  • 58. Ibid. 331.
  • 59. R. Cust, Forced Loan, 97-8, 217.
  • 60. CD 1628, ii. 29; iii. 447.
  • 61. Verney, ii. 9-10.
  • 62. PROB 11/164, f. 217r-v.