DENTON, William (by 1523-65), of Stedham, Suss. and Southwark, Surr.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Mar. 1553
Oct. 1553
Apr. 1554
Nov. 1554

Family and Education

b. by 1523, s. of Nicholas Denton of Cardew, Cumb. m. Margery, 3s. 2da.

Offices Held

Jt. clerk (with fa.) of the watch, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumb. 1544; steward, household to Sir Anthony Browne by 1548; commr. sewers, Surr. and Kent 1564; surveyor, lands of Anthony Browne, Viscount Montagu, by 1564.


The Dentons were a Cumberland family, William being the first of the family to move to the south of England. He spent most of his life in the service of Sir Anthony Browne, master of the horse to Henry VIII, and of his son, the 1st Viscount Montagu. The trust which Montagu placed in him is revealed in land transactions made in 1557 and 1563. In the first, Montagu conveyed the manor of Swarraton, Hampshire, to Denton and Henry Heighes to hold in trust, probably for his son Anthony, and in the second made a similar arrangement with Denton and another servant for the bulk of his property in Sussex, including six manors and lands in more than two dozen parishes.

Montagu, as lord of the manor of Midhurst, returned Denton to eight consecutive Parliaments, usually as junior Member, though in 1559 he took precedence over Henry Heighes, a fellow-servant. It is clear from his will that Denton, like his master, was a Catholic. He acknowledged the debt he owed Montagu, ‘who in my lifetime hath been to me my bountiful good lord’, with a legacy of £40 in gold in his will. He bequeathed to Lady Montagu, ‘my very good lady and mistress’, a silver perfume box weighing eleven ounces, and to Master Anthony Browne a brooch of gold ‘with the sun upon it which my late good lady, his mother, whose soul God pardon, gave me’.

Such sentiments of gratitude are not surprising, for Denton clearly prospered under the Browne family. He was able, for example, to buy up large quantities of former church property. Between 1549 and 1557 he spent over £1,000, part of it with Thomas Dalston, on lands in Cumberland, Northamptonshire and Sussex, and made similar purchases after the accession of Elizabeth. In 1561 he leased some buildings and land at Weybridge in Surrey and in 1565 bought the rectory of Tonbridge, Kent, with all the lands attached to it, from Alexander Culpeper. His principal residence was at Stedham, near Montagu’s seat at Cowdray, but at the time of his death, on 28 July 1565, he was living in Southwark.

Denton’s will, proved on 4 Aug. following, is a long and interesting document. Commending his soul to God, he asked ‘the Blessed Virgin, Our Lady St. Mary and the holy and blessed company of saints that are in Heaven to pray unto God for me’. He wished to be buried at Stedham, ‘with some convenient and seemly monument over my body, according to the laudable custom of the Catholic Church of Christ’. Among those who received charitable bequests were the residents of St. Thomas’s Hospital, Southwark, poor parishioners of Southwark and Stedham, and poor priests imprisoned in London.

Denton’s widow, one of three executors, was to have the use of the house at Southwark during her lifetime, with all its contents, as well as the profits of a farm at Brooklands, lands at Pyrford, both in Surrey, and a moiety of the manor of Stedham, Sussex. The detailed inventory of his household goods suggests great wealth. Anthony, the heir, who was four when his father died, and whose wardship was granted to Denton’s widow, became a gentleman pensioner at the courts of Elizabeth and James I, was knighted in 1603, and has an impressive monument in the parish church at Tonbridge. Denton’s widow married Thomas Martin.

Vis. Kent (Harl. Soc. xlii), 171; D. and S. Lysons, Magna Britannia (1813-22), iv. (Cumberland), lxxi; CPR, 1548-9, pp. 222-3; 1555-7, pp. 21, 329, 399-400; 1560-3, pp. 66, 601; 1563-6, pp. 39, 305; 1566-9, p. 127; Arch. Cant. xxii. 269; PCC 10 Coode, 26 Morrison; C142/142/150; Vis. Cambs. (Harl. Soc. xli), 47.

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: J.E.M.


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.