DENHAM, John (by 1530-56 or later), of Cossington, Som.
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Family and Education
b. by 1530. m. by Oct. 1551, Grace, da. of William Brent of Cossington, 2s.1
John Denham was probably a cadet of the prolific Devon family. He was a poor man dependent on the generosity of his brother-in-law Richard Brent, with whom he and his wife were living in 1551 ‘abiding as one of the household ... for that they were destitute of a dwelling house’. Brent was mentally unstable and to the distress of Denham and his wife, Brent’s only sister, he ‘conceived a great malice and displeasure’ against them, possibly because they disagreed with the careless management of his inheritance. In 1552 Brent was found to be an idiot by a commission headed by Charles, 8th Baron Stourton, to whose sister Dorothy he was married, and two years later the rights of Denham, his wife and two sons in the Brent patrimony were safeguarded. Denham is perhaps identifiable with the ‘Mr. Denham’ known to have been Stourton’s secretary in 1551.2
Denham doubtless owed his election at Shaftesbury to his connexion with Stourton, who was lord lieutenant of Wiltshire, Somerset and Dorset. He used his time in London to promote his own affairs: while Parliament was in session he filed a suit in the court of requests to determine the validity of a lease made by Brent after being declared insane, and not long after its dissolution he secured the remainder on Brent’s estates to himself and his heirs. The problems arising out of Brent’s property were not resolved by one visit to London, and Denham was involved in several chancery cases later in Mary’s reign. No trace of him has been found after the execution of Stourton for the murder of William Hartgill. Denham was not to benefit from the claim to the Brent estate which he had so vigorously prosecuted, for Brent’s only daughter survived and on her marriage to Lord Thomas Paulet she took the lands to him.3