DENTON, Edmund (1676-1714), of Hillesden, Bucks.
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Family and Education
bap. 25 Oct. 1676, 1st s. of Alexander Denton I*; bro. of Alexander Denton II*. educ. Wadham, Oxf. 1695; M. Temple 1697. m. 18 May 1700 (with £10,000), Mary (d. 1742), da. and coh. of Anthony Rowe*, s.p. suc. fa. 1698; cr. Bt. 12 May 1699.1
Denton’s immediate tasks upon succeeding his father were to gain control of his estate and contest the vacant parliamentary seat at Buckingham. To accomplish the first he had to persuade the trustees named in his father’s will (made ten years previously) that there was no need for them to act since the debts on the estate had now been greatly reduced. In addition, because he was now of age, it was possible for the legacies due to his siblings to be raised from the estate already settled on him by his mother’s marriage articles. Likewise, Denton had to persuade them that he should act as executor and therefore be able to administer his father’s personal estate. This matter was made all the more delicate by the fact that one of the trustees, Sir John Verney, 2nd Bt.* (later Lord Fermanagh), was also his main rival at Buckingham. Nevertheless, Denton achieved both aims, although it was not until 1702 that the legal details transferring the trust were complete.2
At the time of the Buckingham by-election in 1698 county opinion viewed Denton’s conflict with Verney in terms of a disagreement within an extended family, clearly believing that Denton would take the same Tory line as his father. Since Denton made little initial impact on the Commons, it was not immediately apparent that he held different views from those of his father. On 18 Jan. 1699 he voted against the disbanding bill, and the following day received leave of absence. If this vote indicated his turn towards the Whigs, during the summer of 1699 he caused further unease to his Verney relatives, who gradually realized that he had joined the Whig leader Lord Wharton (Hon. Thomas*) and ‘that faction . . . his father abhorred tho’ he paid them a civility fit for their qualities’. However, Denton was an irregular attender at Westminster, often preferring his estate at Hillesden. Thus, in the 1699–1700 session, although he was reported to be arriving in London on 4 Nov., he was absent when the House was called over on 11 Dec. and ordered into custody, being discharged on the 15th. He was allowed leave on 17 Feb. 1700. At this time an analysis of the Commons placed him under the ‘interest’ of Hon. Henry Boyle*. In May, to almost universal disapproval, he married the daughter of Anthony Rowe, part of her portion being a gambling debt of £6,000 he owed to her father. Much was made of this by contemporaries, and of Rowe’s role as an intermediary with Sir Thomas Smith, whereby £3,000 of the money owed by Smith to Denton’s father (see DENTON, Alexander I) was paid to Denton, although many thought Rowe the chief beneficiary.3
The run-up to the January 1701 election saw Denton treating the corporation amid speculation that gaming and racehorses would ruin his estate, not to mention having such a man as Rowe run his affairs. Denton joined with Sir Richard Temple, 4th Bt., to defeat the Tory candidate: their ‘being so much for my Lord Wharton makes them despised by the Church party’. Despite rumours of a rift with Temple in September 1701, they were returned again in November. Denton confirmed his predilection for a wager by offering 50 guineas that Sir Thomas Littleton, 3rd Bt., would be elected Speaker of the new House. Robert Harley* classed him as a Whig in an analysis of the new Parliament.4
Returned again in 1702, in September Denton was reported to be out of order, possibly ‘in a consumption’, and removing to Bath for a cure, and he received leave of absence on 18 Jan. 1703 for health reasons. He was listed on 13 Feb. as voting to agree with the Lords’ amendments to the bill for taking the oath of abjuration, but in September was again at Bath. He was in London early in December, but received leave for ten days on 22 Jan. 1704, returning by mid-February. March saw a report of him having ‘very rich liveries made’, and on the 15th the Commons was informed that a servant of his had been arrested, and on a report from the committee of privileges his release was ordered. Denton did not vote for the Tack on 28 Nov., and, having recovered from an attack of the gout by mid-January 1705, he acted as a teller on 14 Feb. to agree with an amendment from the Lords omitting some words from the bill to exclude MPs in places created since 1685. Also in February he managed through the Commons a bill from the Lords to amend the Act which had allowed Sir Peter Tyrrell, 1st Bt.†, and his son, Thomas, to dispose of lands in Buckinghamshire.5
Returned again in 1705, Denton was classified as a ‘Churchman’ and on 25 Oct. voted for the Court candidate in the division on the Speaker. Very little is known about his activities in this Parliament. On 3 Mar. 1708 he presented a bill to explain the previous session’s Smithfield Cattle Act, and in early 1708 he was classed as a Whig. By December 1707 Lord Cheyne (Hon. William*), the outgoing knight, had virtually conceded that Denton would be successful should he transfer to the county seat from Buckingham and Denton was in fact returned unopposed in 1708. In the first session of the new Parliament, he moved on 22 Jan. 1709 that the thanks of the House be conveyed to the Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill†), although somewhat surprisingly on 8 Mar. following the ‘solicitation of some great lords’, Denton opposed the attempt of the Duke’s protégé Thomas Meredyth* to overturn the Midhurst election. However, he voted for the naturalization of the Palatines and was reported to be in London just a couple of days before the session closed in April. During the winter of 1709–10 Denton was ill, but he was reported on 7 Mar. to have gone up to London, where he cast his vote in favour of the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell, although one list has him as an absentee.6
Despite a fierce contest for the county seats, Denton emerged victorious at the general election of 1710. He was classed as a Whig in the ‘Hanover list’, but was reported to be ill and did not attend the Commons before Christmas. Indeed, he may have been absent for much of the remainder of the Parliament. Nevertheless, Denton retained a keen interest in supplying his constituents with news and vigorously contested the county and borough of Buckingham in 1713, going down to defeat in both. In May 1714 he was reported to be ‘dangerously ill of the smallpox’, and died on the 4th. He left his real and personal estate to his brother Alexander, his widow marrying Viscount Hillsborough [I] (Trevor Hill†), who had ‘managed’ his funeral on 11 May.7
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Stuart Handley
- 1. Lipscomb, Bucks. iii. 17–18, 21; Verney Letters 18th Cent. i. 134.
- 2. PCC 57 Pott; BL, Verney mss mic. 636/50, Belzial Knight to Verney, 3, 10 Nov., 20 Dec. 1698, Verney to Knight, 8 Nov. 1698; 636/51, Willam Busby to Verney, 17 Jan. 1701[–2].
- 3. Verney mss mic. 636/50, Cheyne to Verney, 19 Nov. 1698; 636/51, Lady Gardiner to Verney, 25 July, 29 Aug. 1699; 636/52, same to same, 1 Mar. 1702/3; Verney Letters 18th Cent. 48.
- 4. Verney mss mic. 636/51, Lady Gardiner to Verney, 5, 8 Aug. 1700, 11 Sept. 1701, Ralph Palmer to same, 6 Jan. 1701/2; Verney Letters 18th Cent. 89, 160.
- 5. Verney Letters 18th Cent. 115, 173; Verney mss mic. 636/52, Elizabeth Adams to Fermanagh, 14 Sept., 7 Dec. 1703, 28 Jan., 18 Feb. 1703/4, 19 Jan. 1704/5.
- 6. Add. 33225, f. 17; Centre Kentish Stud. Stanhope mss U1590/O139/2, Hon. James Brydges* to James Stanhope*, 17 Mar. 1709; Verney mss mic. 636/54, Elizabeth Adams to Fermanagh, 19 Apr. 1709, Ld. to Lady Fermanagh, 7 Mar. 1709[–10]; Verney Letters 18th Cent. 208; Speck thesis, 73.
- 7. Verney Mems. i. 305, 308; Verney mss mic. 636/54, Fermanagh to Ralph Verney†, 21 Dec. 1710; 636/55, Lady to Ld. Fermanagh, 28 Apr. 1713, George Fellows to same, 2 June 1713, Sir Thomas Cave, 3rd Bt.*, to same, 1 May 1714, Penelope Viccars to same, ?18 May 1714; Le Neve, Mon. Angl. 1700–15, p. 290; PCC 57 Pott.