DENTON, Thomas (by 1515-58), of London and Hillesden, Bucks.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Apr. 1554
Nov. 1554

Family and Education

b. by 1515, yr. s. of Thomas Denton of Caversfield, Oxon.; bro. of John. educ. M. Temple. m. by 1542, Margaret, da. of John, 1st Baron Mordaunt, of Turvey, Beds., wid. of Edmund Fettiplace (d.1540) of Besselsleigh, Berks., 1s.4

Offices Held

Treasurer, M. Temple 1556, 1557-d.

Mayor, Wallingford in 1536; sewer, the chamber 1539-46 or later; under steward, lands late of Abingdon abbey 1539; surveyor, chantries 1546; j.p. Berks., Oxon. 1547, q. 1554; commr. chantries, Berks., Hants 1548, relief, Berks. 1550, goods of churches and fraternities, Berks., Oxon. 1553; other commissions, Berks. and Oxon. 1543-55; recorder, Oxford 14 Sept. 1557-d.5


Thomas Denton was one of the two executors and residuary legatees of his father’s will. Although the date of his admission to the Middle Temple is not known he had presumably been sent there before his father’s death, and it was as a lawyer that he was to prosper, surpassing his elder brother in importance and wealth. In or about 1540 Thomas Denton, Nicholas Bacon and Robert Carey were ordered by the King to report on the curriculum of the inns of court and to recommend a plan for a new corporation.6

It was presumably as a young lawyer of note who had commended himself to the King and Cromwell that Denton was returned for Wallingford to the Parliament of 1536. The two Members for Wallingford in the previous Parliament, Sir Edward Chamberlain and Guthlac Overton, were both alive, and as far as is known in good health, yet Chamberlain was not re-elected in 1536 in compliance with the general directive for the return of the previous Members. The numerous problems besetting Chamberlain and his family in the 1530s may help to explain his replacement by Denton, who unlike him owned property in the town and was perhaps already its mayor. On 1 June 1536 Denton agreed to serve without wages, as had Chamberlain before him. Official intervention and his willingness to forego payment may also account for his return for Oxford three years later, although his elder brother’s marriage at about this time to a Brome of Holton, six miles from Oxford, could have influenced the change of constituency. He may have been reelected for either Oxford or Wallingford in 1542 and 1545, when the names of their Members are lost, but in 1547 he was chosen one of the knights for Berkshire. During the Parliament of 1547 two bills were committed to him after their second reading, the new bill for disinheriting William West on 13 Jan. 1550 and that for having plurality of farms on 28 Jan. 1552. Halfway through the final session, on 25 Feb. 1552, he was given leave of absence to ride to the assizes at Northampton.7

Denton apparently lay low in the critical year 1553, but he is credited, together with the 1st Baron Stafford, with obtaining the incorporation and enfranchisement of Banbury on 26 Jan. 1554. The new borough served Denton as a stepping-stone back to the Commons, for in April 1554 he became its first Member. Later in the same year he achieved the knighthood for Buckinghamshire, where he had now settled. Unlike his partner, his kinsman by marriage Sir Edmund Peckham, he was absent when the House was called early in January 1555, and for this dereliction he was prosecuted in the King’s bench. He appeared before the court during Michaelmas term 1555, when he asked for time to prepare an answer, and in 1558 he was distrained, the sum being erased. He may have been re-elected for Banbury in 1555, but in the absence of a return this is uncertain. Three years later, when his brother as sheriff was the returning officer, he was elected for a third shire, this time Oxfordshire. Mary’s last Parliament was to be his also, for he died during its prorogation, shortly before his fellow-knight George Owen. Who replaced him in the brief second session is not known.8

Denton’s electoral mobility owed something to his land purchases. In December 1541 he was assessed for a subsidy in the London parish of St. Olave’s at £40 in goods. In May 1545 he and another paid £321 for former monastic lands in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Norfolk, Oxfordshire and Suffolk; at the same time he paid £310 for various properties in Berkshire, and a month later he bought a further manor there for £118. More distant property came with a 21-year lease of Farthinghoe manor, Northamptonshire, in 1546. The future family seat was granted to him in May 1547, with two mills in the forest of Macclesfield, Cheshire, in return for £63 6s.8d. paid to the court of augmentations, and a quarterly rent for Hillesden of £5 13s.6d. Denton’s will and inquisition also show that he held a manor or farm called ‘Lee Mill’ in Gloucestershire and had added to his Buckinghamshire property by purchases around Hillesden.9

Denton made his will on 20 July 1557, asking to be buried in Hillesden church in ‘a fair tomb of marble’ after an elaborate funeral. Anniversary sermons and alms were thereafter to preserve his memory in eight local churches and six silver ‘standing pots’, with the testator’s name and arms, were to be distributed to his brother John, his stepson John Fettiplace and others, with injunctions to pray for him. The widow, Margaret, was to enjoy Hillesden for life and their only child Alexander was eventually to inherit the bulk of the estate, including a library at Hillesden. The executors were the wife and son, with John Higford, who had married Elizabeth Fettiplace, Denton’s stepdaughter, while the overseers were Sir Edmund Peckham and John Denton.10

Denton died on 3 Oct. 1558, although some six weeks later (Sir) Nicholas Throckmorton believing him still alive named him as a possible master of the rolls in a memorandum to Elizabeth. The wardship of his 16 year-old son Alexander was granted to Margaret Denton in November 1559. From him descended the Dentons of Hillesden, who were often to sit for their county in Parliament in the 17th century and suffer as royalists, before acquiring a baronetcy which became extinct in 1714.11

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: T. F.T. Baker


  • 1. Berks. RO, W/AE p. 3/1.
  • 2. E159/319, brev. ret. Mich. r. [1-2].
  • 3. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
  • 4. Date of birth estimated from first reference. Vis. Berks. (Harl. Soc. lvi), 28; Vis. Oxon. (Harl. Soc. v), 229; PCC 6 Alenger.
  • 5. Berks. RO, W/ACa1, f. 36v; LP Hen. VIII, xv, xx, xxi; CPR, 1547-8, pp. 81, 88; 1548-9, p. 136; 1553, p. 415; 1553-4, pp. 17, 23, 27, 28; 1555-7, p. 212; Oxf. Recs. 267, 273.
  • 6. PCC 11 Hogen; E. Waterhouse, Fortescutus Illustratus (1663), 539-46; R. M. Fisher, ‘Thomas Cromwell, humanism and educational reform’, Bull. IHR, l. 151-63; W. R. Prest, Inns of Court 1590-1640, p. 48; Vis. Beds. (Harl. Soc. xix), 42.
  • 7. Berks. RO, W/AE, p. 3/2; CJ, i. 14, 16, 18.
  • 8. VCH Oxon. x. 73, 89; CP, ix. 195; SP1/29, f. 180; KB27/1176 Rex roll 16, 27/1185.
  • 9. E179/144/120; LP Hen. VIII, xix-xxi; CPR, 1547-8, p. 23; 1553-4, p. 254; 1555-7, p. 92.
  • 10. PCC 77 Noodes.
  • 11. C142/120/2; E150/51/7; EHR, lxv. 95; VCH Bucks. iv. 180; CPR, 1558-60, p. 417; Dorm. and Ext. Baronetcies, 158; Pevsner, Bucks. 169.