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Denley, Thomas

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Gender: Male

Thomas Denley (Photo Chris Denley)

A surname long associated with Gloucestershire is that of Denley.  Throughout the 19th and 20th Centuries, the Denley family provided music for Morris and country dancing in the county. The earliest member of the family that we know was James Denley of Kempsford who was born in 1654 whose wife’s name was Elizabeth. His son, James Denley, who lived from 1681 to 1742, married Rhoda Belcher and died in Shipton in 1742. Many musicians were descended from James Denley including Thomas Denley, Charles Denley and Tom Denley. Each of these has a profile on the website. The Denley family moved to the Shipton area in the middle of the 18th century.

For other musicians in this family see ‘Denley,Charles’ and ‘Denley, Tom.’

Cecil Sharp (CJS) noted 6 tunes from Thomas Denley, then aged 72, at Sevenhampton on 30 August 1909. He wrote: “Thomas Danley [sic] played these tunes to me (very beautifully) upon a tin whistle. His father used to play pipe & tabor for the Withington Morris men.. Thomas …although he can play fiddle, clarionet, organ, etc. as well as the tin whistle, could never manage to learn the pipe & tabor. He can play from note but has a great musical memory for tunes and can play a tune at one hearing with great accuracy (This I tested). It was probably his great uncle David Danley [sic] who sold the pipe to William Carter which I afterwards bought from the latter’s son.” Cecil Sharp’s notes say that Charles Hughes, one of the Naunton morris dancers, told him that his own pipe was made by Danley (sic) and sold to William Carter. Thomas had an uncle (not great uncle) David Denley (1796-1850), a brother of Benjamin who worked as a coal merchant in Charlton Kings, and a great uncle Daniel Denley (1760-1826). Sharp’s writing could say either David or Daniel. The dates suggest Daniel was unlikely to have been the recipient of the pipe, however.

One of James Denley’s sons was John Denley who was baptised in Shipton on 3 April 1727.  John Denley married Anne Hill in Charlton Abbots on 5 May 1775.They had 3 daughters and 5 sons and appear to have moved to the Brockhampton/Sevenhampton area at this time. John’s son, Benjamin Denley married Sarah Futcher in 1790 in Withington. Their son Benjamin was baptised in 1804 in the parish of Shipton Oliff and Shipton Sollars.He was the first musical Denley that we know of who, as well as playing the pipe and tabor for the Withington Morris, also played church organ.  The church organ tradition went way back in the family, and passed from Benjamin down the family.  On 14 January 1837 he married Esther Hathaway (probably a relation of the Morris musician William Hathaway of Lower Swell) in Hawling.  On the baptism of his son, Thomas, on 11 March 1838 he was working as a mason in Foxcote.

Benjamin and Esther then had two daughters, Ann and Ellen, both baptised in Withington: Ann on 22 September 1839 and Ellen on 18 April 1841. At the time of the 1841 Census they were living in Withington where Benjamin was working as a stone mason. Benjamin and Esther then had another daughter, Emma, baptised in Withington on 28 May 1843 and a son, Jesse, also baptised in Withington on 29 October 1848. The family were still living in Withington in 1851. Benjamin was working as a stone mason and Thomas was an agricultural labourer. Two more children were born to Benjamin and Esther: Fanny, baptised in Withington on 8 June 1851 and Andrew, also baptised in Withington on 13 September 1857. By 1861 Thomas had left home but Benjamin was still working as a stone mason in Withington. Benjamin’s daughter, Ann, was a dressmaker and his son, Jesse, was an agricultural labourer. Benjamin continued to work as a stone mason in Withington in 1871 and 1881. His son, Jesse, was working as an agricultural labourer in 1871. All their children had left home by 1881 but Esther was working as a dressmaker. Benjamin Denley died in Withington on 1 June 1888.

Benjamin passed on his musical skills to his son, Thomas Denley (1837-1910), who was born at Foxcote (Withington), and later moved to Sevenhampton. He also was a member of the Guiting Morris. Cecil Sharp visited him in 1909 when he was living at Severnhampton and collected 6 tunes from him, namely Greensleeves, Lumps of Plum Pudding, The Rose Tree, Princess Royal, Hunt the Squirrel and The Triumph. The tunes have long been associated with Cotswold Morris. With Sharp’s usual confusion over surnames, probably brought about by local pronunciations, Sharp wrote down his surname as Danley. Sharp was impressed with Thomas’ playing. Thomas was also a member of a Minstrel group.

Thomas Denley married Sarah Adams in 1862 in the Northleach registration district. By 1871 he was working as a stone mason and he and Sarah were living in Dowdeswell village with four sons, John born about 1863 in Withington, Charles born about 1865 in Dowdeswell, Albert born in 1867 in Dowdeswell and William born in1871 in Dowdeswell. They also had a lodger who was an agricultural labourer. Thomas continued to work as a stone mason in Dowdeswell and by 1881 they also had two daughters, Esther Sophia born 10 September 1872 and Lydia born 5 November 1874. They also had a niece, Fanny Adams, staying with them. One son, John, was working as a stone mason’s labourer and another son, Albert, was a ploughboy. By 1901 Thomas Denley was living in one of the cottages in Severnhampton. His sons, Charles, Albert and William, were also all working as stone masons and his daughter, Esther, was a dressmaker. By 1911 he and Sarah were living in Lower Severnhampton. All their children had left home but they had a visitor and probable relation of Sarah’s, Susan Adams, born in Filkins, Oxforshire, staying with them and a lodger who was an agricultural labourer. Thomas Denley died on 11 September 1910 at No 53, Severnhampton, the year after Cecil Sharp interviewed him. His wife, Sarah continued to live at this address with her daughter, Lydia. Nothing is known of what happened to the Denley family pipe. It has disappeared without trace.

Thomas Denley’s children

On 28 June 1892 Thomas Denley’s son, Charles Denley, married Elizabeth Roberts in Llangeinor, Bridgend, South Wales where they lived at first. Just before 1901 they moved to Under The Hill, St Briavels where Charles was working as a market gardener. They then had five children, Bertram born about 1893, Eva born about 1895, Alfred born about 1896, William Victor born 17 September 1899 and Lily born about 1900. By 1911 Mrs Charles Denley was living in Vinton Terrace, Porthcawl. In the 1911 Census Charles was stated to be a mason when working but feebleminded and ill and away from home. His daughter, Eva, was also stated to be feebleminded but the other two eldest children were working, Bertram as a labourer in the building trade and Alfred as a telegraph messenger for the Post Office. Charles and Elizabeth had had five further children, May born in Bridgend and Ralph born in Tintern, both of whom had died at the age of 1 year, Wilfred born in Tintern in about 1905 and two children born in Porthcawl, Gerald born about 1907 and Violet Gertrude born about 1909. Charles Denley died in 1916 in Barry Island, Glamorganshire. Charles’ son William Victor Denley, married Doris Jenny Cole in Cirencester in early 1927. They had one daughter and a son who died at birth in 1933. William Victor Denley died in the Swindon registration district in 1973.

Charles’ son, Wilfred Denley, married Annie Ridout in 1936 in Barry, Glamorganshire, had two sons and two daughters and died in Cardiff in 1968. Charles’ daughter Violet Gertrude Denley married Alfred J. Norris in Barry, Glamorganshire in 1928 and died in Cardiff in 1929.

Thomas Denley’s son, John James Denley, married twice, to Fanny Elizabeth Pitman with whom he had three children, Charles Frederick born 1890, Arthur Edward Thomas born 1891 and Ernest Lloyd born 1896. He then married Clara Jane Wholey and they had one son, John Roy W. Denley born in Belper, Derbyshire in 1912. They lived in Derby. John James Denley died in Allestree, Derbyshire in 1916. John James Denley’s first son, Arthur E. T. Denley, married Caroline Pratley in Derby in 1918 and died there in 1966. Arthur had two sons, Lloyd William, born 1921 and John Edward born 1928. Lloyd William married Catherine J. Holbrook in Derby in 1943 had two sons and a daughter and died in Derby in 2001. Arthur’s second son, John Edward Denley, died while living at 51 Mulberry Way, Aston upon Trent, Derbyshire, England in 2005. Arthur’s third son, Ernest Lloyd Denley, emmigrated to Australia and in 1930 was living at Neutral Bay, Warringah, New South Wales. He died in Australia in 1930.   John James’ son, John Roy W. Denley, died in Brighton in 1985.


Albert Denley (Photo Chris Denley)

Thomas Denley’s son, Albert Denley married Esther Eyraud, who was French, in 1897.

Wedding of Albert Denley and Esther Eyraud. Thomas Denley on far left (Photo Chris Denley)

The Denleys used to be well reputed stonemasons in the Cheltenham area. The trade was passed on to Albert, who moved to Northants to work as personal stonemason to Lord Lilford, His new employment had enabled them to marry. In 1901 they were living on Main Street Aldwincle, Thrapston, Northamptonshire where Albert was working as a stone mason, with a son, Albert Vincent Denley, born about 1899. By 1911 they were still in Aldwincle and had a daughter, Evelyn, born 1 June 1902 and another son, Alec, born about 1906 who died in May 2007. Albert Denley died in Aldwincle on 2 December 1934 when probate was given to his widow, Esther Denley, and Alfred Webb, a Draper. Albert’s daughter, Evelyn, married Joseph Ireson in Thrapston, Northamptonshire in 1930 and died in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire in December 1994. Albert’s son, Albert Vincent Denley, married Sophia West in April 1925 in Kettering, Northamptonshire. He died in April 1982 in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, but had a son, Alan, born on 4 June 1926 in Oundle, Northamptonshire. Alan Denley married Marjorie Frances Judd, who was born in Watford, in 1947, in Kettering. Alan Denley died in Thrapston, Northamptonshire, in August 1997 and his wife died in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, in February 1876. They had at least one daughter.

Thomas Denley’s son, William, died in Cirencester in 1937.

Thomas Denley’s daughter Lydia Denley married Henry Smith in the Northleach registration district in early 1902.They had two daughters, Doris Louise born 19 November 1903 and Hilda Marion born 30 August 1905, both in Sevenhampton. On the birth of their third child, Ethel Marion Smith, on 5 April 1908 they were living at Cranhams Lodge, Cirencester. Lydia Smith died in 1910 in Cheltenham. Lydia’s daughter, Doris Louise Smith, died in West Surrey in 1997. Lydia’s daughter, Hilda Marion Smith, married Rupert F. Paxman in Westminster in early 1934. In 1935 according to the electoral poll they were living at 15 Kelvedon Road, London SW6. Hilda Louise Paxman died in Cheltenham in 2003. Lydia’s daughter, Ethel Marion Smith married Arthur Norman King, a machinist, in Stoke Next Guildford, Surrey, on 5 August 1935. At that time both were living at 1, Farm Cottage, Stoughton Road, Stoke Next Guildford. They had a son and two daughters. Ethel Marion King died in 2006 in West Surrey.

Thomas Denley’s daughter, Esther Sophia Denley, married David Denley, a distant cousin also descended from Benjamin and Elizabeth Denley, in the Northleach registration district in 1900. In 1901 they were living at Brockhampton Quarry where David was working as a stonemason. By 1911 David had become an innkeeper and Esther a general dealer. They were living in Brockhampton with 3 children, Thomas David born 8 May 1901, Albert Cecil born 9 May 1902 and Lilian Alice born about 1904. David’s brother was living with them as a boarder and working on a farm. They continued to live at Rockville, Brockhampton, quarry where Esther Denley died on 18 February 1937. Esther’s son, Thomas David, died in Cheltenham in 1978. He was the Tom Denley recorded by Peter Kennedy in Brockhampton in 1957, who had lived in a public house, singing The Wild Man of Bonio (Borneo), which he stated he had heard at the age of 5 and had been sung by his uncle in a Minstrel show, and some fragments of Jim the Carter’s Lad. (see Denley, Tom)

Esther’s son, Albert Cecil Denley, married Ellen L. Adams in Cirencester in 1943.They had two daughters. Albert Cecil died in Cheltenham in 1979. Esther’s daughter, Lilian Alice Denley, married William H. Fisher in the Northleach registration district in 1927. She died in Wisbech, Norfolk in 1975.

Notes by Carol and Gwilym Davies, Paul Burgess and Charles Menteith with thanks to Chris Denley, Keith Chandler and the Denley and Cleak Family Trees on