Denton is unquestionably an attractive village with its picturesque centre around the Green. The variety of its buildings, many built of local stone, adds greatly to its appeal.
Buildings now gone.
It may be thought that the village has evolved and grown regularly by the addition of new buildings but in fact there are also many buildings that have been lost over the years and others that have been altered form their original state. For example in 1881 there were 135 households recorded in the census of that year. Twenty years later in 1901 only 108 households were shown - a reduction of 20% in a generation. The population fell over the period from 547 to 439. It can been seen therefore that the village has not always been subject to regular and constant growth.
In The Lane for example the two properties that remain at the bottom and top of The Lane started life as rows of 2 thatched cottages respectively and a further 3 cottages, now gone, fronted onto The Lane in between them.All of the originals were thatched.
Grange Farm House still exists at the junction of The Lane and Northampton Road but it used to have substantial outbuildings, including piggeries and a malting barn together with an orchard which filled a good part of the ground now occupied by the houses in Bridge Meadow which were built in 1976/7 (see Agriculture and Farms). These outbuildings were demolished around 1960. Directly opposite Grange Farm across Northampton Road were thatched cottages and a wooden bungalow of which only Dove Cottage now remains (Pictures can be found at www.tiny.cc/dentoninpctures - Around the Lane section) . Part of the land on which they stood is now occupied by the houses built by the Council in 1938/9 and the much later development of Fishpond Close in the 1970's.
Another casualty of this development was the fishpond itself which existed where the grassy area in front of Fishpond Close is now. The pond was created by a stream having a small dam wall built to create a pond behind it with an outflow which led to a sheepwash nearby. The sheepwash was shaped like a keyhole and the sheep were driven though it by a man in waders to ensure they were properly doused. The photo below was taken in the early 1960's from the back of one of the houses in Northampton Road that had recently been built. It shows the view to the back of Main Street with the dovecote visible and the dip with the large tree beside it is the fishpond. This village feature disappeared at the same time The Knights - a Denton transport dynasty) one of whom worked in the family firm as a bus conductor (with the suspicion of a little poaching on the side!) whilst one of his many brothers ran a small cycle repair enterprise from the back of his cottage. After these cottages were demolished there was some talk of the area being used to build a Working Men's Club but this never materialised and eventually the land ended up in council hands and the 2 pairs of bungalows that are there now were built.
Back in the centre of the village there were several thatched cottages situated where both the old school playgrounds now stand.(see www.tiny.cc/dentoninpictures - church section). Because the church stands so high next door it was apparently not unknown for mischievous youngsters to try and throw wet towels onto the chimneys from the churchyard above.
Along the West side of Main street there were also other buildings such as the old cottages in front of Holly Cottage, later the Co-op shop building which is no longer there and further down Main Street there were other properties filling most of the gap that now exists between the last cottage on the left and The Leys turning. At that time the road The Leys did not exist and there were other buildings attached to the first cottage now on the corner of Main Street and The Leys.There were also buildings at the back of this row of cottages down Old Yard.
At the other end of the village buildings were also lost particularly around Wareings Lane where a large and a small thatched house and cottage were demolished behind the row of the remaining thatched cottages and much later the old yard at the top of Wareings Lane with access to the by-pass was cleared to make way for the building of the modern houses in the mid-1980's. Incidentally there seems to be confusion about the correct spelling of the name of this road in that in some places it is called Wareing Lane (including official documents and road signs) whereas in others it it spelt Wareings Lane.
However despite these losses there are many buildings worthy of note remaining in Denton. To some degree this was helped by the fact that a fairly large area of the centre of Denton was designated a Conservation Area in 1971 by Northampton Rural District Council - (see map on right courtesy of NLIS)
This exercise was not entirely straightforward in that the original proposal was met with opposition by Compton Estates, who owned about half the land in question at the time. Their argument was that the Compton family’s past record of conservation was good and formalising such an arrangement was unnecessary. Their agent Mr J. G. Pearson said in a letter it would ‘put wasteful and time-consuming restrictions on ownership of the property’.
He also pointed out that the area included sheds, poultry houses and farm buildings which were inappropriate for conservation.
At the council meeting, where the matter was to be determined, the Denton representative Mr J. R. Cawley reported he had received a letter and phone calls from Mr Pearson asking that the Council rescind its backing for the Housing Committee proposal. However the council accepted the Housing Committee’s report – including its decision to support the conservation area.
The area designated is shown on the attached map and comprises, from the South, the cemetery including the top of Wareing Lane, the church, all of the properties to the East side of Main Street and the green then both sides of Main Street beyond the Leys turn to include Church Farm and Manor Farm.
The ordnance survey map below shows the centre of Denton in 1884 (double click to zoom) - whilst this predates a lot of building the basic layout is little different to the present day.
Many cottages were originally thatched but later re-roofed with tiles – they can often be found in that the pitch of the roof of a thatched property was significantly greater than a building built to take a tiled or slated roof. Roofing materials sometimes give a clue to the history of properties. For instance prior to the railway being opened from Bedford to Northampton (in 1872) local materials were primarily used i.e. thatch or roof tiles made at Castle Ashby brickworks. Once rail travel had arrived and goods could be collected from Piddington station (near Horton) slate started to be bought from Wales and was more widely used as a roofing material. See (Roads and transport).However it is likely some of the village buildings dating from the early 19th century were roofed with slate from the outset.
Church of St. Margaret
The Church is arguably one of the oldest and most important and is more fully dealt with elsewhere
(see - Church and chapel). It is also a good example of date stones not necessarily giving a full historical picture in that parts of the church date back to C13th but the only date stone shows 1629 – the year of one of the several subsequent building works.
Another old non-residential building is the Dovecote, now designated a County Heritage Site, which is to be found in the garden of Holly Cottage 3, Main Street, Denton, although it was originally thought to have been in the orchard of a house no longer in existence. It stands on land that was thought to be at one time part of the acreage of Grange Farm although other records suggest it could have formed part of the Compton Estate .
Dovecotes were built, often by lords of the manor, to provide a ready source of fresh food in the form of pigeon meat, squabs (immature pigeons) and eggs, in an era prior to the ability to preserve food by refrigeration. This often led to annoyance for the local peasants as the pigeons tended to eat their garden and small-holding crops.
There is speculation as to the original date of construction of the Denton Dovecote. Some time during the 17th century is thought most likely, but with various subsequent alterations in the form of a new window, ornate eight sided cupola with lead domed roof in the 1700s and a larger doorway in the 19th centrury. The roof had blue slates in 1850 but at some time these were replaced by the current later tiles. The picture on the left is of the dovecote as it is today -see also other pictures from earlier years on the Denton in Pictures website - www.tiny.cc/dentoninpictures
It is a circular stone building approximately 6.3m in diameter and 5.8m high with slightly inward sloping walls and divided into three horizontal sections. It is built from hammer dressed limestone blocks – probably of local origin.
The dovecote has a total of 590 nesting places which was fairly typical of the size of 26,000 dovecotes said to exist in England in the mid 17th C. Their decline in numbers started soon after however once the lord of the manor realised the pigeons were eating his crops as well as those of the peasants!
A survey of Denton Dovecote was undertaken in 1991 by Brian L. Giggins commissioned by Northampton Heritage Section of Northamptonshire County Council and more detailed information should be available from that source.
Pump, trough and phonebox
These three other small, but significant 'buildings' are grouped together at the bottom of the Village Green.
The pump is important in that it remains, thanks to the spirit of some Denton women, despite being threatened with removal by the water board. The story is that some time in the 1950's the Water Authority decided, in it's wisdom, that the pump on the green, although still valued and used by some villagers, was no longer a suitable source for fresh water and two men and a vehicle were despatched with suitable tools to remove it. They had reckoned without the intervention of the formidable Mrs Gregory who lived just above the pump in one of the cottages in Church Way. As soon as they began unloading their tools she confronted them and told them in no uncertain terms that the pump was to stay. Very soon she was joined by her friend Mrs Nellie Billingham who, although of lesser stature than Mrs Gregory, lacked little when it came to fighting her corner and told them that there was nothing wrong with the pump supply and they didn't want to have to walk further to get water. The workmen were immediately in no doubt things had turned against them and without further ado threw the tools back in the truck and, with the observation 'if those b.......s in Northampton want the pump let them come and fetch it!', they beat a hasty retreat. Nothing was ever heard or seen again of representatives of the Water Board - they had obviously got the message!
The pump (pictured below) remains proudly in place to this day and the water source that fed it still runs clear and clean below it and down to feed the trough.
The trough's age is difficult to pinpoint but it certainly appears on maps of 1884 and may well predate this by some time. It is constantly fed by an underground spring and has never been known to run dry. The water is clear and cool and keeps the trough completely full to the brim at all times and it has a continuous outflow at the other end which used to flow in a small stream dowm Main Street but is now drained a few metres from the trough into a large underground culvert which now takes the spring water and storm drainage, plus the water running from the brook, under Main Street the length of the village.
This concrete culvert was put in around 1960 at a cost of £6,800 the cost being borne half by the County Council and half by the Rural District Council.This is a considerable improvement to the situation in earlier days when heavy rains would raise the brook level very fast and this water, added to other outflow from the stream that used to serve the fishpond and sheepwash meant the houses down the end of Main Street (past the turn to The Leys) were quite frequently flooded. Indeed it is said people who lived that end of the village never bothered to have floor coverings on the ground floor or had readily removable mats that could be taken upstairs to safety!
Use of the trough these days is now mostly for car washing, or dogs to have a welcome drink, as compared with filling steam vehicles or watering livestock as in years gone by. However its attraction as an entertainment for Denton children remains exactly the same as it has been over many generations - and hopefully will continue to be so for many future generations as well.
The telephone box is obviously of much more modern origin, having been installed in 1940. Even this did not come without a fight. The Chairman of the Parish Council and schoolmaster at that time was Mr George Battison who reported 'We've been four years getting that. Twice men have been down to look at the site, and plans have been sent to me at approximately yearly intervals. At last it is to be put up'.
The box remains in place to this day. It is no longer functional as it became redundant because of the widespread use of mobile phones (and because almost every household has a phone of their own) but in many ways is still important just as a most pleasing and iconic symbol of Denton and so many other traditional English village greens. The Parish Council acquired the box in 2009 so it can remain in place giving its traditional splash of red for years to come.
Upper and Lower Gatehouses
One of the most enduring images of Denton comes in the form of the pretty thatched properties now known as Upper and Lower Gatehouse between which there is an archway with a footway running up a steep slope to where can now be found the village hall, doctors’ surgery and school. The lovely picture below left shows the cottages that now form the Upper Gatehouse and the much younger and smaller Coronation Oak - at that time protected by a wooden surround with the church behind. Apart from the size if the tree it is a view that is little different today.
The White Hart Inn was also a staging post for the Bedford to Northampton coach and tired horses were changed here being taken to ‘backside’ up the archway while a fresh pair of horses were harnessed for the onward journey.
In due course the building ceased to be a pub and at one time was several different cottages. Upper and Lower Gatehouse are in fact relatively recent names.What is now known as Lower Gatehouse was once a bakehouse which villagers used for having their Sunday lunches cooked for them (see Memories of Denton by Mrs Joan Buller)
In 1960 there was a threat to the continued existence of the Gatehouses. The village’s local representative on the Northampton Rural District Council had responsibility to report to the council any building thought to be substandard and felt the gatehouses had fallen into this category. The RDC sent a delegation including a surveyor, Mr Miller, who concluded ‘the walls were not good enough’. The owners, Compton Estates, did not want to undertake any improvements and the RDC did not want to spend any money on the matter so it was concluded the buildings, including an adjoining cottage, should be demolished. The tenants at the time were given notice to quit including Mr & Mrs Bob King who had lived there for 60 years.
However there was fierce opposition from local residents. One remarked ‘Take the gatehouse away and the village is like an old lady without her teeth’.
Local builder and lifelong Denton resident Jim Cawley argued ‘The restoration of the gatehouse presents no problem whatever. The place is old but it is solid. As a builder I wouldn’t bat an eyelid at the prospect of restoring the place. It would be a crying shame to pull it down’.
Reason prevailed eventually however and the gatehouses stand proudly to this day as beautiful and well maintained private houses.
Vicarages & Rectories - old and new
One of the largest buildings in Denton is the Victorian 'Rectory' standing at the end of Vicarage Lane (pictured below). It is a striking and very substantial building, designed by significant architect of the time F.B.Wade and built in 1893 in Castle Ashby produced red brick with contrast blue brick ornate patterning and some stone facing on the South elevation.
It was supposedly built originally for Lord Alwyne Compton, (the fourth son of Spencer Joshua Alwyne Compton, the 2nd Marquis of Northampton) who was born in 1825 and became Bishop of Ely in 1886. The intention was thought to be that on his retirement he would come to live in the splendid building. However he retired as Bishop of Ely in 1905 and died very soon afterwards in April 1906 so never took up occupation.
It is assumed the building was therefore used from completion as accomodation for the vicar of Denton at the time. Certainly the incumbent Rev. T. Amys was shown to be there on the 1901 census return although it is not known if it was provided to the church free of charge by the Marquis (in his capacity as 'patron of the church') or if some commercial arrangement existed. It is fairly certain the former applied as there are references to the living being 'with residence'.
Legal ownership of the building did not pass from the Estate to the church until 1928 at which time it was gifted by the estate and so it was the church which owned the building therafter and was eventually to sell it into private hands for the first time in 1964 for a price said to be £6,000. The purchaser was, coincidentally, a man called Denton who was in business in Rushden making safety footwear under the name Totectors. The Denton family stayed only a few years until 1969 when it again changed hands to the current owners.
Although frequently referred to as 'The Old Vicarage' the correct name of the building is 'Compton House' reflecting the Estate connection as above.
In recent times the incumbent vicar of the joint benefice comprising the churches at Denton, Whiston, Castle Ashby and Yardley Hastings has lived at the Vicarage in Yardley Hastings. a few years ago, however, this building was found to have structural problems and in 2008 the present vicar, Father David Spokes, moved into a modern house in The Leys, Denton which is now The Rectory for the benefice.
Yew Tree House.
This private house (below) stands in an elevated position in Northampton Road with the dovecote quite close by to the North. It differs in one significant respect from most of the other properties in Denton in that it is constructed of cut and fully dressed stone rather than from local limestone or ironstone. The reason for this is quite interesting. Originally there was a thatched cottage (it is thought dating from 1606) on the site which became unsound and was eventually demolished. The present house was then built in it's place in 1936 by White & Joyce who were monumental stonemasons. The stone used was not local but had not come far as it was previously used for Horton Hall a few miles up the the road
Horton Hall has several claims to fame as its previous owners included the Parr family (of whom Catherine Parr was the 6th wife of Henry VIII), the Earl of Halifax, founder of the Bank of England and, more recently Pickering Phipps the well-known the Northampton brewer. Not only the external stonework was used for the construction of the house but some of the interior features also use materials from the original Hall.
From completion it was occupied by Mr & Mrs Joyce who were already living in Denton. After Mr Joyce's eventual death his widow, Mary Ann, continued to live there until she died in 1958 when it changed hands for the first and only time to the present owners. The house was named after the yew tree in the front garden which on earlier photgraphs is quite modest but latterly has matured into a substantial feature.