The Dent branch of my family dates back to Sir Roger Dent, born in 1438, a Sheriff of Newcastle in the north-east of England. The line continued through his son, also Sir Roger and a Sheriff of Newcastle, to Robert, William, James and Peter until we arrive in the seventeenth century with the birth of my 12 x great grandfather the Rev Peter James Dent.
Peter was born in 1600 in Ormesby, Yorkshire. In 1624, he married Margaret Nicholson the daughter of the Rev John Nicholson of Hutton Cranswick in the East Riding of Yorkshire. Margaret was baptised on 8 March 1602 at Horton in Ribblesdale, Yorkshire.
The couple had five children:
William, my direct ancestor, born 1627
Peter, born 1629
Thomas, born 1631
George, born 1633
Stephen, born 1635
Dorothy, born 1637
In 1659, Thomas emigrated to Maryland with his cousin John Dent and his nephew Nicholas Proddy.
The Rev Peter James Dent was a Professor of Natural Sciences at Cambridge University and practiced medicine as an apothecary.
In addition to dispensing herbs and medicines, an apothecary offered general medical advice and a range of services that nowadays are performed by specialist practitioners. They prepared and sold medicines, often with the help of wives and family members. In the seventeenth century, they also controlled the distribution of tobacco, which was imported as a medicine.
Medicinal recipes included herbs, minerals and animal fats that were ingested, made into paste for external use, or used as aromatherapy. Some of the concoctions are similar to the natural remedies we use today.
Along with chamomile, fennel, mint, garlic and witch hazel, which are still deemed acceptable, apothecaries used urine, fecal matter, earwax, human fat and saliva, ingredients discredited by modern science.
Experimentation was the name of the game. Detailed knowledge of chemistry and chemical properties was sketchy, but if something worked, such as drinking coffee to cure a headache, it became the elixir of the day.
Peter left a Will, which I include here in his own words, for they offer a great insight into his life and times.
In the name of the Lord God my heavenly father and of Jesus Christ my sweet Saviour and Redeemer, Amen.
I, Peter Dent of Gisbrough in the County of York, apothecary, being in health and perfect memory, blessed be the name of God, doe make this my last will and testament the ffifth day of August one thousand six hundred seventy and one, hereby revokeing and making void all wills by me formerly made.
Ffirst, I give and bequeath my soule into the hands of the Allmighty, my blessed and heavenly Creator and Maker, fullly believing to be saved by faith in his mercy throught the meritts of Jesus Christ my alone redeemer and Saviour, my advocate, my all in all.
Item, I bequeath my body to the earth whereof it was made and the same to be buried in the parish of Gisburne aforesaid at the discrecon of my wife and friends.
Item, my will is first that my debts be paid and discharged out of my estate which being done, I give and bequeath unto my sonne Wm Dent all the estate and interest that I have in the dwelling house in Gisbrough aforesaid, wherein he, the said Wm Dent doth now inhabitt, he paying the rent and taxes lyable for the same.
Item, I give and bequeath to my wife, my house & garden and backside, which is in northoutgate called northoutgate house and garden, as alsoe the shep and stock in itt under the tollbooth and the two closes called the Turmyres and which I hold under Edward Chaloner of Gisbrough, Esq.
Item, I give and bequeath to my sonne Peter Dent halfe of all my goods belonging to my Apotheray trade or the value of them, with all the instrunts and other things belonging to itt, my debt books, all other my bookes, one great morter excepted.
Item, I give to my said sonne Will’m Dent the somme of ten pounds.
Item, I give to my sonne Thomas Dent tenn pounds.
Item, I give to my sonne George Dent the sume of tenn pouonds.
Item, I give to my sonne in law Oliver Prody my great brasse morter now in his shop as alsoe the summe of tenn pounds.
Item, I give to my daughter Dorothy Prody, wife of the said Oliver Prody, the summe of ten pounds and thirteen shilllings and foure pence to buy her a mourning ring.
Item, I give to each of my grandchildren which shall be living at my death tenn shillings as a token of my fatherly blessing upon them.
Item, I give to my daughters in law every one of them a mourneing ring about thirteene shillings foure pence a piece.
Item, I give to the poore of Ormsby five shillings.
Item, I give to Sarah & Abigail Nicholson, James Paul & Elizabeth Dugleby, each of them five shillings.
Item, I give to my sister Eliz. Prody 10s, to Kath Clark & Jane Con each of them 5s & to Eliz & Jane Prody 5s a piece.
Item, I give to (Christ)inna Dent, daughter of my brother Geo Dent, dec’ed, the sume of 10s.
Item, all the rest of my goods, moveable and unmoveable, I give & bequeath to my wife & desire her to discharge my funerall charges & expences not exceeding, but in a decent maner. And I give to the poore of Gisbrough ten pounds to be disposed as she shall think fitt.
Item, I do make my wife Margret Dent sole Executrix of this my last will and testa’nt & desireing her that my daughter Dorothy Proddy if living at my death may have after her mothers death the Northoutgate house and garden and all that belongings to it, except a lodging to my sonne George Dent in the said house dureing his batchlourship onely.
Item, I desire, nominate and appoint my cozen Thomas Proddy and my cozen Thomas Spencer to be sup’visors of this my last will and to each of them I give tenn shillings.
In witness whereof I have here unto sett my hand and seale the day and yeare above written.
Sealed and published in the p(re)sence of
5 Oct 1671 – probate issued
– 0 –
My 11 x great grandfather William Dent was born into a life of privilege in 1627 in Ormesby, Yorkshire. He married Elizabeth Jarrett on 16 July 1650 and the couple produced four sons: Robert, John (my direct ancestor), Charles and Edward, who sadly died in infancy. Robert entered Jesus College, Oxford on 28 May 1672 as ‘Robert Dent, son and heir of William Dent of Guisborough, gent.’ In July 1674, after college, Robert was admitted to the Middle Temple.
In 1673 the Hearth Tax returns for Guisborough listed 214 households of which only twenty-one were taxed for possessing four or more hearths. William Dent’s property had nine hearths, which offers an insight into its grandeur. In later life William moved to Sunderland where he died in 1698.
The Dent branch of my family continued with John, son of William, William, John, George, William and Thomas Thompson Dent (11 February 1781 – 10 November 1854). By the eighteenth century the Dent family owned a number of properties throughout the North East of England. They farmed these properties as yeomen.
John Dent, father of George, was born on 16 June 1700 in Romaldkirk, Yorkshire, the family’s main residence. Romaldkirk is a village in Teeside. It’s thought that its unusual name derives from St Rumwold, an obscure Saxon saint.
On 7 September 1715 John Dent became an apprentice merchant tailor to Peter King of York. Trade directories reveal that the Dents did branch out into the clothing trade with stores in Leeds. They also held on to their lands in Yorkshire.
Thomas Thompson Dent married Betty Brown on 12 April 1806 in Bowes, Yorkshire. The couple produced six sons: Thomas Thompson Dent (my direct ancestor), John, William, George, Henry and Richard.
In September 1842 Isabella Hutchinson was brought before the court and charged with stealing oats from one of Thomas Thompson Dent’s fields. Isabella cut off the ears of corn as they were growing. The case was proved and she was sentenced to one month’s hard labour in Northallerton gaol.
In 1851 Thomas was seventy years old and a widower farming 200 acres in Lartington near Romaldkirk. His sons John, George and Richard, 42, 38 and 32 respectively, lived with him. All three were unmarried. A fourth son, Henry, had moved away from the family home. Three servants also lived on the farm: Mary Brunskill, 32, Sarah Langstaff, 25, and Joseph Minto, 22. Between master and servant events now took a romantic turn.
In 1840 the trade directories listed Richard Dent as a flour dealer no doubt trading in the crops grown at his father’s farm. Meanwhile, Sarah worked as a servant on the farm. The couple fell in love and married on 14 March 1857 in Romaldkirk. This was unusual for the Victorian era where there are plenty of examples of masters taking advantage of servants, but fewer instances of those encounters resulting in marriage.
Richard and Sarah’s marriage produced three children: Elizabeth, Mary Ann and Richard Thompson Dent. Sadly, Richard died in 1866, the year his son was born.
Sarah lost her husband, but inherited a small fortune – the equivalent of £93,000 in today’s money. Sarah sold the farm and lived off her inheritance until her death in 1891. Despite her status of ‘highly desirable widow’ she didn’t remarry, maybe out of affection for her late husband. Certainly, her job as a humble servant on the Dent farm had turned her life around and placed her in a position where, financially at least, she had no reason to worry ever again.
Richard Thompson Dent, Richard and Sarah’s son, became a chemist in Barnard Castle, a highly successful chemist, for he left the equivalent of £235,000 in his will.
Thomas Thompson Dent’s will of 1854 bequeathed a farm in Cotherstone to his son John, another farm in Bowes to William, a third farm, also in Bowes, to Henry, and a fourth farm, again in Bowes, to Richard. Money, farming equipment and household utensils were also divided between the four sons.
But what of Thomas’ son and my direct ancestor, Thomas Thompson Dent Jr? Why didn’t the will mention him? The reason is Thomas Jr, his wife Dorothy Hornsby and their five children had set sail for New York en route to Canada, arriving on 24 June 1846.