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The Trenleys of Denham

Our guest contributor this month is Sheila Clarke. Sheila is an amateur writer. She has a particular interest in Victorian author, chronicler and social critic Charles Dickens resulting from her discovery that one of her ancestors, Thomas Headland, had been manager of Dickens' speaking tours. She has contributed to 'The Dickensian' magazine and writes for genealogy & history publications specialising in Georgian & Victorian London. Whilst researching her family history Sheila came across the Trenleys, minor landowners in Denham in the 18th century and sometime tenants of The Falcon.

The Trenley name has died out in the village, but the heritage may still survive through the female line. Perhaps some of our readers can tell us. Sheila Clarke lives in Cheshire. We'll pass on any news about her distant Denham relatives.

Hannah Moxley was clear: her eldest son Edward by her first marriage to John Trenley was to be sole executor. He had run The Falcon with her and he was, by her will, to receive the residue of her estate after any outstanding debts had been settled. He would also get her brewing vessels - though these would not necessarily have been from her time at the Falcon since ale was the drink of choice for most and many families and many were home brewers.

Robert and Martha, Hannah’s other children from her marriage to John Trenley, were

left a shilling apiece having received ‘a competent fortune’ in their mother’s lifetime. Daughter Hannah by second husband Peter Moxley was also to have a shilling and would benefit from an earlier property deal which saw Edward buying out other shareholders to secure his half sister’s future.

The elder Hannah Moxley, formerly Trenley, was my 8 times great grandmother. Her will dated 1734 sets the tone for successive generation of Trenleys, prudent businessmen with a reputation for driving a hard bargain.

The family was far from wealthy - records show they were yeomen, farming modest amounts of their own land around Denham - but by careful investment and shrewd business deals they were able to ensure the family’s financial security.

I knew nothing of my Buckinghamshire ancestry until I joined a genealogy forum in the hope of demolishing a long-standing brick wall. There I quickly discovered that in 1776 my six times great grandfather Isaac Headland had married Sarah Trenley. Then it was relatively easy to trace Sarah back to Hannah Moxley’s father Edward Redman, a Denham weaver who died in 1681. Buckinghamshire archives hold details of numerous dealings by the Trenleys and some names and places will no doubt be familiar to many followers of the Denham Community History Project's website.

In 1646 we find Edward Redman acquiring ‘Stanborowe’ which had previously been occupied by George and Thomas Watson. In 1714 John Trenley (probably Hannah’s first husband) is involved in a business deal concerning "Rusholtes" and Redhill farms. 1716 sees the transfer of ‘a cottage in Denham town with a pightle or little slip of land’ from her late mother to the elder Hannah, her son Edward, her sister Margaret and her sister's husband Richard Raynor. This was the cottage that would later form a major part of the younger Hannah Trenley's inheritance.

A document of 1729 then shows Hannah and Edward are shown as "former" occupiers of the ‘Falcon or Emotts Dey’ and its adjoining cottage. The new occupier of the Falcon is identified as Mathew Bethwynd. As Hannah Jnr. would go on to marry someone of that name, it seems reasonable to assume he was the new tenant and, through the younger Hannah, the Trenleys maintained an interest in the inn.

Later records give more details of transactions with the Trenleys, mainly carried out by the agent of local landowner Benjamin Way. They show just how canny my ancestors could be. In 1774 Way’s agent informs his employer: ‘This afternoon I offered Trenley and Newman £300, but they still insist on £330.The butcher who has a mortgage for £250 on the houses saw us surveying the premises yesterday, and has told Trenley he should have had first refusal, and will give as much as anyone else. Inform me if you want to advance any further.’

A week later and a hint of irritation seems to have crept into the agents' explanations - ‘Though in Monday’s note you said, go as far as 300 guineas, on Tuesday you repeatedly said £300 was the full value of the estate, which I presumed was not to be exceeded, though I’d have gone to guineas [£330] if there had been prospect of agreement. In treating with Trenley and Newman I advanced from £280 to £300, but supposed there was no hope of agreeing when they insisted on £340 - later £300. The butcher has offered £320, so I have had to offer £330, for which Trenley had signed the agreement.'

The individuals involved in these dealings would no doubt have been Edward Trenley’s son, John and a member of his wife, Sarah Newman’s family, probably Thomas Newman, a Ruislip baker.

Other interesting glimpses of Denham life came to light during my research including the case of one Hannah Blackford who had incurred the wrath of Joshua Iremonger, a wealthy landowner whose family seat was in Hampshire. Again from 1772, agent Hill writes to Iremonger: ‘Mrs Blackford says she sowed about 25 acres with wheat, but on learning from farmers Trenley, Shropshire and others who have land in the little common field, where there are about 14 acres of yours, that they had sown wheat there, she found it necessary to sow 10 acres there, for as the lands are intermixed she could not have ploughed or sown at all later on. She hopes this will not cause offence, and is concerned by your poor opinion of her.’

Mrs. Blackford’s problems appear to have started when her brother, Daniel Omer, died that summer. Named as executrix of his estate she advised Iremonger of her wish to vacate the farm her family had been leasing but confusion arose over the arrangements and she felt there was no alternative but to go ahead with plans for her wheat crop. Iremonger took a dim view of this as detailed in the letter which had prompted Hill’s reply:-‘I understand Mrs Blackford has sown 50ac. of wheat instead of the usual 20 - 25ac; hence I suspect her of sowing the follows and leaving none for the new tenant. Is this equitable? All my tenants know I love quiet and hate litigiousness, but in the face of such baseness I shall enquire how far she is bound by an old lease of her family’s which I have, and though the covenants are strict, shall enforce them. I readily accept her notice, given in your letter, to leave at Michaelmas, for I am sorry that she seems devoid of all principle, and the sooner I am rid of her the better.’

I began my journey through the history of the Trenley family with the discovery of six times great grandmother Sarah Trenley, wife of Isaac Headland, a chapman or itinerant pedlar. The family’s travels resulted in some of their children being born or buried in Denham. Unfortunately, the Trenley reputation for prudence did not protect Sarah from appearing before the St. Clement Danes Pauper Settlement Board in 1800 when her family fell on hard times.

I am proud of my Buckinghamshire ancestry and hope one day to visit Denham, and the Falcon where my family served the local community some three hundred years ago.


Sheila Clarke

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