For all the problems, issues of privacy associated with the World Wide Web and Social Media, good things can happen. For the past 8 years I’ve been tracing my ancestry. There were always family stories about the Denton family being ‘musical’ as it was so nicely termed but neither my dad or his dad played an instrument, though there was an ancient piano in my grandma Denton’s parlour. Unfortunately no photos of this ancient instrument with its yellowing ivory keys and brass candlesticks survive. I knew that my great grandad had been organist and choirmaster at St Paul’s Astley Bridge but it wasn’t until I went there with Rachel in 2010 that I got to play that organ, saw his books in the organ bench, saw the stained glass window dedicated to him and . . .discovered a framed headshot of the man himself just lying there in a tattered box on top of a cupboard in the vestry. He looked so much like his grandson – my dad.
Fast forward to a couple of months ago when I received a message from a Denton on Ancestry.com from someone whose granddad was the organist’s brother! Last Sunday I spent a wonderful day with him and his wife delving into our family’s history. They came bearing lots of photos and handwritten documents which, of course, has recharged my interest in this side of my family tree. This is Elizabeth Denton, the organist’s grandmother. She was born in the Cotswolds in 1806!
Her son, Samuel and his wife Joanna. – perhaps newly weds. If so, the date is 1863. They began life in Stroud, Gloucestershire but between 1877 and 1880 they moved to Lancashire, to the Manchester area. This was during the height of the industrial revolution in Manchester. Perhaps he thought there’d be more work for him up North.
Samuel and Joanna had 12 children. That cannot have been easy on an organ tuner’s income, though he designates himself as a ‘professor of piano’ on Census returns so presumably he taught piano too.
This photo, taken in 1989, shows Samuel’s grandson on a bench at Holy Trinity Church in Stroud. The dedication on the bench reads ‘In memory of Samuel Denton, 1843-1921, and his son, Herbert Vernon, 1873-1961.’ Unfortunately the bench is no longer there.
I wrote a work for concert band about my family ‘Memoirs.’