The surname Denton is an ancient one in England and dates as far back as the Norman Conquest of 1066. The name, itself, is one of those belonging in the place name category. It arose out of the identification of an individual by the fact that he came from, or lived in, Denton, the name of several places in England. The ending "ton" is a common ending of many English names and indicates a homestead or enclosure. Our word "town" comes from this suffix. The first portion of the name, that of "Den," comes from an Old English word "den or denne," meaning a valley. In a strictly literal sense, therefore, the name meant one who came from a homestead in the valley.
The earliest records of this family date back to the time of William I. During his reign a family settled at Denton, and today Denton Hall still is known throughout England. British records list a number of coat of arms grants for persons named Denton, which would indicate a distinguished history for persons of this name. In 1636 a William Denton was appointed personal physician to Charles I. After the Restoration he assumed the same position for Charles II. In 1699 Edmond Denton was created a Baronet.
Wanda Cunningham sent this beautiful Coat of Arms which was painted for her by Catsy Shafer who was in 1989 the National Heraldry Chairman for the Colonial Dames of the Seventeenth Century (CDVIIC). Catsy wrote the following: "In the case of the martlet -- a number of Coats of Arms use them. They also signified a 'messenger.' If used as a 4th-son symbol, only one would be used as a mark of differences -- usually in the top of the shield." (Wanda says that the colors are a beautiful silver-gray and red.)
On the back of the above drawing it says:
Gules two bars argent in chief three martlets sable.
Notice how similar as this from our 'Aussie' Cousin, Bill Denton:
Blazon of Arms: Argent, two bars gules, in chief three cinquefoils sable.
(Translation: The cinquefoil denotes fertility or that "the just man shall not wither." The bar represents the Military Bell or Girdle of Honour worn by those who had distinguished themselves in battle.)
Crest: an eagle sable.
(Translation: The eagle signifies a Man of Action and a Protector of the Weak.)
Wanda also sent the following drawing of a very old "Incised Slab" of Johannes De Denton. You will notice that there are very many similarities in design with the more 'modern' Coats of Arms. (See picture below from Tom Denton for translation.)
Along the lines of the same antiquities, Tom Denton sent the following three images of ancient English monuments along with the explanations. Thanks, Tom!
Tom scanned these from a book titled, "Cumberland Families and Heraldry" by Huddleston and Boumphrey. Apparently the Dentons in Cumberland were one of the earliest Dentons in England (12th Century). The "Denton" arms that are usually illustrated with martlets or cinquefoils originated with these Dentons. Tom says that that as far as he knows there is no connection between the Cumberland Dentons and the Yorkshire Dentons. The Hillesden, Buckinghamshire branch appears to be descended from the Dentons of Denton and Warnell, Cumberland, as they were being granted the same arms and are described in Burke's "General Armory" as being descended from an ancient family.