The Origins of the Denne Family

Denne:  A Saxon Origin

    The "dennes" were the areas of land bounded by the transhumance routes in Kent in Saxon times, so the Denne name may be of Saxon origin.  These "dennes" which threaded through the woodlands of the Kentish Weald in the 6th and 7th centuries were the low-lying clearings which gave free passage to the livestock between areas of pasturage.  They also served as woodland pasture for swine, but that was not their primary function.

 . . . condensed from Gelling and Cole: The Landscape of Place names, 2000.
   Thus, Robert de Dene, the first Denne to appear in history, may have been of Saxon ancestry. He may have been a descendant of a Saxon retainer who had accompanied the family of King Æthelred of England and his queen, Emma of Normandy, into exile almost thirty years before.
For the descendants of Robert de Dene, see Denne Genealogy.

Denne: A Danish Origin

    The Denne name may come from the Norman French "Dene" meaning "the Dane"; thereby suggesting a Scandinavian or Viking origin for the Denne Family. Perhaps the first of the Denne Family came to Normandy circa 911 with Rolf the Ganger who became Robert, 1st  Duke of Normandy.

The following account appears on a Denne Family Tree dated 1832
     "This Ancient Family was Norman as believed, and settled in Normandy with Rollo the Dane which may be inferred even from the Christian Names Robert, and Ralph, alias Rolo, or Rolloph, at this period much in Fashion in Normandy and France; also by the particle De: farther-more the two Roberts first in this Pedigree, as also Ralph, had large possessions in Normandy, (as see Collins His) besides if they had been Anglo Saxons it is not probable they would have retained their estates when those of the English throughout the Country were confiscated, and given to Normans by William the Conquerer; nor is it likely that they were of the Danes at this period settled in England, as Edward the Confessor would not surely have taken a Dane into his service and Household so soon after Massacre & Banishment of the Danes by his father Ethelred in 1002.

     "There is every reason to believe that Robert De Den came over with Edward the Confessor, and his Brother Alfred, from Normandy, where they had been taken by their Mother Emma Daughter of Richard 1st Duke of Normandy, and widow of Ethelred to protect them against Canute, who had put their brother to death, and at which they resided some years, during which Robert De Den (whose family at that period were it 'appears' Noble and there from of some note wealth and influence) was probably taken into Edward's service it seems further probable that this family were amongst those to whom Estates and Honors were granted to his Countrymen by Rollo the Dane, first Duke of Normandy who was a Prince of Denmark and to whom Charles of France ceded the Country of Normandy Ella Daughter of Ralph marrying De Sackwell a Norman confirms the opinion in some measure."

    Regardless of his exact ancestry, Robert de Dene was a Norman who held large estates in Sussex and Kent as well as in Normandy.  He was "pincerna", a household official in charge of wine and beverages, to King Edward the Confessor.

It is with this Robert de Dene that our Denne Family Genealogy begins; see Denne Genealogy.

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