Denham Close

John Denham (later Sir John) was born in Ireland in 1615, the only son of an English born, Irish judge. He was educated in London and Oxford and then studied Law at Lincoln’s Inn. He married in 1634 and was called to the bar in 1639. When the Civil War broke out, he was the high sheriff of Surrey, but had no great military ability and surrendered Farnham Castle, of which he was governor, to Parliament. After a brief spell of imprisonment he joined the King at Oxford, and undertook many secret missions for him. In 1642, with the Civil War still in progress Denham wrote The Sophy, a historical tragedy, and a long poem, Cooper’s Hill, which was imitated by Alexander Pope in his Windsor Forest. In 1648 he fled to Holland and France, having been discovered as an accomplice of the secret services of Charles I. Upon the Restoration he was appointed Surveyor General of Works, and though his poetic skills far outweighed his architectural abilities, he was fortunate enough to have Christopher Wren as his deputy. In the 1650s and 1660s more impressive literary work followed including a bitter satire on the Dutch war – Aeneid: Directions to a Painter. He died in 1669 and buried in Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey.