Chastity, Missionaries, and the Rev John Atcherley

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Rev John Atcherley had hoped to reside quietly amongst the inhabitants of Wednesbury for many years, serving the parish as its Curate. However the bitter and very public clash between John and his employer, the Vicar of Wednesbury, had caused John’s hopes to be dashed. Would he find another parish in which he could live out his days in peace as a servant of his Lord? The answer was yes, although this did not mean that John’s name would not crop up in the newspapers or other publications from time to time.

Staffordshire, Penn St BartholomewAnother Curacy did not come John’s way immediately. The Rev Daniel Pape, Vicar of Penn in Staffordshire, provided John with some employment: John signed Penn’s marriage register as Officiating Minister on 1 December 1805 (when he conducted two weddings) and again on 2 February 1806. It is possible that he performed other ceremonies and services there too. Pape had led the investigation into the unpleasant affair at Wednesbury, and seems to have been supportive of John. (Penn St Bartholomew is pictured right.)

The performance of occasional ceremonies and services was not going to earn John Atcherley a living however. Fortunately, a more permanent opening became available later in 1806. The marriage register of Drayton in Hales (or Market Drayton) in Shropshire shows that John had become Curate of that parish by 12 July that year. After the difficulties John had encountered at Wednesbury, I can only assume that he made sure his new Curacy was licensed.

What a relief it must have been for John, to at last settle into a secure position in a busy town, where he was able to tend to the needs of his flock without undue interference from his Vicar or from other church officials. Of course, such a life does not generate much of interest for the newspapers – which means that from the latter part of 1806 onwards, the Rev John Atcherley’s name almost disappeared from their pages. Almost, but not quite.

In 1809, John’s name cropped up in newspaper reports of a case heard at Shrewsbury Assizes, concerning the alleged seduction of a Miss Jones. I should immediately clarify that John was in court as a character witness, not as the accused! Here is the report on Jones v. Owen, Esq., as printed in the Staffordshire Advertiser, in full.

Quote This was an action brought by the plaintiff against the defendant for the seduction of his daughter, and the defendant had pleaded first that he was not guilty, and also that he had leave and licence from the plaintiff to debauch his daughter.

Mr. Dauncey, in a most eloquent speech, commented on the infamous plea set up by the defendant, and stated to the jury that the plaintiff had been an innkeeper at Market Drayton, and that the defendant was at this time a Lieutenant in the 16th regiment of light dragoons. That when the defendant first became acquainted with the plaintiff’s family he was a Captain in the Shropshire Volunteers; that the defendant came with the regiment on permanent duty to Market Drayton, and the head quarters were at the plaintiff’s house; that the defendant whilst there paid great attention to the daughter of the plaintiff, and made her offers of marriage, but that she most prudently referred him to her father for his consent; having obtained the father’s consent, he continued to pay his address to the daughter till he purchased a Lieutenancy in the 16th, when being obliged to join his regiment, he offered to marry her privately, which offer she refused; he joined his regiment, and was absent about 12 months, during which time the plaintiff, by misfortune, was reduced in his circumstances, and obliged to leave the Inn; during the time of the defendant’s absence, a correspondence was kept up between him and the plaintiff’s daughter.

On the defendant’s return to Market Drayton on the recruiting service, he was informed of the plaintiff’s circumstances being much reduced, by the daughter, who begged that their acquaintance might be dropped; but the defendant assuring her that her father’s misfortunes should be no impediment to their marriage, the acquaintance was renewed, and in the month of March, 1808, he seduced her, and shortly afterwards left the place. She communicated to him her situation, and he wrote to her promising to return and marry her as soon as his affairs were settled in Wales. After some time he ceased writing to her, and her Brother in consequence went to him at Woodbridge, to know his determination; he again repeated to him his determination to marry his sister, and promised to return in three weeks for that purpose; he did not return, and she was afterwards delivered of a son.

Mr. Dauncey’s statement was fully proved by the plaintiff’s daughter, a very interesting girl, her brother, and the Rev. — Atcherley, the latter of whom stated that the daughter had always conducted herself in a very becoming and virtuous manner, and that she was the last woman whose chastity he would have suspected.

The judge in his summing up, stated that the plea of the defendant was one of the most infamous and audacious he had ever seen on a record, and that it greatly aggravated the case. The jury gave a verdict for the plaintiff, damages One Thousand Pounds. Unquote

Places - Market Drayton St MaryMarket Drayton St Mary

Another newspaper which mentioned John was The Salopian Journal of 18 September 1811. “Atcherley Rev. John, Drayton” was one of seven Atcherleys appearing in a list of men who had been issued game certificates, at a cost of £3 3s. each, for the period 1 July to 9 September 1811. (Also on the list was John’s brother, the Rev Roger Atcherley of Bridgnorth.) These certificates permitted the holders to take game (pheasant, partridge, grouse), and possibly also snipe, woodcock, quail, rail and ‘conies’ (rabbits). Though hunting game would have been regarded as a ‘sport’, it also provided meat for the dinner table.

For most of John Atcherley’s Market Drayton Curacy, his name appeared in parish registers rather than in newspapers – and not just the registers of his home parish. From time to time he filled in for other clergymen, conducting marriages at Adderley (on 5 May 1808), Moreton Say (20 September 1810), and no doubt at other parishes in the vicinity of Market Drayton.

John also did what he could to support “the diffusion of the Gospel” across the globe, through his support for the Church Missionary Society. The Early History of the Church Missionary Society for Africa and the East to the end of A.D. 1814 (published 1896) provides a short account of what may have been John’s earliest involvement with the Society:

Quote On Saturday, the 25th [of September 1813], [Mr Goode] proceeded from Ramsdell to Market Drayton, the church of which had been procured for the Society by Mr. Clement Leigh. This town, also called Drayton-in-Hales, was within the eastern border of Shropshire, about twenty-five miles south-west from Ramsdell, and some fourteen in the same direction from Newcastle. The same evening he saw the Rev. John Atcherley, the curate, whom he found a warm, cordial, and active man, desirous of promoting the general cause of religion and of aiding the Society. He had already formed four committees for penny contributions, and consulted Mr. Goode as to rules.

The neighbourhood abounded with opulent families. The next morning, Sunday, the 26th, he preached to a congregation highly respectable and attentive, and in the afternoon, while Mr. Goode was at another church, Mr. Atcherley preached himself for the Society. The collection altogether was 43l. It was Mr. Goode’s opinion that Mr. Atcherley would make a very useful agent for the Society. For the afternoon Mr. Goode proceeded to Wem, ten miles to the south-west, having obtained that pulpit through the interest and exertions of Mr. Atcherley, upon a letter from Mr. Dobbs. Unquote

Missionary Register Oct 1813

The £43 collected by John Atcherley at Market Drayton was acknowledged in the Missionary Register of October 1813, which noted that “The Members of the Church, it is highly gratifying to remark, begin very generally to feel the obligation under which they lie, of communicating the Gospel to their Heathen and Mahometan fellow-subjects, and to the whole world.”

The Church Missionary Society was at that time active in Europe, the near East (Turkey), Africa, Asia (including Ceylon, China, Java and Mauritius), the South Sea Islands, the USA, “British North America” (Canada) and the West Indies, as well as at home in Britain where the Scriptures were distributed. The provision of education to ‘heathens’ – which doubtless included religious teachings – seems to have been a key activity (the volume of the Missionary Register covering 1816 includes at least 100 occurrences of the word ‘heathen’).

At the beginning of 1816, another collection made at Market Drayton by John Atcherley for the Church Missionary Society raised the sum of £22 5s. 8d. It was probably the last such collection John made. One of the final appearances of his name in a newspaper was in the Staffordshire Advertiser of 23 March 1816, under the heading “DIED”: “18th instant, at Market-Drayton, the Rev. John Atcherley.”

John Atcherley was buried on 23 March 1816 at the church where he had been Curate for nearly ten years: Market Drayton St Mary. The burial register did not record his age, but based on the date of his baptism he was most likely 44, possibly 45. His life, though relatively short, was an eventful one. As a Naval Chaplain and as a Curate, John stood up for what he believed in and did not shy away from conflict.

Picture credits. Penn St Bartholomew: Photo © copyright Roger Kidd and taken from Geograph; adapted, used, and made available for reuse under a Creative Commons licence. Market Drayton St Mary: Photo © copyright Geoff Pick and taken from Geograph; adapted, used, and made available for reuse under a Creative Commons licence. Missionary Register, October 1813 masthead: Image from scan of out of copyright publication at Google Books.


[1] John Atcherley (1806), The Curate of Wednesbury and His Vicar.
[2] Penn, Staffordshire, marriage register covering 1805 and 1806. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Staffordshire Parish Registers Browse.
[3] Drayton in Hales, Shropshire, marriage register covering 1806. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Shropshire, Parish Registers Browse, 1538-1900.
[4] Staffordshire Advertiser, 1 Apr 1809, page 3. Shrewsbury Assizes. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[5] The Salopian Journal, 18 Sep 1811, page 4. Snippets viewed at Last Chance To Read.
[6] Adderley, Shropshire, marriage register covering 1808. Abstract in: Shropshire Parish Register Society (1900), Registers of the Diocese of Lichfield, volume 1 (copy viewed at Mel Lockie’s website).
[7] Moreton Say, Shropshire, marriage register covering 1808. Abstract in: Shropshire Parish Register Society (1907), Registers of the Diocese of Lichfield, volume 8 (copy viewed at Mel Lockie’s website).
[8] Hole, Rev. Charles (1896), The Early History of the Church Missionary Society for Africa and the East to the end of A.D. 1814. Page 332. Copy viewed at Google Books (Now Snippet-view only).
[9] Missionary Register, Oct 1813, pages 366-8. Copy viewed at Google Books.
[10] Missionary Register, Feb 1816, page 79. Copy viewed at Google Books.
[11] Staffordshire Advertiser, 23 Mar 1816, page 4. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[12] Market Drayton St Mary, Shropshire, burial register covering 1816. Entry for John Atcherley. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Shropshire Burials. Indexed at FamilySearch, Batch I04627-3, Film 1526925, Ref ID 276.

The Curate of Wednesbury and His Vicar – Part 2

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The Rev John Atcherley was now convinced that the overtures of friendship made by the Vicar who employed him, the Rev Alexander Bunn Haden, were a sham. John wrote: “He requests me to obtain as many signatures of the inhabitants to this petition as I possibly can. For what purpose? To bury it in oblivion! to get me removed, sacrifice the honour of his Bishop, and the reputation of his Curate. This is the Vicar of Wednesbury’s friendship; he certainly would neither have sent the petition, nor Miss Baylay’s letter to the Bishop; for his lordship was quite in the dark on the subject. No, he would have put them on the fire; the Bishop’s wrath would have remained unappeased, and I should have received a letter of condolence and commiseration, and a picture of Mr. Haden’s distressed mind at the thoughts of parting.”

Places - Lichfield Cathedral

Lichfield Cathedral, at the heart of the Diocese of Lichfield

John wrote to the Rev Haden to make him aware that he (John) had received “a very pleasant letter from the Bishop”. The result was that Haden, who had seemed determined not to set foot in Wednesbury, finally did so, on 12 July 1805. He called upon John Atcherley, his Curate, and asked to see the Bishop’s letter. After reading it, he expressed the view that John had no business writing to the Bishop, and that the Bishop was very wrong in replying directly to John – the correspondence should have been sent via himself, the Vicar. This prompted the following verbal volleys between our clashing clergymen, as recalled by John Atcherley:

Quote I replied, that I wrote to the Bishop myself, because you seemed not inclined to do it, and because you threw cold water upon my warmest hopes. Cold water, sir, replied Mr. Haden, you have plunged me in hot water, for all my kindness and trouble.—I have got my foot in it prettily now. I did not understand him; he explained, you have made me look ridiculous in the eyes of the Bishop, my particular friend. I should be sorry to sever friend from friend, said I; and if the Bishop is your particular friend, why did you not forward to him the evidence of my guilt or innocence, and request he would comply with the wishes of the parish, and suffer me to remain Curate of Wednesbury? for though indeed I may have plunged you in hot water, yet it was undesigned; but what have you done to me? Why, you have deliberately and intentionally scalded me to death … Unquote

This clerical conflict then returned to the matter of the petition: the Rev Haden maintained that Wednesbury’s parishioners wanted John Atcherley removed, and that it was for this reason that John had not been able to get the petition signed. John of course disagreed, and after Alexander Haden’s departure, he set out to prove his Vicar wrong. Rev Atcherley circulated a petition, of his own design, one which was to be sent directly to the Bishop:

Quote On July the 16th, I delivered my petition to the inhabitants who eagerly received it, and joyfully signed it. It is as follows, and signed by 500 inhabitants:

WE whose names are hereunto subscribed, unbiassed by power, unrestrained by fear, and guided only by truth, and principal inhabitants of the parish of Wednesbury, with the exceptions of a servile and unprincipled few, do testify, that as far as we know and believe, the conduct of the Rev. John Atcherley, during his residence among us, has been sober, pious, and exemplary; and we therefore, in the most respectful and humble manner, request his lordship, the Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry, will be pleased to continue him in the Curacy of Wednesbury, whatever may be the wish, or desire, and misrepresentation of wicked men. And we beg leave to assure his lordship, that in making this request, we are influenced only by a sincere regard for the defence of wounded innocence, for the cause of religion, and a wish to disappoint the malignant misrepresentations of falsehood; founded on dark, designing, and deliberate mischief. And for no other reason, but because Mr. Atcherley was desirous of doing his duty, by enforcing, in the mildest way, as a Clergyman and a Christian, decency and good order in the parish. Unquote

The Vicar of Wednesbury may initially have wished his Curate to depart in order avoid a confrontation with the clerk and the church wardens of the parish. But John Atcherley was not one for going quietly, and in the pursuit of justice for himself, John was now a threat to Alexander Haden’s own reputation. John Atcherley’s petitioning activities met with the following response from his Vicar, a letter dated 28 July 1805:


I HAVE received a petition signed by almost all the respectable inhabitants in Wednesbury, requesting your dismissal from the Curacy. In answer to which, I have informed them, that it is to take place at Michaelmas next.

I am, Rev. Sir,

Your obedient humble servant,


John Atcherley regarded his Vicar’s claim as an “abominable falsehood”. “Eleven men only signed that petition,” wrote John, “of whom, I can only assure the reader, that I verily believe they are the least respectable, in point of morality, in the parish.” Regardless of how many parishioners had signed Alexander Haden’s petition, or of their respectability, the Vicar of Wednesbury had determined to use that document as a basis for casting out his Curate. John Atcherley was now fighting not just for his good name, but also for his livelihood.

Correspondence between the Revs Atcherley and Haden continued, and as you might imagine the letters became increasingly bitter. John also wrote further letters to the Bishop, requesting his intervention. However the Bishop, while seeming sympathetic towards John’s plight, was unable to prevent Alexander Haden from replacing John as Curate of Wednesbury. The problem was that John was not a licensed Curate, and this left him completely at the mercy of his Vicar.

Wednesbury St Bartholomew - lecternA Mr Inman called on John Atcherley on 11 August 1805, and announced that he was the new Curate. John showed him the letters he had received from Alexander Haden, and from the Bishop, and Mr Inman “went away disgusted.” On Sunday 6 October, Alexander Haden took the service at Wednesbury himself. The following Sunday, another clergyman (Mr Cormouls) attended. After a brief discussion with John Atcherley, the two men agreed to share the duty: Mr Cormouls preached, and John read the prayers. John had the evening service to himself, but at the end of both of that Sunday’s services, the parish clerk announced that Mr Haden had dismissed John Atcherley from the Curacy of Wednesbury.

To the congregation, these must have been extraordinary scenes, and I imagine them sat in their pews, exchanging glances with each other while wondering what would happen next. John Atcherley did not leave them waiting for long. Contradicting the clerk, he announced: “I am not discharged by Mr. Haden, I have had no proper notice to leave the Curacy. Besides, I am here by agreement with Mr. Haden for twelve months, which agreement he has declared he would not suffer me to violate. And add to this, I am here by the permission of the Bishop …”

Despite John’s determination to remain until Christmas, Charles Neve signed the Wednesbury marriage register as Curate of the parish from 8 December 1805, and presumably took over all the other duties associated with that position. John Atcherley had been ousted.

Before leaving Wednesbury, and before publishing his pamphlet, John made attempts to have an independent investigation conducted into his complaints. The Bishop had agreed to this and suggested it should be carried out by some of John’s fellow clergymen, including Daniel Pape, Vicar of Penn. Alexander Haden did not however provide what John regarded as a “satisfactory answer” to Pape’s invitation to take part. At the beginning of 1806 therefore, the Rev John Atcherley published his ‘appeal to the world’, The Curate of Wednesbury and His Vicar.

John’s pamphlet seems to have persuaded Alexander Haden to at last submit to an investigation. The outcome – conveyed to the public through a notice published in the Staffordshire Advertiser of 10 May 1806 – partially vindicated John Atcherley, but also seemed to clear Alexander Bunn Haden of any wrongdoing:


WE, the undersigned, having been appointed to investigate and determine upon a very unpleasant dispute, between the Rev. Mr. Haden and the Rev. Mr. Atcherley, the particulars of which have been circulated in a Pamphlet, entitled “The Curate of Wednesbury and his Vicar,” are of the opinion (upon a full investigation of the correspondence, and all the circumstances connected with this dispute) that Mr. Atcherley wrote that Pamphlet under impressions extremely different from those which would have suggested themselves to him, had he been in possession of those facts which have been presented to us; that, in the first instance, the conduct of Mr. Atcherley never ought to have been impeached, nor is there any ground for suspicion of it, upon the infamous attempt recorded in his Pamphlet, upon the assertion of the Beadle, Harrison; and, we are convinced, upon a full and complete review of all the circumstances and facts, that the Rev. Mr. Haden has not conducted himself in any manner unworthy of his character and situation in life.
DANIEL PAPE, Vicar of Penn.
JOHN CLARE, Vicar of Bushbury.
JOHN BISHTON, jun. Kilsall.
March 31, 1806.

We, the Rev. A. B. Haden and the Rev. John Atcherley, having submitted the whole of our existing disputes to the Rev. Daniel Pape, the Rev. John Clare, & John Bishton, jun. Esq. do acknowledge ourselves perfectly satisfied with their decision.

I find it interesting that the clerical committee did not dispute any of the facts put forward by John Atcherley in his pamphlet, but said only that he would – if in possession of additional information – have formed different impressions. The language used to defend Alexander Haden is also, perhaps, not as robust as it might have been. We have only seen John Atcherley’s side of this story, but I am inclined to believe his version of events. What, though, were the facts which might have altered his views had he been in possession of them? Perhaps there is a clue in one of the Bishop’s letters to John, in which the Bishop alluded to “Mr. Haden’s ill state of health.” John thought that “Mr. Haden’s health was very good”, but not all illnesses are obvious to the naked eye.

John Atcherley’s name was cleared, but his future no longer lay in Wednesbury – or with the woman he had hoped to marry, Miss Baylay. That, to me, is the saddest part of this story.

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Picture credits. Lichfield Cathedral: Photo © Copyright George Mahoney, taken from Geograph and used under a Creative Commons licenceWednesbury St Bartholomew – lectern: Adapted from an illustration in A History of Wednesbury, in the County of Stafford by John Nock Bagnall, printed in 1854 and therefore out of copyright.


Digital edition of The Curate of Wednesbury and His Vicar (in PDF format).


My grateful thanks are extended to Martin James (Family Heritage Search), for providing me with digital photographs of the pages of a copy of The Curate of Wednesbury and His Vicar held at the William Salt Library in Stafford.


[1] John Atcherley (1806), The Curate of Wednesbury and His Vicar.
[2] Staffordshire Advertiser, 10 May 1806, page 4. “To the Public.” Copy viewed at Findmypast.

The Curate of Wednesbury and His Vicar – Part 1

< Back to The Rev John Atcherley and his Naval Chaplaincy.

Quote THE following sheets would long ere this have appeared had it not been from a spirit of forbearance on one hand, and a strong desire on the other, not to expose to public censure the imprudent, not to say malevolent, conduct of any individual on earth, much more that of a brother clergyman. And that the sum of my wishes might be accomplished, overtures have been made … [but] these overtures were rejected in a magisterial manner; and the reason may, perhaps, be discovered through the medium of the following correspondence; and which is the only means I have now left to shew to the world how innocent I am of the charges brought against me by wicked men Unquote — John Atcherley, 1806.

When the Rev John Atcherley returned to the parish of Wednesbury, Staffordshire (as its Curate) at the end of 1804, he hoped to reside quietly amongst its inhabitants for many years. Instead, he became embroiled in a dispute with the all-powerful church wardens of the parish, and found to his dismay that support was forthcoming neither from his absentee Vicar, nor from his Bishop. After trying – and failing – to have his grievances resolved within the Church, John decided to go public. An extraordinary pamphlet entitled The Curate of Wednesbury and His Vicar was the result.

Places - Staffordshire, Wednesbury St Bartholomew

Before looking in more detail at John Atcherley’s tale of woe, let’s examine the other characters in this sorry story – starting with the Vicar of Wednesbury, Alexander Bunn Haden. Alexander Haden was a pluralist, that is, he held a number of livings at the same time. Naturally he could not serve all of the parishes where he was the incumbent, so he employed Curates to undertake his duties in some of the parishes concerned (for a proportion of the income which he received from those parishes).

The extent of Alexander Haden’s pluralism is revealed in a letter by Norman Tildesley in 1971, who referred to pluralities amongst the clergy as an “objectionable practice”. “Rev. Alexander Bunn Haden”, wrote Tildesley, “applied for the vacant incumbency at Willenhall on the death of Neve in 1788. At the time he was Vicar of Wednesbury, Rector of Saddington in Leicestershire, Curate of Brewood and Brindley Lecturer at Wolverhampton.”

The consequences of Alexander Haden’s non-residency of (and laissez-faire attitude towards) Wednesbury was described by Frederick Hackwood in Peter Ditchfield’s 1907 publication, The Parish Clerk. I have broken the text into paragraphs for easier reading (and added an illustration of the interior of Wednesbury St Bartholomew):

Quote The office of parish clerk in Wednesbury has been held by at least two remarkable characters. ‘Old George Court,’ as he was called—and by some who are still alive—held the post in succession to his grandfather for a great number of years. His grandfather was George Watkins, in his time one of the principal tradesmen in the town. His hospitable house was the place of entertainment for a long succession of curates-in-charge and other officiating ministers for all the long years that the vicar (Rev. A. Bunn Haden) was a non-resident pluralist.

But the position created by this state of things was remarkable. Watkins and the small coterie who acted with him became the absolute and dominant authority in all parochial matters. One curate complained of him and his nominee wardens (in 1806) that ‘these men had been so long in office, and had become so cruel and oppressive,’ that some of the parishioners resolved at last to dismiss them. The little oligarchy, however, was too strong to be ousted at any vestry that ever was called.

As to the elected officials, the same curate records in a pamphlet which he published in his indignation, that ‘on Christmas Day, during divine service, the churchwardens entered the workhouse with constables and bailiffs, and a multitude of men equally pious with themselves, and turned the governor and his wife into the snow-covered streets.’ Another measure of iniquity laid to their charge was their ‘cruelty to Mr. Foster,’ the master of the charity school held in the old Market Cross, ‘a man of amiable disposition, and a teacher of considerable merit.’

Places - Wednesbury St Bartholomew interior 1

These aggressive wardens grazed the churchyard for profit, looked coldly upon a proposal to put up Tables of Benefactions in the church, and altogether acted in a manner so high-handed as to call forth this historic protest. Although the fabric of the church was in so ruinous a condition that the rain streamed through the roof upon the head of our clerical pamphleteer as he was preaching, all these complaints were to no purpose.

When the absentee vicar was appealed to he declared his helplessness, and one sentence in his reply is significant; it was thus: ‘It is as much as my life is worth to come among them!’ Allowance must be made for party rancour. It is probable that Watkins was but the official figure-head of this dominant party, and he is said to have been a man of real piety; and after holding the office of parish clerk for sixty years, he at last died in the vestry of the church he loved so much. Unquote

The curate and clerical pamphleteer referred to in the above passage was of course the Rev John Atcherley. George Watkins, the parish clerk, signed as a witness to seven of the nine marriages conducted by John from February to September 1805. John Atcherley was, by his own account, not the only person who wished to see the clerk and church wardens of Wednesbury relieved of their positions. However, it appears that John was singled out for retribution by the men who “disgraced the authority they possessed in the church” to which John belonged. Here is a part of John’s account of the events that followed:

Quote I was civil to them, but that would not do, I must be their obedient servant, as my predecessors had also been. But I had an independent mind, which rebuked them when I was their minister before, and I found it more necessary now to shew that independence. They perceived it unshaken, and kindly promised to reward me for it. They promised to ‘do me a kindness.’ I have not received a purse of money, nor any thing valuable; nor indeed, do I expect any thing of value; I am not a worldly-minded man, I would gladly have released them from their promise, and accepted, instead of any pecuniary reward for my integrity, their exertions to stop the mouth of one of their obedient servants, whose mouth is the trumpet of calumny. This man is the parish beadle.—A very few days after the masters of this man had discovered that I could not be subdued, he very kindly undertook ‘to reward me;’ which he accomplished in the following manner:

On Easter-Thursday, which will be found to be the subject of some of the following letters; as I was walking with my intended wife, I was followed in my walks by the eye of premeditated mischief; for soon afterwards, the beadle asserted, and supported his assertion, by tendering the wager of a guinea, that I was seen not only in company, but improperly connected with a woman of the name of Dickinson, a person whom I had never seen, as clearly appeared upon investigation. Unquote

The accusation made against the Rev John Atcherley may appear rather trivial, until the character of Ms Dickinson, with whom John was alleged to have been “improperly connected”, is made clear. Later in his pamphlet, John referred to a note provided as evidence by his intended wife, Miss Baylay:

Quote OF this Miss Baylay, I shall say as little as I can help. The note she sent me, was intended to convince the Bishop, that I was walking with her at the time I was accused of being in company with a woman of ill-fame. I was walking with Miss Baylay, and by her own appointment. Unquote

For a clergyman to be falsely accused of being in the company of a “woman of ill-fame” was clearly a serious matter, and John’s desire to clear his good name and see his tormentors dealt with appropriately is understandable. On Tuesday 11 June 1805, the Revs Atcherley and Haden met at Lichfield and discussed John’s situation. “The result was,” John later wrote, that Alexander Haden “would undertake to have the beadle punished, or would himself put the churchwardens in the court.” However the satisfaction John felt at this undertaking was short-lived. Two days letter he received the following letter from his Vicar:


VERY soon after I saw you, the Bishop sent Mott for me respecting your very unfortunate business, and after weighing all the circumstances of the case, recommended that you should take to your new preferment, and reside upon it, which would completely remove you from that neighbourhood, where too many persons take sides against you. Mott thought the plan a good one, because you will get rid of the accusation and your enemies without an investigation, which would have proved extremely expensive, and have fallen upon you. I have then to request that you will write to your Curate, and I will endeavour to procure an assistant between this time and Michaelmas; you might make it convenient to remove sooner, provided I get one to take care of Wednesbury. I assured the Bishop that I did not believe the report, and spoke as to the credibility of the witnesses against you. I go on Tuesday next to Leicester; as soon as I return, I will come over to Wednesbury, and give you two sermons.

Your’s sincerely,


John Atcherley was astonished by the content of this letter. On 15 June he walked the seven miles from Wednesbury to Alexander Haden’s home in Tettenhall to discuss the matter. There, he was told something which he found even more unbelievable: that the Bishop, on the basis of an anonymous letter, gave credit to the report about John and Ms Dickinson. It was during this conversation that Haden, following John’s suggestion that he should “come over to Wednesbury and investigate the business himself”, gave the above-mentioned response “Me! It is as much as my life is worth to come among them.” Haden was of course referring to the men who I now think of as ‘the Wednesbury Mafia’: the parish clerk (George Watkins), the church wardens (Messrs Hawe and Addison) and their beadle (Joseph Harrison).

Arms, Diocese of Lichfield

Arms of the Diocese of Lichfield

During his meeting with John, and in subsequent letters, Alexander Haden gave John advice on the course of action he should take to secure his position as Curate. This included gathering the signatures of “as many of the inhabitants of Wednesbury as can possibly be procured” on a petition, which might persuade the Bishop “to withdraw his directions as to [John’s] dismissal.” However John, becoming distrustful of his Vicar, wrote directly to the Bishop to ask what his fate was to be following the complaint made about his behaviour.  The reply which he received (dated 24 June 1805) served only to lessen his trust in Alexander Haden still further:


I HAVE received no complaint concerning you, nor any intimation of the matter alluded to in your letter, but from yourself. Unless therefore something be represented to me upon the subject, of course I shall not immediately require an alteration in the Cure of Wednesbury.

I am, Rev. Sir, your obedient servant,


> On to The Curate of Wednesbury and His Vicar – Part 2.

Picture credits. Wednesbury St Bartholomew, and Wednesbury St Bartholomew – interior: Adapted from illustrations in A History of Wednesbury, in the County of Stafford by John Nock Bagnall, printed in 1854 and therefore out of copyright. Coat of Arms of the Diocese of Lichfield: Image taken from Wikimedia Commons and used under a Creative Commons licence.


[1] John Atcherley (1806), The Curate of Wednesbury and His Vicar.
[2] D B Robinson (1984), Staffordshire Clergy in 1830. In: South Staffordshire Archaeological and Historical Society Transactions, vol. XXIV, pp 84-98.
[3] Letter from Norman Tildesley to his niece dated 26 Sep 1971. Copy viewed at
[4] Frederick William Hackwood (1899), Olden Wednesbury: Its Whims and Ways. Being Some Odd Chapters in the History of the Old Town. Page 50.
[5] Peter Hampson Ditchfield (1907), The Parish Clerk. Pages 289-291. Copy viewed at Internet Archive.
[6] Wednesbury St Bartholomew, Staffordshire, marriage register covering 1775 to 1812, entries for marriages from late 1804 to 1807. Copies viewed at Findmypast – Staffordshire Parish Registers Browse.

The Rev John Atcherley and his naval chaplaincy

“The panic of invasion had forcibly seized the imaginations of many persons. Government, willing to tranquillize the public mind, availed itself of every species of force to repel the threatened aggression.” So wrote Edward Pelham Brenton in his 1827 publication, The Naval History of Great Britain. The man behind the “panic of invasion” was Napoleon, Emperor of France. Among the many Britons who stepped forward to play their part in defending their country against Napoleon’s might was the Rev John Atcherley, an older brother of Captain James Atcherley of the Royal Marines.

Although John Atcherley was baptised (at Shrewsbury St Mary) on 1 April 1771, he was probably born sometime in 1770, given that the baptism of his sister Arabella took place less than three months after his, on 18 June 1771. John was the third child and second son of the Rev James Atcherley, who in the year of John’s birth was promoted from second master to head master of Shrewsbury School (see The Rev James Atcherley, Head Master of Shrewsbury – Part 1). It seems very likely that John’s early education was received at his father’s school, but as the Shrewsbury school register was lost during James Atcherley’s headmastership, we will never know for sure.

The decision that John Atcherley would follow in the footsteps of his father (and indeed those of his older brother Roger) meant that John’s education was completed at St John’s College, Cambridge. He was admitted there at the age of 18 on 18 April 1789, and was awarded his BA in 1793. He was ordained as a deacon of the Diocese of Lichfield and Coventry on 2 February the following year, the ordination taking place at Tichfield Chapel in St Marylebone, Middlesex. His ordination as priest took place within the Diocese itself, at Eccleshall in Staffordshire, on 14 June 1795.

Staffordshire - Eccleshall Holy TrinityThe ancient church of Eccleshall Holy Trinity in its present-day setting

John’s clerical duties began in 1794, after his ordination as deacon. His first position, the curacy of Grinshill, seems to have been short-lived. The Grinshill marriage register shows that John conducted one wedding there, that of George Walford and Elizabeth Mullineux, on 3 March 1794. The next two marriage ceremonies, which were not carried out until January and February 1797, were performed by John’s father James Atcherley (who had been appointed Perpetual Curate of that parish in 1763). It is interesting to note that John signed the register on one other occasion, a few years before he was ordained: he was a witness to a wedding which took place at Grinshill on 27 December 1791.

From 1795, John Atcherley began to officiate at some of the marriages (and probably other services too) at the church where he had been baptised, Shrewsbury St Mary. His father James had done this from 1756 until 1781, and his brother Roger had conducted a wedding there in 1792. John’s first St Mary marriages, in his capacity as Assistant Minister, both took place on 21 May 1795. Others (one or two per year) followed from 1796 to 1798, with John adding the title Officiating Minster to his name on two occasions.

During this period – in 1796 to be precise – John Atcherley, “of School Lane, clerk”, was made a Burgess of Shrewsbury, as his father had been before him. I think it unlikely that he gained any practical benefits from this title, but it would have boosted his status.

Stapleton in Shropshire was the next parish where John Atcherley gained employment as a clergyman, although once more it appears that the work was quite limited, and of short duration. John conducted a few marriages there from 8 May 1796, up until 9 May 1798. It is interesting to note that the last wedding he performed at Shrewsbury St Mary took place on 8 May 1798. This was probably no coincidence, because 1798 was, according to the research of a later clergyman (Arthur Graham Kealy), the year when the Rev John Atcherley first became a Chaplain in the Royal Navy.

It appears (based on a request for information published in Notes and Queries in 1919) that the Rev Kealy found John’s records from 1798 while searching the Muster Books at the Public Records Office (now The National Archives) for his 1904 publication Chaplains of the Royal Navy, 1626-1903. Without access to a copy of Kealy’s book (and not having the resources to spend many hours searching TNA’s Muster Books) I don’t know which ship or ships John Atcherley served on. I therefore have little light to shed on John’s first naval appointment – other than to say that it took place during a period when Bibles, prayer books and men of God were strangers to the vast majority of Britain’s seamen.

The role of the naval chaplain is one which only came to the fore during John Atcherley’s lifetime, and particularly during the course of Britain’s wars with the French. The British Admiralty’s Regulations and Instructions had made provision for chaplains on board naval vessels from 1731, but (in the words of present-day academic Dr Gareth Atkins) “many captains displayed a pronounced disinclination to take clergymen on board”.  One of John Atcherley’s contemporaries, the Rev George Charles Smith, stated that during the war of the French Revolution, “darkness covered nearly the whole navy”. Smith maintained that during the first three years of his service in the Navy (from 1797 to 1800) he “never saw one copy of the Holy Scriptures” and he did not recall meeting “with one character who even pretended to fear or love God.”

Was it these very circumstances – which presented an opportunity to bring the word of God to ‘Godless’ men – that attracted John Atcherley to become a naval chaplain? Or did other factors play a part, such as a sense of patriotic duty (coupled perhaps with the example of John’s brother James, serving with the Royal Marines)? It seems unlikely that money or status would have been attractions, for the position of chaplain at that time offered little of either. To quote Atkins again, “Those few impoverished clerics who were prepared to brave the privations (and meagre pay) of shipboard life were frequently disregarded.” But what if John was one of those “few impoverished clerics”? Another author, B R Burg, has stated that “Often navy chaplains were men who could not secure appointments ashore.”

John’s reasons for becoming a naval chaplain are not the only subject for speculation – so too is the length of his initial period of service. I have found no records relating to the Rev John Atcherley between 1798 and the beginning of 1803, which suggests (but does not prove) that he continued to be a chaplain during that time. The records in which he then reappeared place him not only on dry land, but very far from the sea – though only for a limited time.

The entries relating to banns in the marriage register of Wednesbury St Bartholomew, Staffordshire, show that John Atcherley was curate of that parish from January 1803. He remained at Wednesbury until mid-September that year, and on his departure he left behind a community in which he felt welcome, and a young lady of whom he was particularly fond. Why? Well, the Navy called again, and John answered that call. The status of chaplains within the service was by now much improved (although Admiralty regulations would not include a job description until 1806).

Napoleonic wars - French invasion machine 1797-1801

Furthermore, John’s curacy at Wednesbury had coincided with a period when fears of a French invasion were rife once more. Given the preparations which Napoleon was making, those fears were justified. The following passage is taken from Wheeler and Broadley’s Napoleon and the Invasion of England, the Story of the Great Terror:

Quote In June, 1803, a definitive treaty between Holland and France was signed, and duly ratified the following month. The Batavian Republic was made responsible for the upkeep of 18,000 French soldiers and 16,000 of its own troops, but what was even more important at the time, it undertook to supply or build by December, 1803, at latest, five vessels-of-the-line, an equal number of frigates, fully armed and equipped, together with a sufficient number of transports for the embarkation of 25,000 men, including 9000 Dutch, and 2500 horses for the purpose of ‘a descent on England.’ One hundred chaloupes canonnieres and 250 flat-bottomed boats armed with from one to four guns and able to carry 36,000 men and 1,500 horses, were also requisitioned. Unquote

As Britain ramped up its preparations for Napoleon’s invasion, its newspapers carried details of military movements and naval news. The Norfolk Chronicle of 10 September 1803, for example, reported that “Lord Nelson has been joined by Sir Richard Bickerton’s squadron off Toulon, consisting of the Kent, Donegal, Gibraltar, Superb, Belleisle, Triumph, Renown, Agincourt, Monmouth, Medusa, Weazle, Termagant, Maidstone, Niger, and Raven.” It went on to say:

Gun-boats are to be stationed along the Coast, for the purpose of exercising the Sea Fencibles in firing, &c. The Sea Fencibles in the aggregate exceed 9,000 men.
Capt. D’Auvergne, (Prince of Bouillon) is appointed to the command of the Severn; Capt. Cunningham, to the Leopard; Capt. Rogers, to the Princess of Orange; Capt. Fane, to the Leander; Capt. Lyall, to the Driver sloop.
Rev. W. Morgan is appointed Chaplain to the Repulse; Rev. J. Atcherley, to the Princess of Orange; Rev. C. Seccombe, to the Prince George.
The number of ships in commission to the 1st instant, was, 87 of the line, 16 of 50 guns, 114 frigates, and 167 sloops, making a total of 393 ships of war. …

The Princess of Orange, to which John Atcherley was assigned, was a third rate ship of the line with 74 guns. Originally a Dutch vessel named the Washington, she had been captured by the British at the Texel (an island on the coast of Holland) in 1799. Ironically, it was to the Texel that the Princess of Orange returned in 1803, this time as part of Britain’s blockade of Channel and North Sea ports. There, she was part of a fleet commanded by Admiral Thornborough. On board, John would have taken services and preached sermons, he may also have visited the sick and assisted the surgeon, and in the event of a death at sea, he would most likely have conducted the burial service.

Napoleon (caricature) 1803As 1803 drew to a close, our would-be invader Napoleon was faced not only by a British blockade, but also a shortage of ships of his own. According to Wheeler and Broadley: “The Batavian flotilla, as well as the Brest and the Texel squadrons, were specially backward, and as the navy was now to play an important part in the modus operandi, delay was inevitable.” (The image, left, is from a caricature entitled Bonaparte perplexed at England’s naval strength, September 16, 1803.)

Back home in Shropshire, John Atcherley’s father James passed away on 3 March 1804. One of the consequences for John was recorded in the register of the chapelry of Astley in Shropshire, on 16 December that year: “Revd. John Atcherley H.M.R.N. Succeeded his Father Revd. James Atcherley in this Curacy of Astley Being Nominated thereto by the Corporation of Shrewsbury”. This appointment led, indirectly, to John giving up his chaplaincy and returning to life on land. In John’s own words:

Quote [On] being presented to a trifling piece of preferment near Shrewsbury, I had to pass through Wednesbury, and having been formerly Curate there, I was strongly solicited to return, and informed that Mr. Haden had written to me, stating how happy he should be to restore me to my former situation. This letter I believe was lost in the Romney, which ship had letters for the Princess of Orange, of which I was then Chaplain. To the desire of the inhabitants, as well as that of the Vicar of this place, I was induced to accede, not only from the flattering reception I was likely to meet with, but from an attachment to a young lady of that place. I wrote to the Admiralty for my discharge from his Majesty’s navy, and indeed attended there in person. When I obtained permission to return to the country, I came to Wednesbury, and informed Mr. Haden of my arrival, and that I was at liberty to take charge of his parish again. Unquote

Unfortunately for John, his decision to return to Wednesbury was one that he would soon come to regret.

> On to The Curate of Wednesbury and His Vicar – Part 1.

Picture credits. Eccleshall Holy Trinity: Adapted from a photo by Tony Grist, taken from Wikimedia Commons and used under a Creative Commons licenceAn Accurate Representation of the Floating Machine Invented by the French for Invading England: adapted from a drawing dated to 1797-1801, reproduced in Napoleon and the Invasion of England (published 1908) and taken from Internet Archive; image out of copyright. Bonaparte perplexed at England’s naval strength, September 16, 1803: adapted from a caricature dated 1803, reproduced in Napoleon and the Invasion of England (published 1908) and taken from Internet Archive; image out of copyright.


[1] Edward Pelham Brenton (1827), The Naval History of Great Britain, from the Year MDCCLXXXIII. to MDCCCXXXVI. Volume I. Pages 629-30. Copy viewed at Google Books.
[2] St Mary, Shrewsbury, Shropshire, parish register covering 1771, entries for John Atcherley and Arabella Atcherley. Copy viewed at Findmypast. Indexed at FamilySearch,Batch P00681-1, Film 908234.
[3] John Archibald Venn (1922), Alumni Cantabrigienses. Part II, Volume I. Page 88. Copy viewed at Internet Archive.
[4] Ipswich Journal, 19 Jan 1793, page 3. “Cambridge, Jan. 18.”
[5] Lichfield Record Office item ref B/A/1/26 (Episcopal Register, 1791-7). Abstract at Clergy of the Church of England Database, Person: John Atcherley.
[6] Lichfield Record Office item ref B/A/1/21 (Episcopal Register, 1749-68). Abstract at Clergy of the Church of England Database, Person: James Atcherley.
[7] Grinshill, Shropshire, marriage register for 1757 to 1811. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Shropshire Parish Registers Browse.
[8] St Mary, Shrewsbury, Shropshire, parish registers covering 1756 to 1798. Abstracts in: Shropshire Parish Register Society (1911), Registers of the Diocese of Lichfield, volume 12 (copy viewed at Mel Lockie’s website).
[9] Herbert Edward Forrest (ed.) (1924), Shrewsbury Burgess Roll. Page 9. Copy viewed and photographed at Shropshire Archives.
[10] Stapleton, Shropshire, marriage register covering 1796 to 1798. Abstracts in: Shropshire Parish Register Society (1900), Registers of the Diocese of Lichfield, volume 1 (copy viewed at Mel Lockie’s website).
[11] A G Kealy (or Kealey) (1904),[List of] Chaplains of the Royal Navy, 1626-1903. Cited in: Robert Forsyth Scott (ed.) (1931), Admissions to the College of St John the Evangelist in the University of Cambridge. Part IV. Page 106. Snippets viewed at Google Books.
[12] Notes and Queries, Twelfth Series, Volume V. January 1919, page 10. Copy viewed at Internet Archive.
[13] Gareth Atkins (2009), Review of Evangelicals in the Royal Navy. At: Reviews in History (website, accessed 12 Jun 2016).
[14] Roald Kverndal (2007), Seamen’s Missions: Their Origin and Early Growth. Pages 91 et seq. Copy previewed at Google Books.
[15] B R Burg (2007), Boys at Sea. Page 214. Snippets viewed at Google Books.
[16] Wednesbury St Bartholomew, Staffordshire, marriage register covering 1775 to 1812, entries for banns and marriages in 1803. Copies viewed at Findmypast – Staffordshire Parish Registers Browse.
[17] John Atcherley (1806), The Curate of Wednesbury and His Vicar.
[18] H F B Wheeler, A M Broadley (1908), Napoleon and the Invasion of England, the Story of the Great Terror. Volume I. Pages 15 – 16, and 101. Copy viewed at Internet Archive.
[19] Norfolk Chronicle, 10 Sep 1803, page 4. “London, Tuesday, Sept. 6.” Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[20] J J Colledge (2010), Ships of the Royal Navy. Page 319. Copy previewed at Google Books.
[21] Anon (1804), The Naval Chronicle for 1804. Volume 12. Pages 169-70, and 153. Copy viewed at Google Books.
[22] Richard Blake (2008),Evangelicals in the Royal Navy, 1775-1815. Page 76. Copy previewed at Google Books.
[23] Astley, Shropshire, parish register (baptisms and burials) covering 1804. Entries dated 3 Mar (“The Revd. Jas Atcherley died & was buried ye 6th at Bridgnorth”) and 16 Dec (“Revd. John Atcherley H.M.R.N. …”). Copy viewed at Findmypast – Shropshire, Parish Registers Browse.

William Baugh Atcherley and his Saturday half-holidays – Part 2

< Back to Part 1.

Quote That, therefore, was convincing proof of the propriety of the Saturday half-holiday. But then the next and most important question came to be, when they had got their leisure what would they do with it? […] Volunteering was no doubt excellent to those who liked it; so were athletic sports, where circumstances admitted of them; and so were clubs, music, quiet readings, social meetings, and so forth. They all tended to good; but they must never forget that of their leisure, as well as their labour hours, they must give an account […] Unquote — Morning Advertiser, 1 December 1866.

The above quote is a continuation of the one at the head of the first part of this story. The words were those of the Chairman of the “annual celebration of the early closing movement” held on 30 November 1866. He was addressing one of the objections raised against this movement, for it appears that some feared shop workers with time on their hands would either waste it or misuse it. The proponents of the early closing movement, and of the Saturday half-holidays from which William Baugh Atcherley benefitted, had therefore to show that the leisure hours they sought would bring opportunities for worthwhile and beneficial pursuits.

As we have seen, forward-thinking employers like the company which employed William Atcherley, Marshall and Snelgrove, not only adopted the practice of granting their workers Saturday half-holidays, they also took the lead in arranging activities – such as an ‘annual entertainment’ – to fill the free time thus created. Another activity which the company encouraged its staff to take part in was ‘volunteering’. Marshall and Snelgrove developed a close association with the West Middlesex Rifle Volunteer Corps, and scores of the firm’s employees joined the ranks of the Volunteers, forming H Company (of which Mr Marshall was Captain). The firm also donated prizes for the Volunteers’ shooting competitions.

Marshall and Snelgrove'sMarshall and Snelgrove’s

I have found no evidence to suggest that William Atcherley joined the Rifle Volunteers while working for Marshall and Snelgrove. However when it comes to the Saturday afternoon sporting activities organised by the company, the opposite is true. Indeed, the earliest reference to William in connection with the firm that I know of, is a news report dating from 1869 entitled West End Cricket Club Sports:

Quote Saturday, Oct. 2—A worse day for athletic sports could hardly have been chosen, but still about 1,000 spectators put in an appearance at the New Eton and Middlesex Cricket Ground to witness the first annual meeting of this club, which is composed of the employés of Messrs Marshall and Snelgrove, of Oxford-street. Thanks to the able management of the executive everything passed off satisfactorily. The course, which was on turf, and exactly 440 yards in circumference, was (although the rain had rendered it somewhat slippery) in very fair going order. Unquote

At the end the first part of this story, I said that “William overcame a number of hurdles”. This was a tongue-in-cheek reference to the fact that there were six flights of hurdles in the 200 yards race in which William was a competitor. First to finish was C Brawn, who “had it all his own way, and won by 10 yards.” In second place was F W Beet. “W. B. Atcherley” was one of 9 others who took part. The day’s programme also featured a 400 yards race over 12 flights of hurdles, 100, 200 and 300 yards races, a mile race, a mile walking race, a 200 yards three-legged race, a sack race, the high jump (standing), the long jump (standing), throwing the cricket ball, putting the weight, quoiting, and wrestling.

I am not aware of any other athletic meetings in which William competed, although he was one of 27 committee members who helped to organise Marshall and Snelgrove’s Athletic Sports of 1870. There were other sporting events at which this company fielded teams however, and William was sometimes a part of the team, or to be more accurate, crew. When I mentioned, at the close of part one of this story, that William “often witnessed his colleagues rowing”, the meaning of that phrase depends upon the final word being pronounced to rhyme with crowing, not vowing. Moving swiftly on, here are the opening words of a report from the Oxford Journal of 8 August 1874, in which we find Marshall and Snelgrove employees benefitting not from a Saturday half-holiday, but a full day off work – a Bank Holiday Monday:


This annual aquatic gathering took place on Monday last, one of the Bank Holidays, and, as the weather was very fine, the attendance of spectators was very large, especially on the Berkshire side of the river. The Committee had this year come to the very wise conclusion not to extend the Regatta to more than one day, and by this means they were enabled to provide one full day’s capital enjoyment. This arrangement, we cannot help thinking, more especially as the third Bank Holiday of the year has now become a fixed institution among all classes of society, is one decidedly for the best, and Monday’s Regatta was an instance that such was the fact.

The two crews who made it to the final of this regatta’s Open Challenge Cup for Four-oars were local boys Henley, and Magpies, comprising of F Bowness, W Bailey, C Whitfield and J H Hardy, with W B Atcherley as cox. Sadly, the result was a “runaway match on the part of the Henley crew, who won as they liked by a couple of hundred yards, the Magpies never having a ghost of a chance.”

Four years later, William experienced a much closer contest when coxing another crew. I will let Bell’s Life in London and Sporting Chronicle, of 27 Jul 1878, begin the story:


This club, which has not been heard of for some time, and whose members are employés of the well-known firm of Marshall and Snellgrove, rowed an eight-oared race from boats off the London Boathouse at Putney to Hammersmith Bridge, on Saturday afternoon, and there was a large and select attendance on board the Wedding Ring, which had been chartered to accompany.

River Thames, from Hammersmith to PutneyThree crews took up oars for this tussle on the Thames. Starting at Surrey Station was Mr Baker’s crew. At Centre Station was Mr Bowman’s crew, while at Middlesex station was “Mr Atcherley’s crew—Way, Wood, Palmer, Marshall, Robertson, Royce, Gough, Gilshanen (Stroke), Atcherley (cox)”. Back to Bell’s Life in London:

Quote Mr J. H. Hardy officiated as starter, but, owing to the great difficulty in putting the boats in a position for the start, and then the breaking of the No. 2 oar in Mr Atcherley’s boat, great delay occurred. At last they went away of their own accord, and Mr Bowman and Mr Atcherley’s crews immediately began to leave Mr Baker’s boat in the rear. At that Point Mr Bowman was very nearly a length in front of second crew, but after this the latter gained on them considerably, and a close race ensued to the Soap Works, where Mr Bowman began to draw away again, and eventually won by barely a length. Unquote

So close, and yet so far! This tightly-fought match, you will have noticed, took place on a Saturday afternoon. No doubt William had spent many other Saturday half-holidays beforehand, in training with his crew. It seems most likely that he did so again the following year, because he was cox once more in the Magpie Rowing Club’s annual eight-oared club race of 1879. There were only two crews this time, and the winners “had an easy victory by several lengths.” Once again, William witnessed another crew finishing first.

1880 brought a big change to the life of William Baugh Atcherley: on 6 November that year, he married Eliza Maria Winter at the church of St Thomas in Portman Square. Eliza, aged 32, was of 2 Bentinck Street in Marylebone, which was a five minute walk away from the store of Marshall and Snelgrove. Born on 5 February 1848 in St Martin in the Fields, Eliza was a daughter of Frederick Winter, a German-born tailor, and Johanna, née Weber. Frederick Winter may have made garments for, or bought materials from, Messrs Marshall and Snelgrove – did Eliza and William meet because of this business connection?

William was certainly still working for the company at the time of his marriage, and living under his employer’s roof: he was described in the marriage register of St Thomas as a commercial salesman of 15 Vere Street. Did that remain the case after his wedding though? I very much doubt that William, once married, would have been allowed to continue residing on the premises of Marshall and Snelgrove. Whether he remained an employee of the firm, and if so for how long, is open to question. By April 1881, when the census was taken, William and Eliza’s home was 12 Ravenstone Road, in Hornsey. William’s occupation was given as “Shopman (Drapers)” and the couple were employing a domestic servant.

The Atcherleys were still at Ravenstone Road at the beginning of 1883, when their first child, Constance Eliza Atcherley (who was born on 3 November 1882), was baptised. Hornsey was about seven miles from the store with which William had been associated for over a decade, but he could have commuted there and back by train. The Atcherleys travelled back to St Thomas in Portman Square, where they had wed, for their daughter’s baptism, and the entry for Constance in the baptism register showed that William was a draper. But was he working as such for Marshall and Snelgrove, for an employer in Hornsey, or in his own right?

If William Atcherley’s connection with Marshall and Snelgrove had not already been severed by 1883, it certainly was by the middle of 1884. On 26 June that year, William and Eliza’s second child, Lewis William Richard Winter Atcherley, was born at Boscombe in Hampshire. This happy event was followed, four months later, by the tragic loss of Eliza on 19 October, at the age of 36. Eliza had contracted typhoid (a disease caused by the Salmonella typhi bacteria) and died when the bacteria spread to her lungs causing double pneumonia. She passed away at the family’s home, The Filberts, in Boscombe, and was buried four days later, on 23 October 1884, with her mother at Brompton Cemetery in Middlesex (see London MIs for a photo of the Winter family gravestone).

William Baugh Atcherley was present at the death of his wife, and was the informant when her death was registered. His gave his occupation as a commercial traveller. When he appeared in the 1885 Kelly’s Directory covering Hampshire, he was included in the commercial listings for Boscombe, as follows: “Atcherley William Baugh, furnished apartments, Filberts, Christchurch road”. It appears that he remained at that address for a while, and then moved to Pine View in Bournemouth. This change of residence may have been associated with a change of occupation, as William resumed his career as a draper. Sadly his time at Pine View, and in his new job, was short.

Atcherley, William Baugh and Eliza (Winter) The clock had been ticking for William since about 1880, the year of his marriage to Eliza, when he contracted tuberculosis. Knowing that his end was near, he prepared his will and made arrangements for the care of his two young children. He died, aged 45, at Pine View on 28 November 1887, the cause of his death being recorded as Phthisis Pulmonalis, 7 Years.

The will of William Baugh Atcherley was proved in London by his sisters-in-law Emma and Louisa Winter. He left a personal estate valued at £ £757 5s. He also left a precious gift for his son Lewis (and probably a duplicate for Constance): a photograph of himself and Eliza in happier times, taken during a visit the couple had made to Eastbourne in Sussex. William’s life as a draper, as a husband and father, and as a Saturday afternoon actor, hurdler and cox, was over – but his memory would live on.

Picture credits. Marshall and Snelgrove’s: Adapted from an image taken from the Internet Archive’s Flickr Photostream (original from Bulletin of the British Museum (Natural History), page 11), no known copyright restrictions. River Thames from Hammersmith to Putney: Adapted from an image taken from the British Library Flickr photostream (original from page 18 of Environs of London. Western Division, published 1842), no known copyright restrictions. Eliza and William Baugh Atcherley: Adapted from a scan of a photo held by Sir Harold Atcherley, kindly provided for use on this website by Martin Atcherley; for a larger version see William Baugh Atcherley and Eliza (Winter).


[1] Morning Advertiser, 1 Dec 1866, page 6. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[2] Marylebone Mercury, 29 Sep 1860, page 3. “The Volunteer Movement. West Middlesex Rifles.—Upwards of sixty new members from the firm of Marshall and Snelgrove, of Oxford-street, attended their first drill”. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[3] Volunteer Service Gazette, 22 Dec 1860, page 2. “West Middlesex. […] On Wednesday evening in last week the members of the H Company (Messrs Marshall and Snelgrove’s) appeared for the first time in full uniform“. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[4] Marylebone Mercury, 15 Dec 1866, page 4. “Presentation of Prizes to the West Middlesex Rifle Volunteers. […] Prizes presented to H. Company by Captain Marshall, value £35. The Company was divided into 3 squads, shooting on separate days […]A Prize of £10, given by Messrs. Marshall and Snelgrove, competed for by Officers, Serjeants, and Corporals. Captain Dear. A Prize of £10, given by Messrs. Marshall and Snelgrove, competed for by Privates, ranges, &c.”. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[5] Bell’s Life In London And Sporting Chronicle, 6 Oct 1869, page 4. West End Cricket Club Sports. Copy viewed at Findmypast (search for Atcherlev).
[6] Marylebone Mercury, 1 Oct 1870, page 4. Marshall and Snelgrove’s Athletic Sports. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[7] Oxford Journal, 8 Aug 1874, page 5. Oxford City Royal Regatta. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[8] Bell’s Life In London And Sporting Chronicle, 27 Jul 1878, page 9. Magpie Rowing Club. Copy viewed at Newspaper Archive.
[9] Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper, 27 July 1879, page 1. Yesterday’s Rowing. Copy viewed at Findmypast (search for Snelgrove).
[10] Marriage of William Baugh Atcherley and Eliza Maria Winter registered at Marylebone, December quarter 1880; volume 1a, page 1123. Indexed at FamilySearch – England and Wales Marriage Registration Index, 1837-2005.
[11] St Thomas, Portman Square, Middlesex, marriage register covering 1880, entry for William Baugh Atcherley and Eliza Maria Winter. Copy viewed at Ancestry – London, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1921.
[12] St Martin in the Fields, Westminster, baptism register covering 1848, entry dated 27 Feb 1848 for Eliza Maria Winter. Copy viewed at Ancestry – London, England, Church of England Births and Baptisms, 1813-1906. Indexed at FamilySearch, Batch C00145-3, Film 561147, 561148, 561149.
[13] 1881 census of England and Wales. Piece 1374, folio 18, page 30.
[14] Birth of Constance Eliza Atcherley registered at Edmonton, December quarter 1882; volume 3a, page 241.
[15] St Thomas, Portman Square, Middlesex, baptism register covering 1883, entry for Constance Eliza Atcherley. Copy viewed at Ancestry – London, England, Church of England Births and Baptisms, 1813-1906.
[16] Birth of Lewis William R W Atchesley [= Atcherley] registered at Christchurch, September quarter 1884; volume 2b, page 648.
[17] Death of Eliza Maria Atcherley registered at Christchurch, December quarter 1884; volume 2b, page 401; age given as 36. Information contained in death register entry provided by Martin Atcherley.
[18] Brompton Cemetery, Middlesex, burial register covering 1884, entry for Eliza Atcherley (grave reference Y/68/39.3). Burial Register summary and interment details viewed at Deceased Online.
[19] Kelly’s Directory covering Hampshire, 1885, page 625.
[20] Death of William Baugh Atcherley registered at Christchurch, December quarter 1887; volume 2b, page 415; age given as 45. Information contained in death register entry provided by Martin Atcherley.
[21] National Probate Calendar (1888) shows: William Baugh Atcherley. Formerly of the Filberts, Christchurch Road, Boscombe, Hampshire , late of Pine View, Bournemouth, Hampshire. Died 28 November 1887 at Pine View. Will proved by Emma Winter and Louisa Winter of 2 Bentinck Street, Cavendish Square, Middlesex, Spinsters. Personal Estate £757 5s. Copy viewed at Ancestry.
[22] Pictures: William Baugh Atcherley and Eliza (Winter).

William Baugh Atcherley and his Saturday half-holidays – Part 1

Quote The annual celebration of the early closing movement took place last evening, in St. James’s Hall. […] The Chairman [stated that he] was going to say a word on the benefits which had arisen from the adoption of the Saturday half-holiday, but that he had been spared the trouble of doing by a letter which he had received that morning from Messrs. Marshall and Snelgrove, in which they stated that they had adopted the system of shutting-up their business premises on Saturday at two o’clock throughout the year, that their doing so had occasioned no complaint on the part of the public, that the business had not been by any means impaired, but that a great benefit had been conferred on the 700 male and female assistants employed by them. Unquote — Morning Advertiser, 1 December 1866.

By the end of the 1860s, William Baugh Atcherley was one of the hundreds of people working for Marshall and Snelgrove, and benefitting from their “Saturday half-holidays.” The company’s store in Marylebone, London, was huge, facing onto both Oxford Street and Vere Street. There were additional premises in Marylebone Lane too, where William Atcherley and nearly 70 other employees were enumerated on the 1871 census. The business was extremely profitable – its co-founder James Marshall amassed enough wealth to buy a house and a thousand acres of land in Mill Hill. James and his store had come a long way from small beginnings.

James Marshall was a Yorkshireman, but he ventured south to London and gained employment with Burrell, Son and Toby, haberdashers, at 10 Vere Street. His initial attempt to run his own business ended with a declaration of insolvency at the end of 1828; bankruptcy proceedings rumbled on until February 1830. But in partnership with W Wilson and John Stinton, Marshall opened up for business once more, at 11 Vere Street, in 1837. After the departure of Wilson later that year, the partnership of Stinton and Marshall continued, becoming Marshall, Stinton and Snelgrove in December 1847 when John Snelgrove joined the team. This trio dissolved their partnership on 14 June 1850 on the retirement of Stinton, after which date the company finally became Marshall and Snelgrove. The store extended into Oxford Street in 1851, and continued to grow (as can be seen from the company’s advertisement in one of the catalogues for the National Exhibition of 1862, reproduced in part below).

Marshall and Snelgrove advert, 1862

As Marshall and Snelgrove’s store was expanding from its original base on Vere Street in London, William Baugh Atcherley was attending school in the Shropshire village of Ruyton XI Towns. He was recorded there on the 1851 census, along with 15 other pupils, in the home of David Harris, who was the independent Minister of Ruyton Chapel. (William’s family were non-conformists, see An Atcherley in Albertland  – Part 1 for more on this subject.) Although William was said to be 9 years old, he was in fact just over a week away from attaining that age, having been born, in Manchester, on 8 April 1842.

Although William was boarding at Ruyton, his parents, along with his siblings, were not too far away. The Atcherley family home was at Ellesmere, where William’s parents Richard and Eliza were working as drapers. In 1852 they moved to Liverpool, and William almost certainly went with them. From there, the family relocated to Manchester in the late 1850s, and that is where Richard (who was by then a widower, and employed as a commercial traveller), with three of his children, was enumerated on the 1861 census.

My guess is that William also returned to Manchester when his father and surviving brothers and sisters moved there. However, as was the case in 1851, he was not with them when the census was taken in 1861. William was instead living on the premises of his employer, at 111-113 Stamford Street in Ashton Under Lyne. Pursuing his father’s original line of work, and starting at the bottom of the career ladder, William was a linen draper’s assistant – one of seven (all male, and aged from 16 to 25) who were resident at this particular store. Recorded as a separate household unit at the same address were ten young to middle-aged ladies: a housekeeper, a servant, two mantle makers, two milliners, and four dress makers. One of the dress makers was William’s 15-year-old sister Elizabeth Atcherley.

Who was the employer of William and Elizabeth? To find the answer I turned to the digitised newspapers of the British Newspaper Archive at Findmypast. I soon discovered an notice in The Ashton and Stalybridge Reporter of 2 February 1861, through which Mr George Harrison, draper, of Stamford Street, hoped to recruit three apprentices and two improvers for millinery, dress, and mantle making work. Confirmation that I had found the right man (there were other drapery businesses in Stamford Street) came in the form of the following advertisement, printed (again in the Reporter) on 14 June 1862:


GEORGE HARRISON begs respectfully to intimate to his friends that his usual MIDSUMMER SHOW OF FASHIONS will take place on WEDNESDAY NEXT, the 18th instant, and following days, consisting of his recent purchases in London, comprising several NEW MATERIALS FOR DRESSES AND MANTLES, EMBROIDERED AND TISSUE SHAWLS, MILLINERY, &c.
111 and 113, STAMFORD-STREET.

New materials and products brought back from London to Ashton Under Lyne were clearly an attraction for George Harrison’s customers. But it was London itself that proved to be even more attractive to one of Mr Harrison’s employees. Exactly when William Baugh Atcherley was coaxed down to the capital I have yet to establish, but he was certainly there, working for Marshall and Snelgrove, by 1869. How do I know this? Because of William’s participation in the activities which were organised for the store’s employees during their Saturday half holidays.

In today’s world, when many stores are open 24 hours a day, the early closing movement of the Victorian era may seem rather, well, Victorian. The problem, if you were a shop worker, was that if you were employed by a shop which traded until late in the evening, six days a week, you had to work all the hours for which the shop was open. The Factories Act of 1850 had, on paper at least, set fixed maximum hours of work for women and children in textile mills, with the working week ending at 2pm on Saturdays. Retail workers however had no such protection.

References to the early closing movement appear in the newspapers from the mid-1840s onwards. The Morning Chronicle of 1 Jan 1845 reported that at a meeting of the Metropolitan Drapers Association the previous month, “the evils of the present protracted hours of business in shops were forcibly depicted by several speakers, who clearly proved that the present system was the great barrier to the assistant-draper rising in the social, moral and intellectual scale.” From this movement came the idea of the Saturday half-holiday. In 1860, John Dennis wrote:

Quote … there are some reasons for looking upon this latest development of the Early Closing principle as being a kind of short road to the success of the entire movement. Saturday night is the especial season of late shopping. If the late-hour system can be beaten on the Saturday night, it cannot be expected to afford a very vigorous resistance on the other evenings of the working week. Unquote

John Dennis set out the health benefits for employees that the Saturday half-holiday would bring, and another argument, a religious one. Giving workers half a day off on Saturdays would enable them to pursue leisure activities which they might otherwise be tempted to engage in on Sundays, the Lord’s day. So it was argued that the half-holiday “may be regarded as a preventative measure peculiarly adapted to arrest the progress of Sabbath desecration, and also as a beneficial measure for promoting the better of observance of the day”.

London - Marshall and Snelgrove 2Messrs Marshall and Snelgrove, as we have seen, approved of the Saturday half-holiday and introduced it for the benefit of their employees. Not only did they give their workers Saturday afternoons off, they saw to it that a range of events was made available for those workers to take part in. These included an ‘annual entertainment’, for which of course the participants needed to prepare and rehearse. A report on the “Annual Entertainment by the Assistants of Messrs. Marshall and Snelgrove” in 1868 concluded:

Quote The entertainment altogether was very interesting, and thoroughly successful, and fully proves the fact that there are young men who appreciate the early closing movement, and take advantage of the time thus given for self-improvement, which results not only in pleasure to themselves, but enables them to please others, the desire for which is one of the best attributes of man’s nature. Unquote

I was thrilled to discover that William Baugh Atcherley was involved in at least one of his employer’s annual entertainments, thereby joining the ranks of those members of the Atcherley family who performed on the stage (see The stage career of Rowland Hill Atcherley: Act 1, and Lucy Eleanor Louisa Atcherley: Her life and loves in the spotlight). The following is an extract from a report on the show which took place on 29 January 1870:

Quote On Saturday evening St George’s Hall was crowded to witness the annual entertainment given by the assistants of Messrs. Marshall & Snelgrove. The performance commenced with the farce ‘Diamond Cut Diamond,’ the parts of which were most efficiently filled by Messrs. F. Bowness, A. C. Mitchell, W. B. Atcherley, Cowling, Day, Guyton, R. B. Brown, Radford, and Hungate. The interest in this amusing piece never flagged, owing to the admirable manner in which it was acted—the Capt. Seymour of Mr. Mitchell, the Capt. Howard of Mr. Atcherley, the Trap of Mr. Cowling, the Trick of Mr. Thomas, and the Charlotte Doubtful of Mr. R. B. Brown, deserving especial mention for their excellence. Unquote

The opening act was followed by a selection from Il Trovatore performed by the company’s amateur band; a performance by the Orinoco Minstrels (15 in number) who sang several ballads and delivered comic anecdotes; and another farce, The Turned Head. These acts were interspersed by several more pieces of music performed by the band.

The entertainment had a further purpose. Messrs Marshall and Snelgrove were regular donors to a range of good causes, from the local poor box to a relief find for those who had suffered as a result of a great fire in Quebec. To these can be added the beneficiary of the company’s show at St George’s Hall, as the report on that event concluded:

Quote The surplus will be devoted to the funds of St. Mary’s Hospital, so that the visitors had the satisfaction of witnessing a most pleasing entertainment, and the gratification of knowing that they were also assisting the cause of a very excellent institution. Unquote

Thanks to his Saturday half-holidays, William Baugh Atcherley was able to join in with other social activities besides acting. For now, all I will say of those activities is that William overcame a number of hurdles, and often witnessed his colleagues rowing…

> On to Part 2.

Picture credits. Extract from page 22 of the International Exhibition, Fine Art Department Official Catalogue (published 1862) taken from digitised copy at Google Books; out of copyright. Illustration from page 155 of Dialogues of the Day (published 1895) depicting a scene in Marshall and Snelgrove’s, taken from digitised copy at the British Library Flickr photostream; no known copyright restrictions.


[1] Morning Advertiser, 1 December 1866, page 6. The Early Closing Movement. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[2] Bells Life In London And Sporting Chronicle, 6 Oct 1869, page 4. West End Cricket Club Sports. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[3] Her Majesty’s Commissioners (1862), International Exhibition, 1862: Official Catalogue of the Industrial Department. Third edition. Page 46. Copy viewed at Google Books.
[4] 1871 census of England Wales. Piece 156, folio 40, page 6.
[5] John Richardson (2000), The Annals of London: A Year-by-year Record of a Thousand Years of History. Page 262. Copy previewed at Google Books.
[6] Keith Snow, Susan Snow (1991), John Frederick Marshall and the British Mosquitoes. In: Bulletin of the British Museum of Natural History, volume 19, number 1, page 4. Copy viewed at Internet Archive.
[7] Marshall and Snelgrove, department store, Oxford Street and Vere Street. At: The National Archives website (accessed 22 May 2016).
[8] Morning Post, 31 Dec 1828, page 2. Declarations of Insolvency. […] James Marshall, Vere-street, Oxford-street, linen draper. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[9] Perry’s Bankrupt Gazette, 27 Feb 1830, page 1. Meetings to Declare Dividends at Basinghall Street. […] 1829 Marshall J. of Vere-street, Oxford-street, linen draper, 5th March, at eleven—Final dividend. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[10] Morning Advertiser, 27 Sep 1837, page 1. Dissolutions of Partnerships. […] J. Marshall, W. Wilson and J. Stinton, Vere-street, Middlesex, silk-mercers (so far as regards W. Wilson) […] Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[11] Morning Post, 20 Oct 1838, page 1. French Goods.—Marshall and Stinton, 11, Vere-street, Cavendish-square, […] Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[12] Morning Post, 20 Dec 1847, page 1. Selling Off.—11, Vere-street, Cavendish-square.—To commence to-morrow, Dec. 21.—Marshall and Stinton have the honour to inform their noble and distinguished Patrons and the Public generally, that, in consequence of another partner joining the firm […] After this date the business will be conducted under the firm of Marshall, Stinton and Snelgrove. […] Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[13] London Gazette, issue 21105, 18 Jun 1850, page 1713.
[14] Morning Post, 21 Jun 1850, page 1. Selling Off.—Marshall and Snelgrove (late Marshall, Stinton, and Snelgrove), 11 and 15, vere-street, Oxford-street. In consequence of a dissolution of partnership by the retirement of Mr. Stinton from business, […].Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[15] 1851 census of England and Wales. Piece 1993, folio 37, page 27.
[16] Birth of William Baugh Atcherley registered at Manchester, June quarter 1842; volume 20, page 725.
[17] 1851 census of England and Wales. Piece 1994, folio 225, page 51.
[18] 1861 census of England and Wales. Piece 2949, folio 16, page 24.
[19] 1861 census of England and Wales. Piece 2981, folio 3, page 6.
[20] The Ashton and Stalybridge Reporter, 2 Feb 1861, page 2. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[21] The Ashton and Stalybridge Reporter, 14 Jun 1862, page 1. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[22] The Factories Acts. (PDF document). At: Springhill (One Place Study website, accessed 2 Jun 2016).
[23] Morning Chronicle, 1 Jan 1845, page 6. Metropolitan Drapers Association. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[24] Marylebone Mercury, 21 Mar 1868, page 3. Annual Entertainment by the Assistants of Messrs. Marshall and Snelgrove. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[25] John Dennis (1860),The Pioneer of Progress; or, The Early Closing Movement in Relation to the Saturday Half-Holiday and the Early Payment of Wages. Pages viii and 81. Copy viewed at Google Books.
[26] Marylebone Mercury, 5 Feb 1870, page 2. The Entertainment by the Assistants of Messrs. Marshall & Snelgrove. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[27] London Evening Standard, 8 Jan 1869, page 7. Marylebone. Poor-box.—Messrs. Marshall and Snelgrove, 5l. 5s. […]. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[28] Bell’s Weekly Messenger, 17 Nov 1866, page 7. The Fire at Quebec. [Messrs. Marshall and Snelgrove donated £100.] Copy viewed at Findmypast.