Llewellyn Atcherley and police efficiency

After attending the International Police Conference in New York in 1922, Major-General Llewellyn William Atcherley, HM Inspector of Constabulary, resumed his normal duties. Travelling around the country, he viewed parades of police officers before inspecting ‘the books’ and the police forces’ facilities. These events provided opportunities to show off local police to the public as well as the Home Office’s representative, particularly through press coverage. After each inspection there was a report which, where necessary, included recommendations for improvements. If all was well, a certificate of efficiency was issued.

Moving images of several of Llewellyn Atcherley’s police inspections (at Liverpool and Manchester) were recorded by Pathé, and these short movies can be viewed at the company’s website. The subject of Inspection Of Liverpool Police is obvious from the title, this dates from 1926. In 1927, when Llewellyn was in Manchester, the resulting film was called Second To None! That title was added to for two newsreels featuring inspections at Liverpool in 1929 and 1930: Second To None In The Land and – you’ve guessed it – Second To None In The Land!

Newspaper reports of HMIC inspections increasingly included photographs. The example above (from the collection of Newcastle Libraries) has been dated to around 1930-31 and shows Major General Sir Llewellyn Atcherley inspecting the Newcastle City Police Band. Hopefully that day was rather less eventful than the one in February 1925 when Llewellyn (who had not received his knighthood at that point) visited the city. Six mounted police officers were then on parade for the Inspector’s visit, and according to the Yorkshire Post: “Just after their dismissal the horse which Constable Sidney Ireland was riding reared and fell backward on its rider. Ireland received injuries to the thigh, and was taken to the Infirmary.”

Llewellyn sometimes performed additional, ceremonial duties alongside his official role, such as unveiling plaques or presenting medals and awards. For example on 3 February 1923 at Nottingham Guildhall, he unveiled a memorial tablet in memory of eight of the city’s police officers and a member of the fire brigade who had lost their lives during the Great War. And on 4 March 1931, immediately after his inspection of the Elham Division of the Kent County Constabulary, Llewellyn presented PC Halliday with the RSPCA’s highest award, its silver medal. This was “in recognition of [PC Halliday’s] bravery in saving a dog’s life by going down a well at Elham on February 8th.”

Although there were certainly diversions from Llewellyn Atcherley’s primary function, the examination of police personnel, books, procedures and resources was always the central part of his visits. Press coverage relating to these inspections was not always as serious as it should perhaps have been. In 1927, a ‘Special Correspondent’ to the Hull Daily Mail, in a rather irreverent report on the proceedings of a meeting of Beverley Council, wrote:

The Mayor got a chance to say a few words as chairman of the Watch Committee.
Major-General Sir L. W. Atcherley, C.M.G., C.V.O., H.M. Inspector of Constabulary, had been over to put the “wind-up” the Beverley Bobbies, but on parade the Beverley Police blew their chests out, their badges and buttons shone like silver, “at attention” they were a marvel, and still better “stood at ease.”
Major-General Sir L. W. Atcherley with all those titles after his name, signed the book at the police station and over his signature put . . . . well, I won’t tell you.
If I did some chests would be so tight they would never get their tunics off again. Besides, they might want a bigger size in hats . . . . and we must economize.

An example of a more typical report appeared the previous year, in the Burnley News of 11 September 1926:

The annual inspection of the Burnley Police Force by Major-General Sir L. W. Atcherley, C.M.G., C.V.O., his Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary, took place on Tuesday, when there were on parade Chief Constable Fairclough, Supt. McKniff, four inspectors, eight sergeants, and 74 constables. The men paraded at the Old Barracks, where they were put through a course of drill exercises by Sergt. Buckley, the drill instructor. The men afterwards marched to the Town Hall, where, in the large court, they were subjected to examination in police work. Major-General Atcherley also examined the books, and the police premises. At the close of his inspection, which occupied three hours, he complimented the Chief Constable and the men generally on the excellence of the administration and the efficiency of everything connected with the Force. Alderman J. A. Heaton, J.P., chairman of the Watch Committee, was present throughout the inspection.

Watch Committees were originally created under the Municipal Corporation Act 1835 to oversee borough and city police forces. Outside of the boroughs and cities, the County Police Act 1839 gave Justices of the Peace (acting through the Quarter Sessions) the power – though not an obligation – to create and supervise county police forces. Later, the Local Government Act 1888 (which created elected county councils) placed these rural police forces under the jurisdiction of Standing Joint Committees composed of magistrates and county councillors.

Another important piece of legislation relating to the police and particularly to Llewellyn Atcherley’s job with the Home Office was the County and Borough Police Act 1856. Those counties which had not already taken the opportunity to create police forces were now compelled to established them. In addition, to quote from David Bentley’s English Criminal Justice in the 19th Century:

The Act also provided for the appointment of Inspectors of Constabulary who were to visit county and borough forces and report to the Home Secretary on their efficiency. A force receiving a certificate of efficiency would receive a central government grant equal to a quarter (by 1900 a half) of the cost of paying and clothing of its constables.

As you can imagine, Government funding was a big incentive for police forces to ‘pass muster’ when a government inspector called. And this gave the Home Office, which had no direct control over the running of local police forces, a degree of influence over them. A borough Watch Committee (or a county Standing Joint Committee) was free to ignore any recommendations put to it by one of His Majesty’s Inspectors of Constabulary. Doing so, however, risked the possibility that the certificate of efficiency for its police force – and the government grant attached to it – might be withheld.

In most cases, I am sure, the local committees responded in a positive way to any concerns or criticisms raised by Llewellyn Atcherley or other HMIC inspectors, without feeling compelled to do so. In 1927, for example, Llewellyn asked the Burnley Watch Committee (through the local Chief Constable) “to consider the employment of at least two permanent police matrons for attendance upon female prisoners, and also the making of certain alterations to the female prisoners’ cells and the provision of a wash and bathroom for female prisoners.”

In response, “The committee instructed the Chief Constable to ascertain from other towns what provision has been made for the appointment of police matrons and what duties they are called upon to perform; and for the Borough Surveyor to carry out the work suggested.” There was a similar reaction in Grantham during the same year, when Llewellyn “pointed out the insufficient accommodation for prisoners or other police purposes generally, and also the bad arrangement of the existing accommodation.” The Watch Committee asked the Estates and Highways Committee to instruct the Borough Surveyor to prepare plans.

When Llewellyn Atcherley inspected the Bradford City Police Force in 1926, he enquired about the level of absence within the force through sickness. During his inspection, “all men who had been off duty because of sickness during the year were required to put up their hands. Practically the whole of the 400 men on parade answered the order”. This prompted action by the Watch Committee. Investigations showed that “influenza colds” (man flu?!?) were the reason for the majority of absences. The force’s police surgeons were then asked to prepare a report.

The police surgeons concluded that “the present personnel do not possess the stamina of the pre-war men” and suggested “steps that should be taken by the men to harden themselves”. These included “taking cold baths or a cold sponge down”, “sleeping with the bedroom windows open” and “taking daily physical exercise”. More helpfully, perhaps, the surgeons also noted that from December 1919, police officers on the day shift performed “one continuous tour of eight hours, with an interval of half an hour for refreshment” instead of  working two separate shifts of 4 hours each. The report stated: “The continued exposure to weather for a period of eight hours without a substantial meal and rest is detrimental to the health of the men.” The Yorkshire Post reported that the Watch Committee was likely to consider the abolition of the continuous eight hour shift as a result of the surgeons’ report.

Llewellyn Atcherley’s requests, suggestions or actions as HMIC did not all meet with universal acquiescence however. Sometimes, particularly where recommendations involving large increases in expenditure were made, or where disciplinary matters were involved, opposition was encountered.

To be continued.

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Picture credits. Inspection of the Newcastle City Police Band by Major-General Sir L.W. Atcherley: adapted from a public domain image taken from the Newcastle Libraries’ Flickr photostream. Blue lamp: Photo by Rept0n1x, taken from Wikimedia Commons and adapted, used and made available for re-use under a Creative Commons licence. Police officer directing traffic, about 1929: Adapted from an image in Leonard Bentley’s Flickr photostream and used under a Creative Commons licence.


[1] Yorkshire Post, 25 Feb 1925, page 9. News of the North: Accident at Newcastle Police Inspection. Copy viewed at Findmypast (search term Atchcrley).
[2] Nottingham Evening Post, 3 Feb 1923, page 5. Nott’m. Police & Firemen who Paid the Price. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[3] Folkestone Herald, 7 Mar 1931, page 2. Medal For Elham P.C. Copy viewed at Findmypast (search term Atcherly).
[4] Hull Daily Mail, 16 Feb 1927, page 9. Beverley Council Meeting. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[5] The Burnley News, 11 Sep 1926, page 3. Inspection of Burnley Police Force. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[6] Richard Clarke Sewell (1835), The Municipal Corporation Act, 5 & 6 Will. IV. C. 76. Page 97. Copy viewed at Google Books.
[7] County Police Act 1839. At Wikipedia (website, accessed 8 Jan 2017).
[8] Police. At: Devon County Council website (accessed 7 Jan 2017).
[9] David Bentley (1998), English Criminal Justice in the 19th Century. Pages 5-6. Copy previewed at Google Books.
[10] Western Daily Press, 16 Aug 1928, page 8. Home Office Withholds Certificate of Efficiency. (“The Home Office have decided to withhold the certificate of efficiency from the Monmouthshire Police Force, on the grounds that the force has been kept six short of its establishment, and that many police buildings and houses had been allowed to get into a bad state of repair.”) Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[11] Burnley Express, 31 Aug 1927, page 8. Government Inspector’s Request. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[12] Grantham Journal, 12 Nov 1927, page 9. Police Matters. Copy viewed at Findmypast (search term Atcherlcy).
[13] Yorkshire Post, 28 Jan 1927, page 11. Stamina of Policemen in Bradford. Copy viewed at Findmypast (search term Atcherloy).

The life of John Atcherley, waggoner of Kinnersley

I never thought it would be possible to write much in the way of a story about the life of John Atcherley of Kinnersley (nowadays Kynnersley). As a son of agricultural labourer Henry Atcherley (my 2x great grandfather), John was destined for a life of relative obscurity. He never married, and as far as I know he did not father any children out of wedlock. So although we have records for his birth and death, we have nothing relating to matrimonial events, or to the births, baptisms, deaths or burials of children, which would help with tracking this Atcherley’s adult life between censuses. Other sources of information have come to light however, which have enabled me to follow John’s journey.

John Atcherley was the fourth child, and first son, of Henry Atcherley and his wife Mary (née Jones). The last of this couple’s children to be born at Eyton-on-the-Wild-Moors (usually known as Eyton), he was baptised there on the last day of September 1855 (Eyton St Catherine is pictured right). When the census of 1861 was taken, the enumerator found John with his parents and siblings at Sidney, in Kinnersley parish, where Henry lived and worked for many years as an agricultural labourer.

Adult life for John – if we take starting work as the beginning of it – commenced when he was in his early- to mid-teens. By the time of the 1871 census John had left home, and a life of farm work was under way. Recorded as ‘John Hatcherly’, aged 15, he was one of two indoor farm servants employed by widower John Davis, who farmed 190 acres at Wrockwardine Bank, in the parish of Wrockwardine.

Within two years of that census, John Atcherley was back home at Sidney. Around the beginning of 1873, when he was 17 years old, John had started working for Richard Taylor of Sidney House (who almost certainly employed John’s father Henry too). He would remain in Mr Taylor’s employment for many years to come.

This information comes from the Wellington Journal of 26 September 1896, specifically its account of that year’s annual meeting of the Wellington Farmers’ Club. One of the club’s committee members was R Taylor of Sidney House. The newspaper reported:

Among the prizes offered for farm servants probably none are more to be commended than those given for length of service. It is interesting—almost remarkable—that there are 73 servants of members of the club who have been in the employ of the same master and mistress over 20 years, one going as high as 57 years and several over 50.

The Journal noted that the total number of years’ service clocked up by the 73 servants was 2,222¼ and that their average length of service was 30½ years. The prize awarded to these loyal men and women was £15 – to be shared between them! One of their number was “J. Atcherley”, who had then been in the employ of Mr R Taylor for 23¾ years.

The 1881 census shows 36-year-old Richard Taylor as a farmer of 354 acres, employing seven labourers and two boys. From newspaper reports it is apparent that Richard bred livestock (Shropshire sheep and shorthorn cattle), occasionally won prizes for his cart horses, had butter made on the farm, and grew root crops (mangolds and swedes) and cereals including barley. He also acted as judge in the farm implements class at shows, was involved in the running of the Wellington Farmers’ Club, and was a Shropshire County Council councillor and a Justice of the Peace. My feeling is that he was a public-spirited man and a good employer.

The same page of the 1881 census schedule shows John Atcherley living with his parents and two of his younger brothers in one of the cottages at Sidney. His father Henry was recorded as a labourer, but whatever was written on the schedule regarding John’s employment was heavily crossed out. We know, of course, that he was engaged in farm work of some kind for Richard Taylor.

“John Atcherley / Son / Present at the Death” was the informant when the death of Henry Atcherley, who passed away on 9 January 1886 at Sidney, was registered. John made his mark rather than signing the register. John then became the head of the Atcherley household at Sidney, and was shown as such on the 1891 census. His widowed mother Mary, aged 62, was the only other occupant and the exact nature of John’s employment was revealed at last: he was a waggoner.

According to Rootschat forum member Stan Mapstone, a waggoner “looked after the horses under his control and drove them in accordance with whatever work was to be undertaken, e.g. ploughing, reaping, [harrowing], carting, etc. Otherwise he drove a horse-drawn heavy four-wheeled wagon, conveying produce […] to a market, or railway station.”

In describing some of the work undertaken by farm horses, An Encyclopædia of Agriculture (1826), by extension also gave an indication of the work of the waggoner in charge of them. The work performed by such horses obviously varied, but the Encyclopædia stated “a pair of horses, in ploughing, may travel daily from ten to fifteen miles” and, on a well-made road, would “draw about a ton in a two wheeled cart for twenty or twenty-five miles every day”. The horses might be in the yoke for nine or ten hours a day during the Summer (with two hours’ feeding and resting from noon), but only from five to eight hours in Winter.

Thanks to the reports issued by the Commission on the Employment of Children, Young Persons, and Women in Agriculture around 1870, we know that waggoners were generally paid a little more than general labourers on farms, because of the time involved in looking after the horses. They were paid sums ranging from 10 to 15 shillings a week. Often they had the use of a cottage (with a garden or a small piece of land on which to cultivate potatoes and/or rear a pig), plus an allowance of beer or cider, and maybe meals (particularly during the harvest season).

Although there were ‘perks’ for waggoners, there were also dangers, as the following report from the Wellington Journal of 24 June 1899 illustrates:

 Shocking Death of a Waggoner.—On Saturday an inquest was held at Sydney before Mr. J. W. Littlewood (deputy coroner), touching the death of John Brown, a waggoner, in the employ of Mr. Richard Taylor of Sydney House.

John Atcherley, a fellow-waggoner of the deceased, said they had worked for Mr. Taylor for many years. On Saturday morning they started to go from Sydney to Eaton, each in charge of a waggon and three horses. Deceased was with the first waggon, and he was then in his usual health and spirits, and knew his team well.

The mare in the shafts was restless. On turning towards Crudgington his horses began to go at a sharp trot round the corner. Deceased had hold of the shafter on the near side. As witness followed round the corner he saw the first team had gone too near the bank, and deceased fell and was crushed between the waggon wheels and the bank, and the vehicle went over his legs. Witness stopped his team and ran to deceased’s assistance. He found him badly hurt, and said ‘Are you hurt, Jack?’ he replied, ‘Yes, badly.’ I procured assistance, and Mr. Taylor and others came and attended to him.

Mr. Richard Taylor stated that he was sent for to the place mentioned by the last witness, and he found deceased lying at the side of the road; he was brought home and Dr. Hawthorn was sent for. He died shortly after reaching home. Deceased before he died said the horses had swerved to the left side, that he ran up the bank, slipped, and fell on the wheel, which had gone over him. Deceased was a steady and reliable man, and had been in his employ for many years.—The jury returned a verdict of ‘Accidentally killed.’ 

A little under two years after this tragic event, the 1901 census enumerated John Atcherley not at Sidney, but at an address in Beaumaris Lane in the town of Newport. The house was rather crowded to say the least, containing three generations of Atcherleys. The head of the household was John’s widowed brother Samuel, who had two of his three children living with him. John’s sister Emma Steventon was there too, with one of her two sons. Emma too had been widowed. As had the oldest family, Mary, mother of John, Samuel and Emma.

John Atcherley was now 45, and said to be an ‘ordinary labourer’ – clearly he was no longer working for Richard Taylor of Sidney House. I have no idea why this was so, but I do know roughly when Atcherley and Taylor parted company. The Wellington Journal’s report on the Wellington Farmers’ Club’s show of July 1899 included John Atcherley in its list of long service award winners, but John was not included in the corresponding report for July 1900. Between these dates, in April 1900, R Taylor of Sidney House advertised for a waggoner; a “good steady man” who would have the use of a cottage and garden.

By 1911 John was not only working for Richard Taylor again, he was also living alongside him as a “farm servant (domestic)” at Sidney House. It seems likely however that the following year, it was “all change” again. Sidney House Farm at Kinnersley – described as a house with 7 bedrooms, beer and wine cellars, and six cottages (known as Sidney Cottages) with 353 acres of land, was Lot 190 of the Lilleshall Estate sale of 1912.

Richard Taylor and his wife Martha may have moved to Wellington after this; Richard died there, at Spring Hill House, on 29 February 1924. It appears that John may have followed his employer to Wellington – John Atcherley, a farm labourer of “118 off Wrekin Road, Wellington” died at 18½ Holyhead Road in that town on 22 March 1927.

Extract from GRO death register entry for John Atcherley. Larger version at Flickr.

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Picture credits. Eyton St Catherine: Photo © Copyright Chris Downer, taken from Geograph and adapted, used and made available for re-use under a Creative Commons licence. A Waggoner, by Thomas Rowlandson: Adapted from a public domain image at Wikimedia Commons. Extract from GRO death register entry for John Atcherley: Image © Crown Copyright and posted in compliance with General Register Office copyright guidance.


[1] Birth of John Atcherley registered at Wellington, Shropshire, September quarter 1855; volume 6a, page 649.
[2] Eyton, Shropshire, baptism register covering 1855, entry dated 30 September for John Atcherley. Copies viewed at Shropshire Archives and at Findmypast – Shropshire Baptisms. Indexed at FamilySearch, Batch C03744-1, Film 502928, 510665.
[3] 1861 census of England and Wales. Piece 1896, folio 49, page 2. Sidney, Kinnersley, Shropshire.
[4] 1871 census of England and Wales. Piece 2808, folio 120, page 7. Wrockwardine Bank, Wrockwardine, Shropshire.
[5] Wellington Journal, 26 Sep 1896, page 8. Wellington Farmers’ Club. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[6] 1881 census of England and Wales. Piece 2677, folio 18, page 9. Sidney Farmhouse, Kinnersley, Shropshire. Head: Richard Taylor, 36, Farmer Of 354 Acres Employing 7 Labourers & 2 Boy, born High Ercall. Wife: Martha Taylor, 39, born Wellington. Plus 3 servants (housemaid, dairymaid, farm servant indoor).
[7] Wellington Journal, 9 Sep 1893, page 1. Shropshire Sheep Sale at Wellington. (“Mr. R. Taylor. Sidney House, RAMS and EWES.”) Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[8] Wellington Journal, 19 Dec 1885, page 5. Wellington Christmas Auction. (“The first prize for the six best heifers was won Mr. R. Taylor, of Sidney House, with six beautiful North Country shorthorn heifers of rare quality”.) Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[9] Wellington Journal, 19 Dec 1896, page 5. Messrs. Barber & Son’s Christmas Auction at Wellington. (“In the First Class the competition was for six cows or heifers […]Mr. R. Taylor, of Sidney House, securing a commendation, and whose cattle made from £19 2s. 6d. to £22.”) Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[10] Wellington Journal, 6 Oct 1894, page 8. Wellington Farmers’ Club. (“The president for the year is Mr. H. H. France-Hayhurst, and in Mr. Richard Taylor the society has a very practical vice-president. […] Pair of cart mares or geldings, not under three years old [second prize awarded to] R. Taylor, Sidney House, Wellington”.) Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[11] Wellington Journal, 22 Jul 1905, page 12. Farmers’ Club Meeting at Wellington. (“Class 32.—3lbs. of butter, made by a servant of exhibitor [second prize awarded to] R. Taylor, Sidney House”.) Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[12] Wellington Journal, 24 Oct 1908, page 11. Wellington Farmers’ Club. Root-crop Awards. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[13] Wellington Journal, 21 Mar 1885, page 4.  (“SEED Barley (Oakshott’s Peerless).—A Quantity for Sale […] Apply to Richd. Taylor, Sidney House, Wellington.”) Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[14] Wellington Journal, 21 Jul 1888, page 6. Shropshire and West-Midland Agricultural Society. (“Judges. […] Implements—Mr. Thomas Mansell, Harrington Hall, Shifnal, and Mr. Richard Taylor, Sidney House, Wellington.”) Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[15] 1909 Kelly’s Directory covering Shropshire. Transcribed extract for Ercall Magna viewed at Ercall Magna, A brief journey through time (website, accessed 7 Jan 2017).
[16] 1881 census of England and Wales. Piece 2677, folio 18, page 9. Cottage Rd, Kinnersley, Shropshire.
[17] Death of Henry Atcherley registered at Wellington, Shropshire, March quarter 1886; volume 6a, page 623; age given as 63. Copy of entry in register obtained from GRO.
[18] 1891 census of England and Wales. Piece 2130, folio 13, page 4. Sidney, Kinnersley, Shropshire.
[19] Re: what is a waggoner? At: Rootschat (online forum); reply #3 dated 21 Dec 20016 by Stan Mapstone.
[20] John Claudius Loudon (1826), An Encyclopædia of Agriculture. Page 948. Copy viewed at Google Books.
[21] HMSO (1869), Commission on the Employment of Children, Young Persons, and Women in Agriculture. Second Report of the Commissioners. Pages 74 to 84. Copy viewed at Google Books.
[22] HMSO (1870), Commission on the Employment of Children, Young Persons, and Women in Agriculture. Third Report of the Commissioners. Pages 153 to 170. Copy viewed at Google Books.
[23] Wellington Journal, 24 Jun 1899, page 7. Kinnersley. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[24] 1901 census of England and Wales. Piece Piece 2566, folio 55, page 36. Beaumaris Lane, Newport, Shropshire.
[25] Wellington Journal, 29 Jul 1899, page 8. Wellington Farmers’ Club. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[26] Wellington Journal, 28 Jul 1900, page 12. Wellington Farmers’ Club. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[27] Wellington Journal, 21 Apr 1900, page 4. Situations Vacant. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[28] 1911 census of England and Wales. Piece 16282, Schedule 35. Sydney House, Kinnersley, Shropshire.
[29] Sidney House Farm at Kinnersley. At: Discoveri ng Shropshire’s History (website, accessed 7 Jan 2017).
[30] Death of Richard Taylor registered at Wellington, Shropshire, March quarter 1924; volume 6a, page 1113; age given as 79.
[31] National Probate Calendar (1924) shows: TAYLOR Richard of Spring Hill House Wellington Shropshire died 29 February 1924 Probate Shrewsbury 24 March to Martha Taylor widow John Heatley and William Crowther Davies gentlemen. Effects £8243 5s. 3d. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[32] Death of John Atcherley registered at Wellington, Shropshire, March quarter 1927; volume 6a, page 1168; age given as 71. Copy of register entry obtained from GRO.

Atcherley ‘ag labs’ and illuminating inquests

Many members of the Atcherley family employed agricultural labourers. Some Atcherleys, on the other hand, were ‘ag labs’ (to use the abbreviation popular with family historians) or other types of farm workers (waggoners, for example). Finding records which shed light on the lives of these Atcherley ag labs has not been easy – but recently I discovered details of some inquests which were both interesting and illuminating.

The family of Henry Atcherley (born 1860, son of Henry Atcherley and Mary, née Jones) were involved in two inquests (or Coroner’s Inquisitions as they were also known). Both of these took place in the Shropshire village of Childs Ercall. At the first, held on 15 November 1895, one of the witnesses was Jane, the eldest child of Henry and his wife Hannah (née Teece). The Wellington Journal reported:

 Sad Burning Fatality.—An inquest was held yesterday (Friday), at Mr. J. H. Goodall’s, touching the death of his eldest child, Geoffrey Hughes Goodall. Mr. G. G. Warren was coroner, and Mr. J. C. P. Palmer foreman of the jury. […] Jane Atcherley, nursemaid in Mrs. Goodall’s employ, said she was in the nursery on Wednesday morning with the deceased and the baby. She went out of the room to wash a bottle, leaving deceased on a hearthrug near the fire. He had nothing on except his night-dress. When in the back kitchen, a few minutes after leaving the nursery, she heard screams of ‘Mother,’ and Mrs. Goodall went upstairs. Deceased said he thought a cinder had dropped on his night-dress. His age was seven years and ten months.—A verdict of ‘Accidental death from burning’ was returned. The Coroner and jury passed a vote of condolence with the bereaved parents. 

The focus of the inquest was of course on the unfortunate victim. But within the report on the inquest (which I have abridged) there is information to be gleaned about Jane Atcherley, who was then an ag lab’s daughter aged 13. Girls of Jane’s status typically went into service, at least until they were married, and the census of 1901 shows that Jane (then 18) was at that time a general domestic servant in the household of Irishman Charles Clarke, a retired Army Captain, at Wistanwick in the parish of Stoke upon Tern in Shropshire. Now we know that by that time, Jane had already been employed in a domestic capacity (though not necessarily continuously) for more than five years.

The second inquest to feature this Atcherley family was a lot closer to home. It was in fact held in their home. Hannah Atcherley was a witness – and her seventh child (and fifth son) George was the subject of the coroner’s inquisition. George was born at Childs Ercall, and baptised there in the church of St Michael (pictured above) on 4 October 1896. The record of that event confirmed that George’s father Henry was a labourer. His family would later move on from the village, but George Atcherley would not. He died there on 16 June 1898, and was buried at St Michael’s three days later. He was one year and nine months old.

Some time ago I viewed, and transcribed, the record of the Coroner’s Inquisition into George’s death. The document was a printed sheet, with spaces in which the words specific to the inquest were written. George’s name was initially written as John, but all three occurrences were crossed out and replaced with George. If you have never seen one of these documents, here is my transcription:

[In left margin:] Shropshire, to wit
An Inquisition taken for Our Sovereign Lady the Queen at the house of Henry Atcherley, Childs Ercall situate in the Parish of Childs Ercall in the County of Salop, on the seventeenth day of June in the year of Our Lord One Thousand Eight Hundred and ninety eight before GEORGE GORDON WARREN, Esquire, one of the Coroners of our said Lady the Queen for the said County on view the body of George Atcherley now lying dead, upon the Oaths of the several Jurors whose names are hereunder written and seals affixed, good and lawful men of the said County duly chosen and who being now here duly sworn and charged to enquire for our said Lady the Queen, when, how, and by what means the said George Atcherley came to his death, do upon their Oath present and say that the said George Atcherley on the 16th day of June in the year aforesaid, in the Parish aforesaid in a natural way and not by any means of violence did die.

The above was followed by the names of the jurors.

Extract from GRO death register entry for George Atcherley. Larger version at Flickr.

There are a lot of words in the above jury’s verdict, but no real insight into exactly how George died. Because the registration of George’s death was based on the Coroner’s certificate, George’s entry in the register (see extract above) was equally vague. It seems that (to quote the History House website) “the coroner was only really concerned with the detection of crime, so the medical reason for the death did not matter to him once criminality had been ruled out.” Details of how George met his end were recorded however, in the Wellington Journal’s summary of the inquest’s proceedings:

 Inquest.—Mr. A. West, deputy coroner, held an inquest on the 17th inst. relative to the death of George Atcherley, the infant child of Hannah Atcherley. Mr. George Dunn was foreman of the jury. The evidence of the mother showed that two days previously the child was not well and vomited considerably. She did not however think the illness was very serious, or she would have sent for a doctor. The child died the following morning. Other evidence was given by Eliza Arkinstall and Dr. Exham, who said he had examined the body and considered that death was due to collapse consequent on the vomiting.—The jury returned a verdict of ‘Death from natural causes.’ 

What an incredibly sad story. Can we draw anything from this tale of infant death in the family of an agricultural labourer? Possibly, that these poor folk were poor judges of whether or not an illness was serious. Or maybe that their decision as to whether or not to call out a doctor, was influenced by their limited income? There was no suggestion of negligence on the part of Hannah Atcherley, but I suspect that she very much regretted her decision not to seek medical attention for George.

Henry Atcherley’s younger brother Samuel also appeared at an inquest, in 1893. Thankfully he was very much alive (he later fathered my maternal grandfather) and, like his niece Jane in 1895, was acting as a witness.

Samuel Atcherley married Mary Austin in the last week of 1887. After their wedding, Sam and Mary settled at Sidney (or Sydney), in the parish of Kinnersley (nowadays Kynnersley), where Sam had been born and was brought up. The census of 1891 enumerated the couple there on 6 April; Samuel, aged 28, was recorded as an agricultural labourer, Mary was 23 and her birthplace was Ellerdine (in the parish of Ercall Magna, where she was baptised on 22 March 1868). What the census did not show was that Mary was an expectant mother. Very expectant in fact, as her first child, Henry, was born the next day, on 7 April 1891 (he was baptised a month later on 10 May).

Within the next two years or so, Samuel and his family had relocated to Wappenshall, in the parish of Eyton (where they may have lived in one of the cottages at Wappenshall Farm which are pictured above). This I learned from the fact that daughter Fanny Atcherley was born there (on 24 September 1893); the record of her baptism showed that Samuel was a labourer. But who did he work for? Can we discover any snippets of information about the nature or conditions of the work he was engaged in? We can, from the following report in the Wellington Journal of 14 Oct 1893:

 The Accident to a Waggoner.—The accident reported last week to a waggoner named George Casewell, in the employ of Mr. E. W. Bromley, terminated fatally on Monday last, although up to the previous Friday he appeared to be on a fair way to recovery. J. V. T. Lander, Esq., coroner, held an inquiry as to the cause of death at Mr. Bromley’s residence on Tuesday, and Mr. Bromley was foreman of the jury.—Ann Casewell, wife of deceased, said her husband was 64 years of age, and was a waggoner in the employ of Mr. E. W. Bromley, and she and deceased resided together at Wappenshall. On Friday, the 29th September, deceased went to his work, as usual, about ten minutes past six in the morning; and between 10 and 11 Samuel Atcherley went and told her that her husband had been hurt.

On going home she found him sitting in the armchair, and young Mr. Bromley was with him. Deceased told her that he had been working in the field, when a hard storm came on, and he had taken the horses under a tree to shelter, and whilst he was standing by their side one of them turned round and knocked him down, the result being that the harrows came upon him. Deceased said he was done for, and that it would finish him. Witness sent for Dr. Weston, and he attended to deceased. There was a wound on the left hand and arm, and on the right arm, and small bruises on the head and the right leg. Deceased seemed to get better, and went on well until Friday, when he got worse, and the doctor was again fetched. On Sunday he was taken very ill, and had been unable to take food. Dr. Weston said he was suffering from tetanus. Deceased gradually got worse, and died on Monday morning, about a quarter past seven. The cause of death was lockjaw, the result of the injuries he had received.

Samuel Atcherley, labourer, bore out Mrs. Casewell’s statement as to the cause of the accident, and said that when he went to deceased’s assistance he found one ‘spoke’ of the harrows had run in his arm and another in his leg. Deceased was dragged for about 50 or 60 yards, and there were bruises on the back of his head, his legs, and his arms.—The jury returned a verdict of ‘Accidental death.’ 

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[1] Birth of Henry Atcherley registered at Wellington, December quarter 1860; volume 6a, page 656.
[2] Kinnersley (Kynnersley), Shropshire, baptism register covering 1860, entry dated 28 Nov for Henry Atcherley. Copies viewed at Shropshire Archives and at Findmypast – Shropshire Baptisms. Indexed at FamilySearch,Batch C03226-1, Film 502932.
Wellington Journal, 16 Nov 1895, page 8. Child’s Ercall. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[4] 1901 census of England and Wales. Piece 2560, folio 61, page 4.
[5] Birth of George Atcherley registered at Market Drayton, December quarter 1896; volume 6a, page 714.
[6] Childs Ercall, Shropshire, baptism register covering 1896, entry for George Atcherley. Copies viewed at Shropshire Archives and at Findmypast – Shropshire Baptisms.
[7] Death of George Atcherley registered at Market Drayton, June quarter 1898; volume 6a, page 439; age given as 1. Copy of entry in register obtained from GRO. (View at Flickr.)
[8] Childs Ercall, Shropshire, burial register covering 1898, entry for George Atcherley. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Shropshire Burials.
[9] Shropshire Archives, Quarter Sessions document reference QR616, item 103, Coroner’s Inquisition held on 17 Jun 1898. Copy viewed at Shropshire Archives.
[10] Cause of death: Visitation of God. At: History House (website, accessed 2 Jan 2017).
[11] Wellington Journal, 25 Jun 1898, page 8. Child’s Ercall. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[12] Marriage of Samuel Atcherley and Mary Austin registered at Wellington, Shropshire, December quarter 1887; volume 6a, page 1427.
[13] Kinnersley, Shropshire, Banns register covering 1887 shows: “Banns of Marriage between Samuel Atcherley [of] this Parish Bachelor and Mary Austin Spinster [of] the Parish of Lilleshall. 1st Time, Sunday, Decr. 11th […]2nd Time, Sunday, [Decr.] 18th […] 3rd Time, Sunday, [Decr.] 25th […]. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Shropshire Banns.
[14] Birth of Samuel Atcherley registered at Wellington, Shropshire, June quarter 1863; volume 6a, page 762.
[15] Kinnersley (Kynnersley), Shropshire, baptism register covering 1863, entry dated 19 Apr for Samuel Atcherley. Copies viewed at Shropshire Archives and at Findmypast – Shropshire Baptisms. Indexed at FamilySearch,Batch C03226-1, Film 502932.
[16] 1891 census of England and Wales. Piece 2130, folio 13, page 4. Sidney, Kinnersley, Shropshire.
[17] High Ercall, Shropshire, baptism register covering 1868, entry for Mary Austin. Copy viewed at Findmypast (Shropshire Baptisms).
[18] Birth of Henry Atcherley registered at Wellington, Shropshire, June quarter 1891; volume 6a, page 753.
[19] 1939 Register, Piece 5178G, Item 018, Line 9 shows Henry Atcherley, born 7 Apr 1891. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[20] Kinnersley (Kynnersley), Shropshire, baptism register covering 1891, entry dated 10 May for Henry Atcherly. Copies viewed at Shropshire Archives and at Findmypast – Shropshire Baptisms.
[21] Birth of Fanny Atcherley registered at Wellington, Shropshire, December quarter 1893; volume 6a, page 709.
[22] Marriage of Richard H Sylvester and Fanny Atcherley registered at Lichfield, June quarter 1919; volume 6b, page 1174.
[23] 1939 Register, Piece 5465J, Item 013, Line 24 shows Fanny Sylvester, wife of Richard H Sylvester, born 24 Sep 1893. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[24] Eyton, Shropshire, baptism register covering 1893, entry dated 29 Oct for Fanny Atcherley. Copies viewed at Shropshire Archives and at Findmypast – Shropshire Baptisms.
[25] Wellington Journal, 14 Oct 1893, page 8. Wappenshall. Copy viewed at Findmypast.

Genealogy Goals 2016 – 2017

At the end of January last year I set myself 8 Genealogy Goals for 2016, which fell into three categories: Research, Website, and Giving Back.

Even as I put those goals online, I had an inkling that 2016 was not going to be an easy year. Sure enough my old nemesis, depression, came back and hit me rather hard. My main goal from then on was to get through the year, and on the family history front, to do what I could, when I could. So what did I do in 2016, and what are my genealogy goals for 2017?


Goal 1: Make full use of the 1939 Register (and electoral registers) in order to find out more about the Atcherley family members who were living in the second half of the 1800s and the first half of the 1900s

2016: Partially achieved. I certainly made the most of the 1939 Register, before and after Findmypast made full access available to those of us with 12-month subscriptions. In addition to finding all the Atcherleys that I could, I tracked down women who had lost their Atcherley surname by marriage, and many others descended from Atcherleys.

Electoral registers, on the other hand, were a resource I made relatively little use of in 2016 (although they came in handy when I compiled an England & Wales 1921 census substitute). Instead, the increasing number of digitised newspapers available at Findmypast became my go-to source for information on Atcherley lives.

2017: My goal this year is to continue finding and transcribing historic newspaper reports and notices featuring members of the Atcherley family, to build up more detailed pictures of their lives.

Goal 2: Make greater use of wills written by Atcherleys and members of allied families to reveal, and share, the Atcherley family stories they contain

2016: Not achieved. A will formed the basis for my story Richard Atcherley, yeoman farmer of Wolverley, and wills and probate featured in The ups and downs of the last Atcherleys of Stanwardine and The Atcherley-Symes story – Part 1. However, my use of wills during 2016 was minimal and I did not order copies of any post-1858 examples.

2017: Carried forward.

Goal 3: Order more BMD certificates to ‘fill in gaps’ and add to my knowledge about how the Atcherleys lived – and died

2016: Achieved! During November 2016 the General Register Office (GRO) for England and Wales trialled a new service, which offered PDFs of already-digitised historic birth and death register entries, sent be email, at a cost of £6 each. I went for this in a big way, ordering and receiving no less than 33 register entries (they are not ‘certificates’ as such, but provide the same information). The vast majority of these were death certificates, one of them giving “Visitation of God” as the cause of death.

2017: Repeat the above (but maybe order a smaller number!) if the GRO brings back the PDF service.

Goal 4: Explore in more detail my own genetic genealogy and that of the Atcherley family

2016: Achieved! An update on my genetic genealogy journey was posted in May last year, see Putting the genes into genealogy – Part 2. Since then, one of my brothers and a third cousin have done autosomal (or family finder) DNA tests, yielding more of our ancestral Atcherley DNA and the matches that go with it. In addition, a second male Atcherley has taken a Y-DNA test, with results expected in late January 2017. Also, an Ashley who is a good match for our first male Atcherley test subject has joined the Atcherley DNA Project at Family Tree DNA.

2017: Continue working with existing DNA results and new ones as they became available to see what they can tell us about the genealogy of the Atcherleys.


Goal 5: Write another 30 articles / stories for Atcherley.org.uk

2016: Achieved (and then some)! I found writing at any length difficult for much of 2016, but when I could write (and sometimes even when I felt I couldn’t) I worked on Atcherley stories and family history articles and somehow ended up matching 2015’s total of 42 new additions to this website. As for the subjects of my stories, I think I managed to achieve my aims there too, featuring sequels, a prequel, World War 1, World War 2, Atcherley women, and some of “the Atcherleys who led ‘ordinary’ lives”. (See my full list of 2016 stories and articles.)

2017: My immediate goal this year is to have 150 articles / stories online by 25 January, the sixth anniversary of this website’s launch – it will only take 3 more to get to that target. It is tempting to then push for 42 over the course of the whole year given that I managed that total in 2015 and 2016. However there are number of existing stories which need updating with new information and I don’t want to neglect them. So I’m sticking to what has become my usual goal of 30 for the year … with the hope of exceeding that amount again if I can.

Goal 6: Double the number of people in the Atcherley Family Tree

2016: Half way there! A last-minute push in December to make some progress on this goal means that the number of people in the Atcherley Family Tree has increased by just over 50% (from 798 to 1216).

2017: Increase the number of people in the Atcherley Family Tree to 2,000 by the end of the year. (In addition, I need to explore the possibility of creating a replacement online tree using TNG. Currently, the Atcherley Family Tree is powered by Genealone, a plugin for the WordPress system on which this website is built. However the man behind Genealone has not been heard from for some months now. Future updates to WordPress may render Genealone inoperable if the plugin is not updated. TNG appears to be an excellent alternative with good support.)

Giving Back

Goal 7: Contribute photos to Billion Graves

Goal 8: Contribute to the journal of the Shropshire Family History Society

2016: Neither achieved. Depression, and the side-effects of treatment for it, plus a Vitamin D deficiency, meant that something – several things – had to give, and these goals were amongst the casualties. This is not to say that I did nothing to ‘give back’ to the genealogy community last year, as fellow genies Daniel (see A mystery, finally solved?) and Jane (see A Short Life Remembered: Resurrecting the GRO Dead) have testified. I do however want to achieve my ‘giving back’ goals, so for both of the above …

2017: Carried forward.

In addition to the above goals, I have another, not genealogy-related, which will nonetheless affect this website. Stay tuned!

I don’t regard 2016 as a family history failure, given the circumstances I am very pleased with what I managed to achieve. As for 2017, who knows what the year will bring? My genealogy goals are there to guide me and give me something to focus on – with good health and a fair wind, some hard work and maybe a bit of luck, I hope to achieve them all. But I won’t be devastated if I don’t!

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Picture credits: Newspaper: Public domain image from Pixabay. Extract from GRO death register entry: Image © Crown Copyright, posted in compliance with General Register Office copyright guidance.  Churchyard: Photo by the author.

Before he was famous: When Mr Serjeant Atcherley was an Ensign

David Francis Atcherley, the first of his name, was well known in later life as Mr Serjeant Atcherley. As a Serjeant-at-Law, David was part of a select group of barristers from which judges for the common law courts were chosen, with exclusive jurisdiction over the Court of Common Pleas. The name of Mr Serjeant Atcherley (or Mr Sergeant Atcherley as it was often given) appeared frequently in the press from the mid-1830s to the mid-1840s. One of those appearances related to a court case during which David was taken back to his younger days, before he took up law and well before his name rose to any prominence. It seems that he did not find it a comfortable experience.

The case took place on 24 August 1836 at the Nisi Prius Court at Liverpool, when, according to the Westmorland Gazette:

 […] a rosy-gilled gentleman of the Falstaff genus, hight Mr. John Green, of Prescot, was called as a witness by Mr. Serjeant Atcherley, on behalf of the plaintiff. On making his appearance in the box and the oath being tendered to him, he first said that he was a witness “on the other side;” but being told that it did not signify, as he was also subpoenaed for the plaintiff, he wished to know, before being sworn, who was to pay his expenses. “They promised me £5 or £10 (said he), but I have only had a shilling for the last five days, and (continued Mr Green, laying his hands upon his capacious paunch, with an air of paternal pride and satisfaction, which might have become the great and immortal Sir John himself) such a corporation as this is not to be kept up at the rate of a shilling for five days”—(roars of laughter).

The momentous matter having been referred to the prothonotary, Mr. Forrest, that gentleman said that £4 10s. would be a reasonable sum for five days’ expenses, and the attorney for the plaintiff immediately handed over the needful to Mr. Forrest, in trust for the witness. “Now (said Mr. Serjeant Atcherley) I hope you will be worth the money to us. Will you trust the officer?” “Well (said Mr. Green), I have known him a long time, and I think I can trust him. I have known Mr. Serjeant Atcherley, too a long time. He and I learned our exercise together.”

The learned serjeant seemed rather taken aback at this information, and not very willing to acknowledge the acquaintanceship of the facetious Mr Green. His apparent chagrin was rather heightened than otherwise, when his Lordship good-humouredly said to the witness, “As a matter of curiosity, perhaps you will allow me to ask whether my brother Atcherley ever got any rank at all?” —“Well, my lord, (replied Mr. Green) I think he got to an ensign (laugher). But he was a full private when I was a sergeant; now he is a serjeant and I am only a private”—(shouts of laughter). “Pray what squad was he in?” asked his lordship. “Well, my lord, I am afraid it would take up too much time to tell you now,” replied Mr. Green, and so the colloquy ended.

Whether his Majesty’s Attorney-General for the county palatine, now that he can quote with becoming pride the motto cedant arma togae, is unwilling to recur to the military exploits of his younger days in the militia, because he belonged to the awkward squad or whether he thinks the reputation of deeds of arms, such as would become a votary of Mars, rather a drawback on the well-earned distinctions of the law, we know not, but certain it is that he did not greet Mr. Green with anything like the cordiality of an old comrade and brother soldier. 

Had Mr Serjeant Atcherley really been an Ensign in his younger days, as claimed by Mr Green? Let’s travel a little further back in time, explore the early life of David Francis Atcherley, and find out.

David was born on 13 June 1783 in Chester, not as an Atcherley but as a Jones – he was named after his father, David Francis Jones senior. He was of Atcherley blood however, his mother being Jane Atcherley of Marton. He did not acquire the surname of his maternal ancestors until 1834, under the terms of his uncle’s will (see Richard Atcherley and his hopes for posterity).

As you might guess from the Jones surname, the paternal roots of David Francis Jones, later Atcherley, were Welsh. The Burkes, in their Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of 1847, described this part of David’s ancestry as follows:

David-Francis Jones, the father of David-Francis Atcherley, was the son of David Jones, of Cymman, co. Flint, Esq., and after being a solicitor in Chester and deputy baron of the county palatine of Chester, lived at Cymman, was a deputy-lieutenant of the co. of Flint, and [died] 11 Dec. 1828. His father, David Jones, lived and [died] at Cymman, and was buried 18 April, 1759. David Jones [succeeded] his father, William Jones, who became possessed of the property in right of his wife, Eleanor, the niece and devisee of David Francis, of Ruthin, co. Denbigh, Esq., who m. 27 April, 1708, Jane, eldest dau. of Ambrose Thelwall, of Llanfair, co. Denbigh, and of Bringorkin, co. Flint, Esq.

From this we can see how the estate of Cymman (or Cymmau), in the Flintshire parish of Hope, came into the possession of this Jones family (and later, the Atcherleys). We can also see that the names David and Francis came from the same source; and that the elder David Francis Jones worked as a solicitor in Chester. It was while he was living and working in that city that he married Jane Atcherley.

A street scene from old Chester

The wedding of David (“of the Parish of Holy Trinity in the County and City of Chester”) and Jane (of Loppington, Shropshire) took place, after the publication of banns, on 2 July 1782 at the church of St Michael & All Angels in Loppington. Based on the dates of the couple’s baptisms, David was 24 and Jane 19. The witnesses who signed the marriage register were “Elizath. Atcherley” – Jane’s younger sister – and a John Jones. Three years later, when Elizabeth Atcherley married Robert Corbett in Chester Holy Trinity (on 4 March 1785), David returned the favour, signing the marriage register as David F Jones.

David Francis Jones junior was the only child born to David and Jane. His mother passed away on 3 May 1792, when the young David was just 8 years old, and she was buried five days later at the church of St Cynfarch, Hope, as “Mrs Jones Wife of Mr David Francis Jones Atty at Law Chester”. Three years later the elder David Francis Jones gained a second wife, and the younger a stepmother, in the person of Anne Sandland of Whitchurch. This marriage added a second son to the family, Thomas Henshaw Jones, in 1796 (see The forgotten brother of David Francis Atcherley).

According to The Gentleman’s Magazine, David Francis Jones junior “received his early education at the King’s school in Chester, under the care of the Rev. Thomas Bancroft, afterwards Vicar of Bolton, and thence proceeded to the grammar schools of Ludlow and Oswestry, at which latter seminary he continued some years under the tutorship of Dr. Donne.”

Oswestry Visitor Centre (formerly Oswestry Grammar School)

Afterwards, “He did not pursue his studies at either of the universities, but having determined to adopt the legal profession he became a member of Lincoln’s Inn early in the present century”. Before he pursued his legal training however, he spent some time as a member of the Chester Volunteer Infantry. The Chester Chronicle of 23 September 1803 reported that “David Francis Jones, jun. Gent.” and nine other gentlemen had been appointed as Ensigns to that force. The following words, from the same page of the Chronicle, go some way towards explaining the circumstances in which these young men were signing up to defend their country:

Bonaparte is evidently embarrassed by his promise to embark himself in the expedition to this Country, and “thare for good or evil the fate of his army.” There is no doubt but he dreads to trust his fortune to the sea. He has no other alternative than defeat or disgrace: disgrace, if he do not attempt to fulfill his promise, and defeat, if he do attempt it. …

In June the following year, Ensign David Francis Jones was given the Commission of Lieutenant in what was then referred to as the “Loyal Chester Volunteers”. I have not been able to determine how long he remained in that position, what military exercises he was involved in while serving, or when he left the volunteers for Lincoln’s Inn.

At that Inn of Court, David “under the advice of his friends was placed as a pupil in the chambers of Mr. Chitty, the eminent pleader, with whom he remained until the middle of the year 1807.” Then, “According to the accustomed routine of the profession he practised a few years as a special pleader, until at length, the full period of his terms having been duly kept, on the 5th July, 1810, he was called to the bar.”

So began the successful legal career of David Francis Jones / Atcherley, one which eventually brought him into contact with the John Green who reminded him of his younger days. Mr Serjeant Atcherley had indeed been an Ensign back then, but he had risen to the rank of Lieutenant. As for Mr Green, I have found nothing relating to his military service. Perhaps he got to the rank of Ensign?

Picture credits. Scales of justice: Adapted from a public domain image taken from Pixabay. A street scene from old Chester: Adapted from an illustration in Chester As It Was, published 1872, taken from the British Library Flickr photostream – no known copyright restrictions. Oswestry Visitor Centre (formerly Oswestry Grammar School): Photo by Peter Broster, taken from Wikimedia Commons and adapted and used under a Creative Commons licence.


[1] Legal profession to 1920. At: The Inner Temple Admissions Database (website, accessed 30 Dec 2016).
[2] Serjeant-at-law. At: Wikipedia (website, accessed 30 Dec 2016).
[3] Westmorland Gazette, 3 Sep 1836, page 3. The Rival Serjeants. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[4] The Gentleman’s Magazine, Vol XXIV, June to December 1845, pages 537-538. Copy viewed at Google Books.
[5] John Burke, John Bernard Burke (1847), A Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain and Ireland. Volume I. Page 32. Copy viewed at Google Books.
[6] Loppington, Shropshire, marriage register covering 1782, entry for David Francis Jones and Jane Atcherley. Copies viewed at Shropshire Archives and at Findmypast – Shropshire Marriages. Indexed at FamilySearch, Batch I03467-9, Film 1701251.
[7] Hope, Flintshire, parish register covering 1758, entry dated 22 January for baptism of “David Francis Son of David Jones of Cymmeu by Eliza: his wife”. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Flint Baptisms.
[8] Myddle, Shropshire, parish register covering 1762, entry dated 9 July for baptism of “Jane Daughter of Richd & Jane Atcherley” and subsequent entry dated 10 August stating “publickly received Jane Daughter of Richd. & Jane Atcherley”. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Shropshire Baptisms. Note: The baptism entry appears to have been added later and in a different hand to the other entries. Indexed at FamilySearch (baptism, public reception), Batch P01576-1, Film 908237.
[9] Liverpool Holy Trinity, Lancashire, marriage register covering 1785, entry for Robert Corbett and Elizabeth Atcherley. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Cheshire Marriages. Indexed at FamilySearch, Batch M00967-1, Film 0924608 IT 1.
[10] The Gentleman’s Magazine, Vol XXIV, June to December 1845, pages 537-538. Copy viewed at Google Books.
[11] Chester Chronicle, 23 Sep 1803, page 3. Military Appointments. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[12] Chester Chronicle, 19 Oct 1804, page 3. Commissions signed by the Lord Lieutenant of the County of Chester. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[13] London Gazette, 13 Oct 1804, issue 15745, page 1284.

The Atcherley-Symes story – Part 3

We regret to have to announce here the wreck, on the Blackwater Sands, county Wexford, of the Rochester, Capt. [Truman], on her way with passengers for New York. She was a fine vessel, 850 tons register, and chartered by Messrs. Grimshaw and Co., of Liverpool, from which town she sailed on Sunday last, and in 36 hours after she struck, as stated, on the coast of Wexford. The crew and 47 of the passengers were brought to Cove on Thursday, by Lieutenant Symes, R.N., commander of her Majesty’s ship Urgent. The remainder of the passengers, upwards of 200 in number, were landed by the fishing boats and conveyed to the town of Wexford. Dublin Evening Mail, 21 April 1847.

“It is supposed that the mistaking of the Tuskar Light was the cause of the misfortune.”

The wreck of the Rochester took place during a time of mass emigration from Ireland, a desperate diaspora sparked by a catastrophic famine. Many thousands of people sailed across the Irish Sea to Liverpool, where some remained while others set off for other parts of England, or embarked on voyages across the Atlantic. Giving evidence on the subject before the Select Committee on Settlement and Poor Removal in 1847, Edward Rushton (stipendiary magistrate of Liverpool) stated:

The influx of Irish into Liverpool became day by day so much increased that on the 13th of January, 1847, I ordered the officers to be stationed when the boats arrived from Ireland, to count the number of poor people who came; and from the 13th of January to the 19th of April inclusive, there had arrived in Liverpool 131,402 poor persons, many of them shockingly debilitated, all of them in a most distressful condition, and some of them diseased. The emigration from the port during this period amounts to 43,46, nearly all Irish; nineteen twentieths, certainly; so there remain in Liverpool and the adjacent country a balance of about 90,000.

Newspaper reports indicated that the passengers aboard the Rochester, an American ship, were emigrants, who appeared to be “principally from the north of Ireland.” Their perilous voyage to New York was cut short by the shipwreck, but all passengers and crew all survived thanks to four fishing boats (which “took each as many of the steerage passengers as they dared to carry”) and the steam-packet commanded by Aaron Stark Symes. Howland Holmes, a surgeon who was among the last to leave the stricken ship, stated that when the Urgent approached “It was our last, our only hope, and nearly every eye was now moistened with tears of joy.”

Copies of letters exchanged on 15 April 1847 between some of those rescued, and their rescuer, were published in the Liverpool Mail. The first was addressed to Lieutenant A. S. Symes, R.N., commander of her Majesty’s ship Urgent:

Sir,—Allow us to tender our sincere and heartfelt thanks for the great service you rendered in taking us from the wreck of the ship Rochester, when in a position of extreme peril on the Blackwater Bank, on the morning of the 14th inst., having had a flag of distress hoisted from the afternoon of the previous day. Several sailing vessels and three steamers passed—one of the latter we supposed to be the Ocean—without taking any notice of our position, when your able assistance was the means, under God, of saving our lives and property, and also for the extreme courtesy and attention with which you received us, and attended to our every want when on board her Majesty’s ship Urgent.
At the same time we wish to convey to the officers and crew, under your command, out thanks for the able and efficient manner in which they performed the dangerous duty you assigned them.
And, Sir, we beg to assure you, that your kindness and attention will not be forgotten […]

The names appearing at the bottom of the above letter included those of the Rochester’s Captain (Daniel Henry Truman), its First Officer, surgeon Howland Holmes and other cabin passengers; in addition there were “Thirty-seven passengers and twenty sailors also removed by the Urgent.”

The rescuer’s reply was both modest and revealing, showing that the Rochester was not the only vessel to which the Urgent had provided assistance:

Gentlemen,—I have the honour to receive your letter, of this day, conveying, in very gratifying terms, your approbation of the services of the officers and crew of her Majesty’s ship Urgent, under my command, for assistance rendered in removing you from the wreck of the American ship Rochester, stranded on the Blackwater Bank on Tuesday last. I beg to assure you that it has afforded us great pleasure in having, through Divine Providence, been placed in a position to be of assistance to you on this melancholy occasion; the alacrity of my officers and ship’s company, in the performance of their duty to you yesterday, as to others recently, on a similar occasion, is a sufficient proof of their readiness, at all times, when called upon, to relive the distresses of their fellow creatures.
You have our united best wishes that every blessing may attend you here and hereafter.—l have the honour be, gentlemen, yours, &c.,
A. S. Symes,
Lieut., Commanding H.M.S. Urgent.

What then became of the would-be emigrants? Their immediate fate, according to Edward Rushton’s evidence before the Select Committee on Settlement and Poor Removal, was as follows:

These poor people were taken to the town of Wexford. The captain of the Rochester, who is, I understand, part owner of the ship, and who would be looked to for a return of the passage-money, was on the spot, yet notwithstanding this, the Mayor of Wexford put all these destitute persons on board a steamer, and sent them consigned to the Mayor of Liverpool, as he said, to obtain justice and charity in Liverpool.

After the emigrants’ return to Liverpool, passenger agent George Saul “settled with some of them by sending them out in the Patrick Henry, and others, through sheer want, [went] back to Ireland.” The Patrick Henry was by all accounts a fine ship; it is possible that its voyage from Liverpool on 23 June 1847, arriving at New York on 27 July, was the one offered to the emigrants from the Rochester who pursued their plans to settle in the USA.

1847 saw Aaron Stark Symes praised for his role as saviour of passengers and crew left stranded on the Rochester – but also taken to court for his alleged negligence back on 31 December 1846, when the Urgent collided with the steam vessel Tynwald. It seems that conditions were foggy when the accident happened, but there was a question as to whether or not the “improper speed” of the Urgent was to blame. Ultimately the jury found for the plaintiffs, awarding damages of £3,000, and 40 shillings costs (both of which sums were borne by the Admiralty). As we will soon see, this was not the only accident to take place involving a vessel under Aaron’s command.

In March 1848 the following naval appointment was announced: “Lieutenant A. S. Symes (1816), late in command of the Urgent packet, to command the St. Columba steam-packet, at Liverpool.” The St Columba was a new vessel, commissioned on 5 January 1848, so it appears that despite the accident which took place at the end of 1846, the Royal Navy still had confidence in Aaron’s abilities as a commander.

Holyhead, around 1850

By the beginning of 1850, the St Columba was stationed at Holyhead on Anglesey. On 1 December that year, for reasons which I have not been able to establish, Aaron Stark Symes was commanding the Eblana steamer, belonging to the City of Dublin Steam-Packet Company. As this steam-packet came in to Holyhead, in darkness, and with little time to spare to offload the mail for its onward journey by rail, the gangway was opened before the pier was reached. This was apparently common practice in such circumstances; the only measure taken to protect passengers was that the open gangway was attended by a member of the crew (in this case, the Eblana’s carpenter). Unfortunately, a passenger by the name of William Septimus Saunders approached the gangway and fell into the sea. By the time he had been picked up and taken ashore, he had breathed his last.

At the inquest into the death of Mr Saunders, the jury’s verdict jury was “that the deceased came to his death accidentally” in the circumstances which I have outlined above. To this verdict a note was added:

The jury conceive it is not safe for the passengers travelling with the mail boats from Kingstown to Holyhead that such a system should be any longer tolerated that some better system of vigilance be adopted and that although it was the duty of the carpenter, Morgan Redcliffe, to attend to the gangway of the Eblana steamer when the accident occurred, still that there was no culpable negligence on his part.

The North Wales Chronicle concluded its coverage of the inquest thus: “It is a melancholy matter, and might, perhaps, have been avoided by the exercise of a little more apprehension on both sides.”

Aaron Stark Symes continued to serve as Commander of the St Columba, from Holyhead, until the beginning of 1857. On 6 February that year, he was one of several Lieutenants appointed by the Admiralty to be a Commander “on the reserved half pay”. It appears to me that this was, in all but name, retirement – in which case Aaron and his wife Sarah would no doubt have looked forward to spending more time together in the years left to them. Tragically, this was not to be. The North Wales Chronicle of 28 February 1857 included the following in its Family Notices section:

On the 23rd inst. very suddenly, after a severe attack of erysipelas of the brain, Sarah, the beloved wife of Commander Symes, R.N., Plas-hyfryd, Holyhead, in her 56th year. Her sudden death has caused great grief amongst a large circle of her friends.

To be continued.

Picture credits. Tuskar Rock lighthouse: Adapted from a public domain photo by Andrewmc; sourced from Wikimedia Commons. Map of coast near Wexford: Taken from a map published in Atlas and Cyclopedia of Ireland, Part I, copyright expired; sourced from Internet Archive. Holyhead: Adapted from a public domain image uploaded to Wikimedia Commons by the National Library of Wales.


[1] Dublin Evening Mail, 21 Apr 1847, page 4. Wreck of a Liner. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Irish Newspapers. Also Pembrokeshire Herald and General Advertiser, 23 April 1847. Transcript viewed at Immigrant Ships website.
[2] Charles James Ribton-Turner (1887), A History of Vagrants and Vagrancy, and Beggars and Begging. Page 259-60. Copy viewed at Internet Archive.
[3] Cork Examiner, 21 Apr 1847, page 4. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[4] Liverpool Mail, 24 Apr 1847, page 3. Wreck of the “Rochester” American Packet Ship. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Irish Newspapers.
[5] Cork Examiner, 7 Jul 1847, page 4. Case Against A Passenger Agent. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Irish Newspapers.
[6] Michael Carolan; An Irish Passenger, An American Family, And Their Time 1847 – 2010. (Web page, accessed 16 Dec 2016).
[7] National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC, Famine Irish Entry Project, 1846-1851. Entries for the Patrick Henry in 1847 viewed at Ancestry – New York, Irish Immigrant Arrival Records, 1846-1851.
[8] Dundee, Perth, and Cupar Advertiser, 7 Sep 1847, page 3. Collision at Sea.—Important Trial. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[9] Morning Chronicle, 25 Mar 1848, page 6. The Navy. Copy viewed at Findmypast. Rif Winfield (2014), British Warships in the Age of Sail 1817-1863. Page number not known. Copy previewed at Google Books.
[10] Kentish Independent, 2 Feb 1850, page 6. Stations of Her Majesty’s Ships in Commission. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[11] The North Wales Chronicle, 21 Dec 1850, page 3. The Late Accident on board the Eblana Steamer at Holyhead. Copy viewed at Welsh Newspapers Online.
[12] Morning Post, 28 Aug 1851, page 7. Nisi Prius Court. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[13] Kentish Independent, 3 Jun 1853, page 7. Stations of Her Majesty’s Ships in Commission. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[14] Morning Advertiser, 7 Feb 1857, page 4. Admiralty Appointments, Feb. 6. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[15] The Admiralty (1867), The Navy List, corrected to The 20th June, 1867. Page 90. Copy viewed at Google Books.
[16] The North Wales Chronicle, 28 Feb 1857, page 7. Deaths. Copy viewed at Welsh Newspapers Online.