A good old Shropshire name

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As I have mentioned on this site’s About page (and elsewhere), Atcherley has been described as a “good old Shropshire name.” But exactly where and when did the name in fact originate?

According to the Internet Surname Database [1], Atcherley is likely to be one of several thousand surnames thought to originate from “lost villages” or settlements which no longer exist. This is certainly a possibility: while there are no villages or settlements in Shropshire today known as Atcherley, a catalogue of the Fine Rolls held by the National Archives includes a transcript of one dating back to 1403 which refers to “a virgate of land in Acheley, co. Salop, called ‘Hervyeslond’…” [2].

Acheley is one of several variants of the Atcherley name which were used mainly in and around Ludlow in south Shropshire. The parish registers from this part of the county in the 1500s and 1600s record the baptisms, marriages and burials of people with the surnames Achley, Atchly, Atchley, Atcheley, and Achelley in addition to the aforementioned Acheley [3]. Many of these names also occur in the parish registers of London during the same period, along with the occasional Atcherly [4]. It is in south Shropshire, however, where we find the name being used before the 1400s.

In an account of the Childe family of Kinlet, John Burke wrote of “Roger Baldwyn … known to have died in, or not long before, the year 1398″ [5]. Roger’s wife Jane “was daughter and heiress of William de Wigley, by Alice le Childe, whose great grandfather, John L’Enfant, or the Child, is stated to have married Emblema, the daughter and co-heir of Richard Acheley, the younger, of that place, a descendant of William Achilles, as the name is there written, who is found in the Testa de Nevill, of the reign of Henry III, to hold a tenth part of a Knight’s fee in Dodelebur, of the barony of Walter de Clifford.”

‘Dodelebur’ was the village and parish now known as Diddlesbury, situated some 10.5 km (6 miles or so) north of Ludlow. Henry III reigned from 1216 to until his death in 1272, so it appears that the origins of the name Atcherley go back to a time around 800 years ago, and possibly earlier. A good old Shropshire name indeed. Or is it?

The 13th Century spelling of the name – Achilles – suggests a possible derivation from the French name Achille. The Roger Baldwyn referred to above, who married the daughter of Richard Achelley (who was in turn a descendant of William Achilles), was himself believed to be a descendant of Bawdewyn, a companion of William the Conqueror [5]. Was the ancestor of the Atcherleys also a Norman invader or settler, rather than an ancient Salopian?

Read more in A good old Shropshire name, Part 2.


[1] The Internet Surname Database: Last name: Atcherley. [This source gives Atherley, Atherly, Atchly and Atterley as alternate spellings of the surname Atcherley, however I would dispute all but Atchley (which appears in parish registers of south Shropshire as noted above). Apart from an occasional transcription error, the names Atherly, Atherley and Atterley are rarely if ever found in older Shropshire records.]
[2] Public Records Office (1931), Calendar of the Fine Rolls preserved in the Public Record Office (A.D. 1399-1505). Page 211.
[3] Ancestry.co.uk: Shropshire, England, Extracted Parish Records.
[4] Ancestry.co.uk: London, England, Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1538-1812.
[5] John Burke (1836), A genealogical and heraldic history of the commoners of Great Britain and Ireland, enjoying territorial possessions or high official rank, but uninvested with heritable honours. Volume 3, page 196.


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