Bride and Joy: Celebrating an Atcherley marriage

The day on which “Minnie” Caroline Frances Amherst Stacey became a member of the Atcherley family was a very special occasion – and not just for Caroline and her new husband. In the Shropshire, Denbighshire and Flintshire villages where David Francis Atcherley was ‘squire’ there were feasts and festivities arranged for many of the local inhabitants. Saturday 10 February 1866 was a day which would long be remembered by landlord and labourer alike.

Although the marriage of Caroline and David took place at St. George’s church, Hanover Square, in London (pictured above), the ceremony was performed by the Reverend George Egerton, rector of the groom’s home parish of Middle. The bride, who was described as “beautiful and accomplished”, wore a diamond necklace, earrings and brooch and “was attired in a white satin dress trimmed with a rich deep flounce of Bruxelles point lace, the head dress being a veil of the same material, fastened by a wreath of orange blossoms.”

Caroline was attended to by ten bridesmaids: Miss Atcherley (possibly David’s youngest sister, Anne Eleanor), Miss Willoughby, Miss Daniel-Tyssen, Miss M. Daniel-Tyssen, Miss Amy Tyssen, Miss Rose Tyssen, Miss Tyssen Amhurst, Miss Stacey, Miss Walker and Miss Lawrence. Five of the bridesmaids wore “white tarlatan dresses trimmed with ruches of pink satin ribbon, the other five with blue satin ribbon, and bonnets of white tulle trimmed with narcissus and forget-me-not.” As the bride’s father had died some 13 years before, Caroline was given away by her first cousin, Mr William Amhurst Tyssen Amhurst, the High Sheriff of Norfolk (pictured above; he was born William Amhurst Daniel-Tyssen and in 1877 changed his surname for the second time, to Tyssen-Amherst). The best man was Sir Edward Hamilton, Baronet.

After the ceremony “the bridal cortege drove to the Palace Hotel, Buckingham Gate, where a magnificent breakfast was laid out in the noble dining room. The viands, dessert, and wines, were of the most recherché description”. Grace was said by the Reverend Egerton, “and the usual loyal, patriotic, and complimentary toasts were duly honoured.” William Tyssen Amhurst then proposed long life, health and prosperity to the bride and groom, who later departed for their honeymoon.

Confirmation of the marriage was received back at Baschurch in Shropshire by telegraph at one o’clock. Fog signals were then exploded at the village station to alert the residents of nearby Marton, in Middle parish. The church bells of Baschurch and Middle then “rung out merry peals, while, for the remainder of the day, hill and dale echoed with the sound of cannon firing.”

“In accordance with the expressed desire of the worthy squire”, arrangements had been made “for the participation of the humbler classes in the festivities incident to the occasion.” The Wrexham Advertiser reported:

Accordingly about two hundred men sat down to a substantial dinner on Saturday, laid out in the servants’ hall, which was tastefully decorated for the occasion by Messrs. Birch of Shrewsbury. Evergreens, flowers, mottoes, and devices, contributed to form a charming effect, hearty aspirations being breathed for the realisation of the principal motto—‘Long Life and Happiness to Mr and Mrs Atcherley.’ In connection with these decorations we must not omit mentioning a beautiful arch, bearing the significant word ‘Welcome,’ and tastefully embellished with flowers and evergreens.

The women of the parish were not excluded from the celebrations. On the Monday after the Atcherley marriage, the wives of the labourers of Middle and the surrounding area – nearly 1600 of them – were treated to tea in the servants’ hall. Then:

After tea they went to the grounds adjoining the hall, where races were run by the women for tea, tobacco for their husbands, &c., &c. In the meantime other sports were going on, such as football, &c., until dark, when all returned to the hall to engage themselves in the festive dance. The health of the squire and his beautiful bride were duly toasted; after which dancing was kept up until a late hour.

The festivities at Marton were echoed in other places with which the Atcherley family was connected. David Francis Atcherley owned land and mineral rights at Minera, Brymbo and Hope (situated to the west and northwest of Wrexham). The those places, the Atcherley nuptials were marked with the firing of cannons, the flying of flags and banners, and in some cases with the ringing of church bells, a bonfire, and fireworks.

There was food too, of course. At various places in Minera people “were regaled with bread and cheese and plenty of ewrw da” (probably cwrw da – good beer). Later in the day:

At half past three p.m., the children of the National School were regaled with a plentiful supply of tea and plum cake. The Hope drum and fife band and the Coedpoeth brass band were in attendance, who enlivened the evening by playing some choice and popular airs during the remainder of the day.

In the evening, David Francis Atcherley’s widowed mother Anne Margaret Atcherley (nee Topping), who at that time resided at Dee Side House in Chester, gave a “sumptuous dinner” at the Queen’s Head Inn, Coedpoeth (adjacent to Minera). After dinner had been eaten and the cloth removed, toasts were given, these being “interspersed by some capital songs”. The first toast was of course to The Queen.

After “other patriotic toasts, which were duly honoured and responded to” came those directed to the Atcherley family and those connected with them. “Long life and happiness to Mr and Mrs D. F. Atcherley,” was received with great cheering. Other toasts included “The health of Mrs Atcherley and Lady Hartland, of Dee Side House, Chester”, “The healths of Col. Atcherley, his wife, and child” (David’s brother, sister-in-law and nephew, then in Canada), and “Captain Atcherley” (David’s youngest brother, William). In all some 50 to 60 people – tenantry and friends – were involved in the proceedings.

At Brymbo “a number of good old English sports were started and carried on with great spirit” and in the afternoon “a number of gentlemen dined under the hospitable roof of Mr Edwards”. The feasting at Hope, meanwhile, took place  at the Red Lion Inn, where J. Sparrow, Esq. took the chair. Mr Sparrow’s main contribution to the evening was reported as follows:

In giving the toast of the evening, the Chairman said that he thought, from the little he had seen of Mr Atcherley since he came into possession of his property in that district, that he was a gentlemen desirous of doing his duty. Good landlords made good tenants. If a tenant had a good, liberal landlord, doing his duty in building, repairing, &c., the tenant would be more likely to do his duty in return. He hoped that the good feeling which had always existed between Mrs Atcherley and her tenants, would continue between them and Mr Atcherley. He had chosen a wife who would be an ornament to the society in which she was placed. He had great pleasure in giving ‘The healths of Mr and Mrs Atcherley.’ Might they live long and happy together, and never regret the step they had taken.

On Wednesday 18 April 1866, Mr and Mrs Atcherley returned home from their marriage tour. This, of course, was the subject of further public celebration. The newlyweds arrived by train at about 5 o’clock, and found that Baschurch Railway Station “had been gaily and profusely decorated with flags, banners, floral and evergreen arches, and other bridal favours”.

A great many of the couples’ tenantry and friends were in attendance, along with the school children of Baschurch and Middle. “To add to the general joy on the arrival at the station, the church bells rung out their merry music, and a brass band was also in attendance, which contributed its harmony to enhance the pleasure of the auspicious proceedings”. (The tower of Baschurch All Saints, from which the bells “rung out their merry music”, is pictured right.)

The private carriage in which the Atcherleys were taken home to Marton formed part of a procession, headed by the brass band which had played at the station. Following the band were the school children, with their flags and banners, and “the tenantry of the Marton Hall estate, mounted on horseback, riding two abreast”. Some of the latter rode “on either side of the carriage, acting as a guard of honour.”

After the arrival of the procession at Marton an address was given to the Atcherleys by the Reverend Egerton and the bride was presented with “a service of silver tea and coffee pot, sugar basin, and cream ewer, in rosewood case.” The assembled multitude was then “regaled with wine, ale, and sandwiches”.

A little over a year after the wedding of David and Caroline, Queen Victoria held a Court at Buckingham Palace. Among those who were presented to the Queen was “Mrs. Atcherley, on her marriage, by the Countess of Bradford”. By this time Caroline was well settled in her role as the wife of a landed gentleman. She had, for example, been one of the patrons of a bazaar held in aid of the Minera New Church (and had subscribed £5 towards the church fund).

Caroline had also performed at an amateur concert, held at Oswestry’s Victoria Rooms for the benefit of a local charity. Many more such performances were to follow. You may recall that on the occasion of her marriage, one gentleman has proclaimed that the new Mrs Atcherley “would be an ornament to the society in which she was placed.” She would prove to be a dazzling ornament indeed, and more besides. For Caroline Frances Amherst Atcherley possessed a “beautiful, silvery and highly cultivated voice”, one which she would use both for pleasure and for the benefit of many charitable causes.

Picture credits. St George’s church, Hanover Square: adapted from a public domain image from Wikimedia Commons. William Amhurst Tyssen Amhurst: adapted from a public domain image from Wikimedia Commons. Cannon: Adapted from an image on page 191 of A collection of ballads printed in London, taken from the British Library Flickr photostream; no known copyright restrictions. Baschurch All Saints: photo by the author.


[1] Marriage register of St George, Hanover Square, Middlesex, covering 1866. Entry for David Francis Atcherley and Caroline Frances Amherst Stacey. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Westminster Marriages. Marriage registered at St George Hanover Sq., March quarter 1866; volume 1a, page 429.
[2] The Wrexham Advertiser, issue 673, 17 Feb 1866, page 6. “Marriage of David Francis Atcherly, Esq., with Miss Minnie Caroline Frances Amhurst Stacey.”
[3] The Wrexham Advertiser, Saturday 28 Apr 1866, page 8. “Return of Mr and Mrs D. F. Atcherley, of Marton Hall, from their Marriage Tour.”
[4] Yorkshire Gazette, Saturday 30 March 1867, page 9. “The Queen’s Court.”
[5] Wrexham Advertiser, 3 Nov 1866, page 1. “A Bazaar”.
[6] Wrexham Advertiser, 9 Nov 1866, page 6. “Minera. New Parish Church.”
[7] Cheshire Observer, 12 Feb 1870, page 3. “St Aspah. … The Harmonic Society’s Concerts.”

Brothers in Arms: Four Atcherley siblings in World War One – Part 1

< More Atcherley stories from World War 1

The patriotic action of four brothers in joining the Royal Engineers should be a fine example to the young men of the city. These brothers are William Clive Atcherley, Clifford Robert Atcherley, Eric Graham Atcherley, and Major Cecil Atcherley. ‘These four brothers,’ says the medical recruiting officer,‘have all joined during the past fortnight. They are a credit to the force and to their parents.’ Seventy thousand men are still needed, and young men should not fail in their duty at this hour.  Coventry Evening Telegraph, 11 Sep 1914.

The four surviving sons of William Henry Atcherley and his wife Charlotte (nee Shakeshaft) were quick to answer the call to arms made when Britain went to war in 1914. Three of them enlisted with the Royal Engineers on the same day, 7 September 1914, receiving consecutive Regimental Service Numbers: 48160 Eric Graham Atcherley, 48161 Robert Clifford Atcherley (known as Cliff) and 48162 William Clive Atcherley (known as Clive). Major Cecil Atcherley (Major was his first name, not his rank!) followed suit within days, receiving Service Number 50174.

Service records (or more accurately, pension records) have survived for only one of these four brothers – Clive – and they have only come to light recently as a result of the excellent digitisation and indexing work carried out by Findmypast (his papers are missing from the WW1 Service and Pension records at Ancestry). Several other sources of information relating to the wartime service of William and his three brothers are also available. Together these provide insights into what happened to our Atcherley ‘brothers in arms’ during the war, their circumstances at the end the conflict – and even their working lives and leisure activities before they joined up.

Home for the Atcherley family when Britain entered the war was Broom Hall (or Broomhall) off Shirley Road in the Hall Green district of south-west Birmingham. Rate books and other records show that the family had moved there not long after the census of 1911, at which time 15 College Road in Moseley was where most of the family resided. The four Atcherley brothers, however, enlisted in the city of Coventry. This was where at least two of the boys were working, and perhaps lodging.

“E. Atcherley”, a tinsmith (Eric was a plumber’s assistant in 1911), was included in a Roll of Honour for Humber Ltd published in December 1914. The Roll for Charlesworth Bodies Ltd published the following month included “C. Atcherley” – almost certainly Cliff, who in 1911 was a cycle assistant. Clive, who had had been working as a coach builder since at least 1911, was employed by Austin Motor Company at Longbridge in Birmingham. I have yet to discover what employment Major was engaged in but I suspect that, despite being a chemist’s assistant in 1911, he too was working in the automotive industry by 1914.

The four Atcherley brothers also shared a love of cycling and athletics. On 24 Nov 1916 theBirmingham Daily Post reported: “There were four brothers Atcherley—Cliff, Clive, Eric and Major—who all belonged to both Sparkhill Harriers and the Midland Cycling and Athletic Club, and all have gained fame in the war.”

Although the brothers all apparently “gained fame” during the Great War (the Birmingham Daily Post gave only the briefest details of how one of the four achieved this), they did not all gain medals. For a long time I was puzzled as to why The National Archives held Medal Index Cards for Cliff, Eric and Major Atcherley, but not for Clive. The cards for Clive’s brothers show that the trio served in France, and that their “date of entry therein” was 26 August 1915. Surely Clive went with them? Perhaps his Medal Index Card was lost?

The release of William Clive Atcherley’s World War One service records by Findmypast answered my questions. Unlike his brothers, Clive did not serve in a theatre of war (which ruled out an award of the Victory Medal). In fact his entire period of service during the Great War was spent within Great Britain (overseas service was required for the British War Medal).

The fact that Clive did not serve overseas does not mean that he evaded danger. Quite the opposite was true, for it was in effect a war injury that preventing him from going to France with his brothers. That injury was not the last that Clive suffered. The service records of William Clive Atcherley reveal a fascinating tale.

A copy of Clive’s attestation form does not form part of his surviving WW1 records. Other forms do however give details of Clive’s circumstances at the time when he joined up. William Clive Atcherley, aged 29 years and 90 days, born at “Moretown” (Moortown) in Shropshire, a coach builder and wheelwright, attested at Coventry on 7 September 1914 and was mobilised the same day, serving with the Royal Engineers. He was at that time unmarried, his doctor was Dr. Gordon, of Stratford Road, Sparkhill, Birmingham, and his National Health Approved Society was the Prudential Assurance Company (Sparkhill branch).

Along with his brothers, Clive joined the 101st Field Company of the Royal Engineers. This company was initially part of the 32nd Division but on 1 February 1915 it transferred to the 23rd Division, then based at Shorncliffe, Kent. Clive had already been promoted to lance rank by this time, back on 17 November 1914, and he was promoted again, to Sergeant, on 12 April 1915.

At the end of May 1915 the 23rd Division moved to Bordon, Hampshire, but did Clive go with them? His records show that from 28 May 1915 he was with the No. 4 Depot Company of the Royal Engineers, but I have been unable to find out where that company was based. By 12 August it appears that he was in Lincolnshire, as his “Statement as to Disability” form includes the following brief but alarming statement: “Blinded at Bourne on 12th Augt 1915 result of Bomb explosion.”

Clive’s war records provide no further details of the accident or its effects, although there is a reference to him attending “Cambridge Eye Hospital” at Aldershot (presumably the Cambridge Military Hospital, pictured above). Fortunately, the Cycling Notes column in the Evening Despatch of 16 September 1915 fills in some of the gaps:

Sergeant Clive Atcherley, a member of the Royal Engineers and the Midland C. and A. C., who lately sustained severe injuries to his eyes owing to the untimely explosion of a practice bomb, asks me to gratefully thank the many friends who have written him such welcome letters, and to assure them that he is progressing favourably. He is out of hospital and home for a short leave of absence, and goes about cheerily, with the aid of a stick and a faithful hound who has ‘tumbled’ to the situation in quite an astonishing way. He hopes to be back again on service in a few weeks time, though his disappointment at being compelled to stay at home while his comrades went abroad was keen and deep. He speaks very highly of the skilful treatment he received, and his friends will be delighted to know that the accident did not disfigure him.

Sergeant Atcherley volunteered twelve months ago, with his three brothers, and they were all as fit as fiddles prior to the casualty. He is a cyclist of considerable repute, and a very popular member of the M.C. and A.C. and the Sparkhill Harriers. His friends will appreciate why he has not been able to answer their letters; hence his acknowledgement to some dozens of comrades.

It was rather more than a few weeks before Sergeant Atcherley was “back again on service”. On 9 December 1915 a report from the Medical Board of the Royal Engineers Depot at Newark declared him temporarily unfit for one month. It appears therefore that Clive returned to duty in January 1916. It was very likely because of ongoing problems with his eyes that Clive was never posted overseas. A medical examination on 12 January 1919 found that Clive was suffering from functional amblyopia, with a “marked latent divergence” in both eyes.

Clive was transferred from No. 4 Depot Company to No. 10 Depot Company, at Newark on Trent, Nottinghamshire on 12 August 1916. Just before this happened however, a rather more significant event had occurred. On 6 August, William Clive Atcherley and Winifred Mary Randle were married at St Mary the Virgin, Sellindge, Kent (pictured right). I would love to know where, when and in what circumstances the couple met. Winifred and Clive’s first child, Victor Clive Atcherley, was born in Kent on 10 May 1918.

From No. 10 Depot Company, Clive was transferred to D Company of the 3rd Reserve Battalion of the Royal Engineers, also based at Newark, on 7 October 1916. It was during Clive’s period of service with that Company that his second injury of World War One was sustained, as a result of a rather bizarre accident.

On 11 March 1918 Clive was run over by a roller, pulled by two horses, on a cricket field. He was admitted to the Military Hospital at Newark suffering from a contusion of the back. No bones were fractured, but for a while Clive suffered from some “bleeding from urethra and retention of urine.” He was discharged from hospital on 13 April 1918 and although fit for duty, he was still experiencing some pain on passing urine in 1919.

Clive’s final posting of the Great War, on 9 July 1918, was to the 553rd (Aberdeen) Works Company. On 20 February 1919 he was transferred to Class Z Army Reserve and returned home to Birmingham.

William Clive Atcherley would remain in Birmingham for many years, raising, with Winifred, two children – and running a successful coach (car body) building company for which he is still known today. That story must wait for another time. As must the conclusion of the stories of Clive’s brothers in arms, Cliff, Eric and Major, during World War One.

Picture credits. Kitchener “Wants You” poster: public domain image from Wikimedia Commons. Cambridge Military Hospital, Aldershot: public domain image from Wikimedia Commons. Sellindge St Mary the Virgin: photo © Copyright Julian P Guffog, taken from Geograph and adapted, used and made available for re-use under a Creative Commons licence.


[1] Coventry Evening Telegraph, 11 Sep 1914, page 2. “Coventry and the War.” Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[2] Coventry Evening Telegraph, 10 Sep 1914, page 2. “Recruiting in the City.” Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[3] British Army medal index cards 1914-1920 (The National Archives, Kew, series WO 372), cards for Robert Clifford Atcherley, Eric G Atcherley and Major C Atcherley. Copies viewed at Ancestry – British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920.
[4] War Office: Soldiers’ Documents from Pension Claims, First World War (The National Archives, Kew, series WO 364), documents for William Clive Atcherley. Copies viewed at Findmypast – British Army Service Records 1914-1920.
[5] Parish of Birmingham, Yardley Rating District. Poor Rate made the Second day of April, 1912. Acocks Green Ward. Number 1555. Occupier: Atcherley Wm Henry. Description of Property: Broomhall College Rd Moseley. Copy viewed at Ancestry – Birmingham, England, Rate Books, 1831-1913.
[6] 1911 census of England and Wales. Piece 18692, Schedule 256.
[7] Coventry Evening Telegraph, 2 Dec 1914, page 2. “Coventry and the War.” Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[8] Coventry Evening Telegraph, 8 Jan 1915, page 2. “Coventry and the War.” Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[9] Birmingham Daily Post, 24 Nov 1916, page 7. “Local Athletes and the Colours.” Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[10] The British Campaign Medals of WW1. At: The Long, Long Trail (website, accessed 4 April 2015).
[11] The 23rd Division in 1914-1918. At: The Long, Long Trail (website, accessed 4 April 2015).
[12] 101st Field Company, The Royal Engineers. At: The Wartime Memories Project – The Great War.
[13] Evening Despatch, 16 Sep 1915, page 6. “Cycling Notes.” Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[14] Marriage of William C Atcherley and Winifred M Randle registered at Elham, September quarter 1916; volume 2a, page 2459. Indexed at FamilySearch, Batch I03782-7, Film 1473767. Ref ID 152.
[15] Birth of Victor C Atcherley registered at Elham, June quarter 1918; volume 2a, page 1750; mother’s maiden name Randle.
[16] Death of Victor Clive Atcherley registered at Leicester C, September 1980; volume 6, page 1409; date of birth given as 10 May 1918.

The mothers of the Moortown Atcherleys

Moortown, in the Shropshire parish of Ercall Magna (or High Ercall), was home to several generations of one Atcherley family for a period of around 150 years. The ‘founding fathers’ of this line Atcherleys were Samuel (1687 – 1731) and his son John (1715 – 1750). It was however the wives of these two men who had the strongest connections with Moortown, and it was John’s wife in particular who ensured that their descendants settled in that place.

The first Atcherley who lived at Moortown was Elizabeth – though she did not actually bear that surname during her residence there. She became the wife of Samuel Atcherley on 30 November 1710, the nuptials taking place at the church of St Mary & All Saints in the village of High Ercall. (It is my custom to refer to the village as High Ercall, and to its parish as Ercall Magna.) As I have written in Samuel Atcherley’s true and perfect inventory (Part 1), Elizabeth was the widow of Samuel Roycroft. It was as that Samuel’s wife (and, for two and half years, as his widow) that Moortown had been Elizabeth’s home.

The venue for the wedding of “Samuel Roycraft of the Parish of High Arcol & Elizabeth Shelton”, on 7 December 1699, was Tettenhall in Staffordshire (nowadays part of Wolverhampton). This was Elizabeth’s home parish. The very next entry in the marriage register, dated exactly two months later on 7 February, was for John Shelton Junior of Compton and his bride Hester Bate. John was, I believe, Elizabeth’s brother (she mentioned him in her will), and he was evidently named after their father. The baptisms of both siblings took place at Tettenhall, John’s on 6 April 1677 and Elizabeth’s on 17 April 1677. In both cases their father was named as John Sheldon, and the family’s abode as Perton, but their mother was not named at all.

Tettenhall church, around 1796

Just as Samuel Atcherley was not Elizabeth’s first husband, so Elizabeth Shelton was not Samuel Roycroft’s first wife. The registers of High Ercall show the baptisms of three daughters of “Samuelis Roycroft de More” (or Moore) and “Janae” his wife (the cleric at the time wrote in Latin): “Maria” in 1691, “Eleanora” in 1693 and Hannah in 1695. Sadly, the register entry following that for Hannah’s baptism recorded the burial of her mother – “Jana uxor Samuelis Roycroft de More”. Jane was interred on Christmas Day 1695. Beneath these two entries the page was signed by the vicar and both church wardens, one of whom was the grieving Samuel Roycroft. Samuel himself was buried some 12 years later, on 11 May 1708. He was “of the Moor” and, his baptism having been recorded in the High Ercall register on 15 March 1665-6, he was 43 years old.

Elizabeth Roycroft, nee Shelton, was at this point left a widow, and a stepmother. In the latter role I suspect she had a part to play in matching her stepdaughters with suitable husbands, and that in one case at least she may have networked with her relatives back in Staffordshire. I say this because the register of Wrockwardine, Shropshire, shows that on 5 July 1710 “Mrs Elinor Roycroft of the Moor Town in the parish of Ercall Magna” wed “Mr John Allen of Tetenhall in ye County of Stafford”. Following their marriage, John and Eleanor Allen lived and raised their own family at Moortown. And within four months of that wedding Elizabeth Roycroft became Samuel Atcherley’s wife and went to live with him at Roden.

The Allen family remained at Moortown for quite some time, the High Ercall parish register recording the baptisms of many Allen children whose abode was “the Moor” (and variations of that name). John and Eleanor’s eldest son Samuel Allen married Elizabeth Humphries at Longden on Tern on 8 January 1738, and when this couple’s second son Richard Allen married Sarah Juckes at High Ercall on 5 November 1773, one of the witnesses who signed the register was John Atcherley. John was almost certainly living at Moortown at the time and was therefore a neighbour of Richard Allen. Let’s find out how John, and his Atcherley descendants, came to live there.

Elizabeth Atcherley, formerly Roycroft, nee Shelton, had spent her married life with Samuel Roycroft as a stepmother to three girls. After her marriage to Samuel Atcherley however, she gave birth to a child of her own. John Atcherley, Samuel and Elizabeth’s only child, was baptised on 15 March 1714-15 at High Ercall. Of this John Atcherley I know little beyond the following facts: he was married to Elizabeth Wood at Stoke upon Tern in Shropshire on 20 July 1736, and he was buried at High Ercall on 27 December 1750.

Thankfully, there is much more information available in respect of John’s wife Elizabeth Atcherley, nee Wood, thanks to Brooke Robinson’s 1896 publication Genealogical memoirs of the family of Brooke Robinson of Dudley, together with the kindred families of Wood, Hector, Brooke, Persehouse, Saffery, and Johnson. The author gave the following excellent reasons for going into print:

From Brooke Robinson we learn that Elizabeth was a daughter of Robert Wood of Rowton in the parish of Ercall Magna, who was in turn a son of William Wood:

WILLIAM WOOD, the son, at one period resident at Waters Upton, the adjacent parish to Rowton, but later at Rowton, his name as churchwarden in 1707 appearing on one of the church bells of High Ercall, died in April 1709, having married Elizabeth, sister to Thomas Adams of Newport, wheelwright, who after his death returned to Waters Upton, and by whom he left an only surviving son. ROBERT WOOD, this surviving son, in the earlier years of his life lived on a small property at Rowton, called the Cross Pavement. About 1718, however, he took the Moor Town Farm in High Ercall, on lease from the then Earl of Bradford; where he died in November, 1727. Administration being subsequently taken out in the Court of Lichfield; the value of his estate amounting to £660 1s. 1d., the lease of the farm being estimated at £150 value; the farmhouse comprising a hall, two parlours, kitchen, dairy and bakehouse, with five bed rooms over, a very fair house for the period.

The description of Robert Wood’s farmhouse at Moortown is a great find, for this was the future home of the Atcherley family. In a footnote, Brooke Robinson stated that “This house was taken down in 1844 and a new one erected in its place.”

Robert Wood, we are told, was married twice, and Elizabeth was borne of his second wife Margaret. Her baptismal entry in the High Ercall register reads: “Elisabeth daughter of Robert Wood Junr. of the Cross Pavement in Rowton & Margaret his wife was Baptized on the Twelfth day of March” in 1713-14. Elizabeth’s brother Thomas Wood took possession of the farm at Moortown. He married, but had no children.  Brooke Robinson provides the following transcription of Thomas’s gravestone at High Ercall:


As for Elizabeth, we are provided with the following information:

ELIZABETH, the only surviving daughter of Robert Wood, married ——— Atcherley of a family long settled at High Ercall and the neighbouring parishes, who pre-deceased her, after his death residing with her brother, Thomas Wood, at the Moor Town, in the tenancy of which she succeeded him and where she has been successively followed by her son John Atcherley, her grandson Samuel Atcherley, her great grandson Robert Atcherley, and now by her great great grandson the present occupier, Mr. William Henry Atcherley, on her death being interred at High Ercall, where, on the northern side of the churchyard amidst various tombs of her husband’s family is a headstone inscribed:—


From this we can see that it was Elizabeth’s son John Atcherley who witnessed the marriage of his neighbour Richard Allen in 1773.

The transcript of the monumental inscription above, from a gravestone “amidst various tombs” of the Atcherley family buried at High Ercall prior to the 20th century, is unique. This is because the Atcherley gravestones and monuments familiar to Brooke Robinson were among the great many which were removed from the graveyard many years ago. The information they bore went with them into oblivion. The inscription for Elizabeth – the second of two Elizabeth Atcherleys who played a key role in establishing the Atcherley family at Moortown – is the only one for which a record remains.

The church of St Mary & All Saints, High Ercall

Picture credits. Tettenhall church: from an illustration on page 97 of A History of the parish of Tettenhall, in the county of Stafford, taken from the British Library’s Flickr photostream; no known copyright restrictions. Extract from Genealogical memoirs of the family of Brooke Robinson of Dudley: from digital copy of the book, which was published in 1896 and is therefore out of copyright. The church of St Mary & All Saints, High Ercall:photo by the author.


[1] High Ercall, Shropshire, parish register covering 1710. Entry for marriage of Samuel Atcherley and Elisabeth Roycroft. Copies viewed at Shropshire Archives and Findmypast. Indexed at FamilySearch, Batch M00896-1, Film 0908238 IT 1.
[2] Tettenhall, Staffordshire, parish register covering marriages in 1699-1700. Entries for marriages of Samuel Roycroft to Elizabeth Shelton, and of John Shelton to Hester Bate. Copies viewed at Findmypast – Staffordshire Marriages.
[3] Tettenhall, Staffordshire, parish register covering 1675. Entry for John Sheldon. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Staffordshire Baptisms.
[4] Tettenhall, Staffordshire, parish register covering 1677. Entry for Elizabeth Sheldon. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Staffordshire Baptisms.
[5] Will of Elizabeth Acherley / Atcharley of Sowbatch. Proved 30 Apr 1730. Copy from Lichfield Record Office, reference B/C/11. Indexed (as Elizabeth Atcherley of Lawbatch) at Staffordshire Name Indexes.
[6] High Ercall, Shropshire, parish register covering 1691. Entry for baptism of Maria Roycroft. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Shropshire Baptisms.
[7] High Ercall, Shropshire, parish register covering 1693. Entry for baptism of Eleanora Roycroft. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Shropshire Baptisms.
[8] High Ercall, Shropshire, parish register covering 1695. Entry for baptism of Hannah Roycroft. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Shropshire Baptisms.
[9] High Ercall, Shropshire, parish register covering 1695. Entry for burial of Jana Roycroft. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Shropshire Burials.
[10] High Ercall, Shropshire, parish register covering 1708. Entry for burial of Samuel Roycroft. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Shropshire Burials.
[11] High Ercall, Shropshire, parish register covering 1665-6. Entry for baptism of Samuel Ryecroft. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Shropshire Burials.
[12] Wrockwardine, Shropshire, parish register covering 1710. Entry for marriage of Allen to Elinor Roycroft. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Shropshire Marriages.
[13] High Ercall, Shropshire, parish register covering 1713. Entry for baptism of Samuel Allen, parents John and Eleanor Allen. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[14] Longden on Tern, Shropshire, parish register covering 1738. Entry for marriage of Samuel Allen and Elizabeth Humphries. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[15] High Ercall, Shropshire, parish register covering 1745. Entry for baptism of Richard Allen, parents Samuel and Elizabeth Allen. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[16] High Ercall, Shropshire, marriage register covering 1773. Entry for Richard Allen and Sarah Juckes. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[17] High Ercall, Shropshire, parish register covering 1714/15. Entry for baptism of John Atcherley. Copy viewed at Findmypast. Abstract in Shropshire Parish Register Society (1935), Shropshire Parish Registers, Diocese of Lichfield, volume XX; High Ercall, volume I, viewed at Shropshire Archives. Indexed at FamilySearch, Batch P00896-1, Film 908238.
[18] Stoke upon Tern, Shropshire, parish register (Bishops Transcript?) covering 1736. Entry for marriage of Jon. Atcherly and Eliz. Wood. Indexed at FamilySearch, Batch M06146-2, Film 501811.
[19] High Ercall, Shropshire, parish register covering 1750. Entry for burial of John Atcherley. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Shropshire Burials.
[20] Brooke Robinson (1896), Genealogical memoirs of the family of Brooke Robinson of Dudley, together with the kindred families of Wood, Hector, Brooke, Persehouse, Saffery, and Johnson. Digital copy downloaded from FamilySearch.
[21] High Ercall, Shropshire, parish register covering 1713-14. Entry for baptism of Elisabeth Wood. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Shropshire Baptisms.

The mystery of the missing Militia man

Shrewsbury, August 8th, 1809. WHEREAS Mr. JAMES ATCHERLEY, of Princess-street, Shrewsbury, Jeweller and Cutler, left his dwelling house in the night of 4th day of July last, without informing his family or friends of his leaving the same, and he hath not been heard of since:—a REWARD of TEN GUINEAS will be paid to the first person who shall give information at the Bank of Messrs. Rowton and Morhall, Shrewsbury, where the said Mr. James Atcherley now resides and may be met with; the said reward to be paid as soon as he is discovered with certainty to be the person now advertised for. Chester Chronicle, 11 Aug 1809.

Baptised at Baschurch, Shropshire, on 26 March 1784, James Atcherley was the last of six sons born to gentleman farmer Thomas Atcherley and his wife Hannah (nee Cureton) of Stanwardine. At the time of James’s birth Thomas Atcherley was aged 59, and had only 12 more years to live. He died on 7 April 1796, aged 71, having made a will in which he left his lands and property to his two oldest sons, and £400 apiece to his four youngest. James was to receive his inheritance on reaching his 21st birthday, and he was to receive the interest on it in the meantime.

In the year before the death of Thomas Atcherley, his fourth son William had been apprenticed to John and Edward Hughes, a firm of ironmongers in Shrewsbury. After Thomas’s death, his widow Hannah set about arranging apprenticeships for the couple’s two youngest boys, Edward and James. Edward was apprenticed for 7 years to “Wm. Grifiths” of Wem, a mercer, on 28 May 1796. James Atcherley was placed, at a cost of £42, with Messrs Richards & Morris of Shrewsbury, “Cuttlers”, with whom he started his 7 years on 13 June 1796.

Given that James was a jeweller and cutler in 1809, we might assume that he completed his apprenticeship. There is however evidence which indicates that, at the very least, his time with Richard & Morris was interrupted. On 13 July 1801 at the age of 17, “James Atcharley” of “Basschurch” enlisted at Wellington, Shropshire with the 1st Foot Guards (which in 1815 became the Grenadier Guards).

The fact that James enlisted with the Foot Guards and completed an attestation form does not necessarily mean that he served with that unit for a particular period of time. Barbara Chambers, who has researched the relevant documents, says: “There are attestations for men who only briefly served in the Regiment often only days”. Whatever the length of his service with the Foot Guards, James’ was evidently keen to return to military service afterwards and play his part in defending Britain from the French. (See also An Officer and a Gentleman: Roger (or Rowland) Atcherley.)

On Christmas Eve 1808, James Atcherley, Gent., became an Ensign in Shropshire’s Centre Regiment of Local Militia. The confirmation of this printed in the London Gazette of 20 June 1809 (see above) was almost certainly a correction of an earlier notice, in the Gazetteof 15 April 1809, which incorrectly named James as “John Atcherley”. Regiments of Militia had existed in Shropshire (and elsewhere) for some time, but the Centre Regiment of Local Militia was, as far as I can tell, formed as a result of an Act of Parliament passed in 1808. Robert Holden, in his Historical Record of the Third and Fourth Battalions of the Worcestershire Regiment (published 1887), wrote about the creation of Local Militias as follows:

In June an Act (48 Geo. iii. c. 3) was passed ‘for enabling His Majesty to establish a permanent Local Militia Force under certain restrictions, for the Defence of the Realm;’ by which a force six times the size of the Regular Militia of the kingdom was obtained by ballot, consisting of men between the ages of eighteen and thirty, who were enrolled for four years, no substitutes being allowed.

One of the chief reasons for the establishment of the Local Militia was, as was well known at the time, the feeling on the part of the authorities that no reliance could be placed on the volunteer force which was then in existence, and had been since the threatened invasion of the country in 1803. Volunteering at that time, though in many cases very hearty and patriotic, was at best never anything else than playing at soldiering. The members of the various corps were only civilians in uniform. Discipline was very imperfect, and at any fancied affront a man gave in his musket and walked off. […] the volunteers of nearly every county transferred their services to the Local Militia, and regiments were formed strictly under the articles of war.

Although the Local Militia required men to serve for four years, this was not four years of continuous military service. Militia men continued to undertake their regular employment, but were required to undertake periods of training. Those not attending were, unless “labouring under any Infirmity incapacitating him”, regarded as deserters. Such deserters were required to pay a forfeit of £20 immediately or “be committed to the Common Gaol, there to remain, without Bail or Mainprize, for the Space of Six Months” or until such time as they paid the sum forfeited.

So it was that James Atcherley combined military service with his career as a jeweller and cutler. He did not do so for long however. As we have seen, in July 1809 James left his home without informing his family or friends. He was still missing a month later, prompting the notice which was published not only in the Chester Chronicle on 11 August, but also in The Times of 18 August. The notice concluded:

Mr. James Atcherley is about 25 years of age, 5 feet nine inches high, strong made, and fair complexion. If Mr. James Atcherley should see this advertisement, his relations hope that he will write to them immediately.

It would appear that, eventually, James did make contact. The career he had pursued in Shrewsbury was over though. The Salopian Journal of 14 February 1810 carried the following notice:

THE Creditors of Mr. JAMES ATCHERLEY, late of Princess-street, Shrewsbury, Jeweller and Cutler, may receive their Debts on applying to Mr. WILLIAM ATCHERLEY, Ironmonger, or Mr. ASTERLEY, solicitor, in Shrewsbury aforesaid ; and all persons who stand indebted to the said James Atcherley, are requested to pay such Debts immediately to Mr. ATCHERLEY, or they will be proceeded against for the Recovery thereof.
Shrewsbury, Feb. 8, 1810.

The reason for James’s mysterious disappearance is unclear. It seems obvious that he did not wish to continue running his business, but he could have ceased trading without ‘running away from home.’ The pressures which may have driven James away from Shrewsbury – or the attraction that may have lured him elsewhere – will likely always be a matter for speculation.

And while we are speculating, why did James leave the Shropshire Centre Regiment of Local Militia and then join the Worcestershire Regiment of Militia in 1810? His Commission as an Ensign in the latter regiment was signed on 17 April. It may be that James wanted to be a full time rather than a part time soldier, as the Worcestershire Militia was a Regular rather than a Local unit. He may also have desired a change of scenery. As the regiment was then based at Portsea Barracks in Hampshire, that is exactly what he got.

The Worcestershire Regiment of Militia had been based at Portsea Barracks since at least the beginning of 1810, but on 26 May that year all ten companies moved to Four House Barracks in St Nicholas Street, Portsmouth. Then on 8 October the regiment marched to Portchester (then known as Porchester), where it did duty guarding the French prisoners of war held at the castle there (see image below). To return to Robert Holden’s account of the Worcestershire Militia: “At this period there were about 47,600 French prisoners in England, while 10,300 English languished in the prisons of France.”

The regiment was still at Portchester in May 1811, when a number of the prisoners attempted to escape. Six managed to scale the castle walls, but three of those were captured in the act and the other three were recaptured soon afterwards.

At the end of June 1811 the regiment left Portchester for Weymouth, Dorset, where the men remained until the end of July. Its ten companies then split up and moved to various towns in Somerset, before converging on Bristol at the end of August. There they remained until the end of March 1812 when, along with the Denbigh Regiment of Militia, the Worcester regiment headed back to Portsmouth and Portsea Barracks.

By this time James Atcherley was a Lieutenant, having been promoted to that rank on 23 July 1811 (oddly, the London Gazette recorded this event as taking place two years later). He was also a married man, his wedding to Mary Dixon taking place at the church of St Lucia in the bride’s home parish of Upton Magna, Shropshire on 7 November 1811. It seems that James had finally settled, albeit into a way of life which meant he was regularly on the move. There would be no more mysterious disappearances, but there would be a long and at times eventful military career – including service in France at the conclusion of the Peninsula War.

The church of St Lucia, Upton Magna. Click on the image to view at Geograph.

Picture credits. Extract from London Gazette, issue 16268, 20 Jun 1809, page 909 used under the Open Government Licence v2.0. Portchester Castle: image from The Graphic and Historical Illustrator, volume I, page 260, published 1834 and therefore out of copyright. The church of St Lucia, Upton Magna: photo © Copyright Geoff Pick, taken from Geograph and adapted, used and made available for re-use under a Creative Commons licence.


[1] Chester Chronicle, 11 Aug 1809, page 2. Also published 25 Aug 1809, page 1.
[2] Baschurch, Shropshire parish register covering 1784. Entry for James Atcherley. Copy viewed at Findmypast. Transcript viewed at Shropshire Archives. Indexed at FamilySearch, Batch C03390-1, Film 510651.
[3] MIs at Baschurch All Saints (3): In Respectful Memory of THOMAS ATCHERLEY of Stanwardine in the Fields who departed this Life April 7th 1796 Aged 71 Years.
[4] Transcript of will of Thomas Atcherley of Stanwardine in the Fields, proved 20 Oct 1797, from copy obtained from Lichfield Record Office, by Barbara Lang.
[5] The National Archives, Kew, item references IR 1/67 page 159 and IR 1/68 pages 32 – 33 (Board of Stamps: Apprenticeship Books). Copies viewed at Ancestry – Register of Duties Paid for Apprentices’ Indentures, 1710-1811.
[6] Regimental Archives of the Grenadier Guards: 1st Foot Guards Attestation papers, volume R194. Abstracted information from page 225 on James Atcharley, by Barbara Chambers, viewed at Findmypast.
[7] Barbara Chambers (undated), 1st Foot Guards Research. At: British Army Research Napoleonic Wars (website, viewed 29 Mar 2015).
[8] London Gazette, issue 16268, 20 Jun 1809, page 909.
[9] London Gazette, issue 16247, 15 Apr 1809, page 523.
[10] Robert Holden (1887), Historical Record of the Third and Fourth Battalions of the Worcestershire Regiment.
[11] Jacqui Reiter (2013), The Local Militia Act of 1808. At: English Historical Fiction Authors (website, accessed 29 Mar 2015).
[12] The Salopian Journal, 25 Mar 1812, page 1.
[13] The Times, issue 7752, 18 Aug 1809, page 1.
[14] The Salopian Journal, issue 838, 14 Feb 1810, page 2.
[15] London Gazette, issue 16442, 8 Jan 1811, page 57.
[16] J Davis (1810), The Royal Military Chronicle. Volume 1, No. 1, page 323. Copy viewed at Google Books.
[17] London Gazette, issue 16819, 30 Nov 1813, page 2409.
[18] Upton Magna, Shropshire, marriage register covering 1811. Entry for James Atcherley and Mary Dixon. Copies viewed at Shropshire Archives and Findmypast. Indexed at FamilySearch, Batch M04773-1, Film 0510680 IT 5, 503536.
[19] The Salopian Journal, issue 930, 20 Nov 1811, page 2. “MARRIED. … At Upton Magna, Lieutenant J. Atcherley, of the Worcester regiment of Militia, to Miss Mary Dixon, of Haughton.”

Roy Atcherley Vosper’s World War One

< More Atcherley stories from World War 1

Updated 7 March 2015.

The name Atcherley, mentioned in connection with flying, usually brings to mind Richard and David Atcherley of the RAF. There was however another bearer of the name who beat the famous flying twins into the air, and into battle, back in the days before the RAF even existed. Though Atcherley was not his surname he was a distant cousin of Richard and David, and his life in the air was, like theirs, not without incident.

A reconstructed FE2B, like that flown by Roy Atcherley Vosper during World War One.

When Rose Goldup Atcherley was born in 1871 she was given her mother’s maiden surname as a ‘middle name’. 25 years later in 1896 Rose married a man who had received his second forename in the same manner: Harry O’Donoghue Vosper. So we can, at least in part, understand why Rose and Harry’s son was called Roy Atcherley Vosper.

Roy was born on 4 October 1898 at Brighton in Sussex. He was Rose and Harry Vosper’s only child, for within a few months of his birth Rose passed away at the age of 27. Harry married again in 1902, to Norah Eleanor Broomfield. Norah presented the family with a daughter, Kathleen O’Donoghue Vosper, in 1903, by which time the Vospers were living at Ashford in Kent.

Harry Vosper’s job in brewing took him, with his wife and children, back to his home town of Plymouth. The 1911 census shows Harry, Norah, Roy and Kathleen living there at 109 Mount Gold Road. Harry, now a brewer’s manager, could afford to employ a live-in domestic servant.

It seems likely that Harry was then, as he was in September 1916, West of England Manager for Samuel Allsopp & Son Ltd. Within five years of the 1911 census being taken, the Vosper family had moved out of Plymouth to Furze Croft at nearby Elburton. Meanwhile Roy Vosper, now aged almost 18, had completed his education at Plymouth College and was working as a junior clerk for Anglo-American Oil Co Ltd. He had also been training with the Plymouth OTC (Officer Training Corps) for two years. All this information was provided by Roy on Army Form B.2512 – the Short Service Attestation form completed by those enlisting with the Army. The Great War was still raging, and Roy was determined to do his duty.

Initially posted to the Army Reserve as a Private, Roy Atcherley Vosper joined the Inns of Court OTC on 29 December 1916 (rank Private, service number 10263). Roy had set his sights on a higher rank however and on 6 March 1917 he completed form M.T.393A, an application for admission to an Officer Cadet Unit. His preference was to serve with the Infantry, his unit of choice being the Royal Sussex Regiment. The suitability of his “moral character” and education having been certified by the acting Head Master of Plymouth College, and his fitness for military service being confirmed by an army medic, Roy’s form was despatched to the War Office on 12 March 1917.

Over the course of the following month, something inspired Roy to aim even higher – in a very literal sense. On 9 April 1917 he signed another M.T.393A form, in which he stated that his preference was to join the Royal Flying Corps. To the statement confirming that he was fit for military service, the following words were now added: in accordance with theSpecial Standards of fitness for the Royal Flying Corps, recommended by the Royal Flying Corps Medical Board.

Quickly accepted by the RFC (the cap badge of which is shown above), Roy was attached to its School of Military Aeronautics at Reading. He was discharged from the Inns of Court OTC “on being appointed to Commission in the General List (RFC)” on 16 May 1917. This appointment was published in the London Gazette just over three weeks later:

War Office,
9th June, 1917.
The undermentioned cadets to be temp. 2nd Lts. (on prob.) : —
General-List (R.F.C.)
17th May 1917. …
Roy Atcherley Vosper. …

Roy was ‘Gazetted’ again on 26 October 1917, with a notice that he had been confirmed in his rank of 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Flying Corps with effect from 29 September. A little over three months after the successful completion of his probationary period, on 6 January 1918, Roy embarked on a ship along with 23 other officers of the RFC’s 58 Squadron to join Britain’s Expeditionary Force in Europe. More officers from the squadron, including Major J H S Tyssen, left by air to join these men four days later.

On 1 April 1918 the Royal Air Force when it was formed from the RFC and the Royal Naval Air Service, creating the world’s first independent – and at that time its largest – air force. Roy Atcherley Vosper became a part of this new fighting force, as a full Lieutenant. It was however as a 2nd Lieutenant that Roy was, on the very day the RAF was established, recorded as being involved in an accident in which his fellow officer Lt H C Hyde was injured. His plane, an FE2b, had undershot and struck a ridge on landing after taking part in a bombing raid near Douai.

The life of an RFC/RAF pilot during the Great War was perilous and often short, but Roy somehow survived – even when he was captured by the enemy. By the summer of 1918 he was a Lieutenant with 149 Squadron and was again conducting bombing raids, at night, over occupied France. After carrying out one such raid on 18 July 1918, piloting FE2B serial number D3779 and accompanied by a Lieutenant A Smith, he failed to return to base and was reported as missing.

Lieutenant Roy Atcherley Vosper’s FE2B was one of nearly 140 British aircraft which the Germans claimed as having fallen into their hands on the Western Front during the month of July 1918. The other machines were 14 Sopwith single-seaters, 1 Sopwith two-seater, 40 Sopwith Camels (single-seaters), 9 Sopwith Dolphins (single-seaters), 1 Bristol, 2 Handley-Pages, 1 “large fighter” (Groszkampfflugzeug), 27 S.E.5 single-seaters, 20 D.H.4. two-seaters, 1 D.H.5 single-seater,  5 D.H. 9 two-seaters, 14 B.F. two-seaters and 1 R.E. This list shows something of the variety of aeroplanes the RAF was using as part of the war effort, and also gives an indication of their vulnerability. The photo below shows an FE2B after its capture by German forces.

At first, Roy’s fate was unknown. The Roll of Honour published on 12 August 1918 included him among the men listed as missing. The first of two casualty cards created by the RAF in connection with Roy’s disappearance included the words “No news” in the Remarks column, and underneath, in pencil, was written “Is he alive”. He was. A further Roll of Honour published on 21 September 1918 included Vosper, Lieut. R. A. in the list of those who were “Previously Missing, now reported Prisoners.”

Roy’s capture by German forces had been publicised by them in their French-language ‘newspaper’ Gazette des Ardennes on 26 July. This showed that he had been brought down unwounded on 19 July 1918. The news was communicated to Roy’s family by the Red Cross on 13 August. I imagine they were very relieved to learn that Roy was alive, but also more than a little concerned that he was in enemy hands.

In October 1918 it emerged that Roy had been captured at south-west Armentieres in France, and that he had been transferred from Karlsruhe to Landshut. This information was taken from a document supplied by the Germans, which showed Roy’s “Off. Gef. Lager” (Gefangenen Lager: prison camp) as Karlsruhe, but with that place crossed through in red and with Landshut written, also in red, above the entry. The POW camp at Landshut, in Bavaria, was a castle: the prisoners were confined within the grooms’ quarters. Whether Roy was present, or took part, when an attempt to dig an escape tunnel was made (only to be discovered by the Germans on 8 September 1918), I do not know.

By the middle of November 1918 Roy had been transferred to another camp, at Kamstigall, near Pillau. Then in East Prussia, Kamstigall now lies within Russia and is known as Baltiysk. Roy and the other British officers held there were repatriated to Leith, in Scotland, aboard the SS Russ. Arriving there on 13 December 1918, Roy was probably sent to a reception camp in Ripon, Yorkshire, before being allowed home.

The Great War was over, but Roy Atcherley Vosper’s career in the Royal Air Force was not. With effect from 12 September 1919 he was granted a short service Commission as a Flying Officer. Another RAF casualty card recorded that Roy received slight injuries on 22 September 1920, while conducting  a radiator test during a reconnaissance flight up to an altitude of 10,000 feet. Roy was then with 31 Squadron in India and flying a Bristol Fighter, registration number F4424. It was recorded that the incident was “Not due to negligence or misconduct” on Roy’s part.

Roy was injured again on 15 October 1921. Still with 31 Squadron, he was again flying a Bristol Fighter (E2334), which he was ferrying “from Cawnpore to Peshawar”. This incident, according to a note written on the casualty card in red ink, was “Recorded under ‘casual flying’”. Roy was promoted one more time, to the rank of Flight Lieutenant, with effect from 1 July 1926, but on 12 September that year he was transferred to the Reserve. He finally relinquished his Commission on completing his service on 12 September 1930, and was permitted to retain his rank.

Although his exploits in the air have been overshadowed by those of his better-known relatives, Richard and David Atcherley, Roy Atcherley Vosper deserves recognition as one of the first officers of the RAF, who risked his life for his country in the skies above the Western Front.

Picture credits. Reconstructed FE2B: photo by Philip Capper; taken from Wikimedia Commons, adapted and used under a Creative Commons licence. Captured FE2B: public domain (copyright expired) image taken from Wikimedia Commons. Royal Flying Corps cap badge: photo by CharlesC; taken from Wikimedia Commons, adapted, used and made available for re-use under a Creative Commons licence.


[1] Birth of Rose Goldup Atcherley registered at Islington, September quarter 1871; volume 1b, page 337.
[2] Marriage of Harry O’Donoghue Vosper and Rose Goldup Atcherley registered at Brighton, September quarter 1896; volume 2b, page 343.
[3] Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, Devonport, Devon baptism register. Entry dated 3 Jun 1875 for Harry O Donoghue Vosper, parents Amos and Charlotte Vosper. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[4] Marriage of Amos Vosper and Charlotte O’Donoghue registered at Stoke Damerel, September quarter 1873; volume 5b, page 533.
[5] Birth of Roy Atcherley Vosper registered at Steyning, December quarter 1898; volume 2b, page 273.
[6] The National Archives, Kew, item reference WO 339/86168 (2/Lieutenant Roy Atcherley VOSPER Royal Flying Corps). Indexed at TNA Discovery catalogue. Information transcribed from digital photos supplied by Lee Richards of Arcre, to whom I extend my grateful thanks.
[7] Death of Rose Goldup Vosper registered at Brighton, March quarter 1899; volume 2b, page 168; age given as 27.
[8] Marriage of Harry O’Donoghue Vosper and Norah Eleanor Bloomfield registered at Rye, March quarter 1902; volume 2b, page 14.
[9] Birth of Kathleen O’Donoghue Vosper registered at West Ashford, June quarter 1903; volume 2a, page 925.
[10] 1911 census of England and Wales. Piece 12972, schedule 127. Head: Harry Vosper, 38, married, brewer’s manager, born Devonport, Devon. Wife: Norah Vosper, 32, married, born Burgess Hill, Sussex. Son: Roy Vosper, 12, born Brighton, Sussex. Dau: Kathleen Vosper, 7, born Ashford, Kent. Servant: Annie Gowland, 17, single, general domestic servant, born Dover, Kent.
[11] London Gazette, issue 30123, 9 Jun 1917, page 5716.
[12] London Gazette, issue 30352, 26 Oct 1917, page 11010.
[13] The National Archives, Kew, embarkation lists for RFC officers held within correspondence files from AIR 1/362 to AIR 1/407. Details from database at, Royal Flying Corps People Index.
[14] Air Force List, April 1919, column 354. Copy viewed at National Library of Scotland website.
[15] The National Archives, Kew, item reference AIR 1/854 (casualty report). Details from database at, Royal Flying Corps People Index.
[16] Royal Air Force. At: Wikipedia (website, accessed 22 Feb 2015).
[17] No. 149 Squadron RAF. At: Wikipedia (website, accessed 22 Feb 2015).
[18] Royal Air Force Museum item ID OC0244669, object CC2_24585 (Casualty Card, R. A. Vosper. Copy viewed at RAF Museum StoryVault.
[19] Flight & The Aircraft Engineer, No. 512, 17 Oct 1918, page 1169. Copy viewed at Flight Global Archive.
[20] Flight & The Aircraft Engineer, No. 503, 15 Aug 1918, page 910. Copy viewed atFlight Global Archive.
[21] Flight & The Aircraft Engineer, No. 509, 26 Sep 1918, page 1087. Copy viewed at Flight Global Archive.
[22] Prisoners of the First World War, ICRC Historical Archives (website): Index cards for R. A. Vosper.
[23] Prisoners of the First World War, ICRC Historical Archives (website): item P.A. 37206.
[24] Amanda Rebbeck (2008), Tunnelling to freedom. In: Wartime, issue 44, pages 64–65. Electronic copy viewed online at Australian War Memorial website.
[25] Peter F Robinson (2008), Ernest Maxwell Robinson. At: Ninety Years of Remembrance (BBC website, accessed 22 Feb 2015).
[26] Kamstigall Repatriation. At: Great War Forum (website, accessed 22 Feb 2015).
[27] German P.O.W. Camps. At: Great War Forum (website, accessed 22 Feb 2015).
[28] Royal Air Force Museum item ID OC0244670, object CC2_24586 (Casualty Card, R. A. Vosper). Copy viewed at RAF Museum StoryVault.
[29] London Gazette, issue 31548, 12 Sep 1919, page 11469.
[30] Royal Air Force Museum item ID OC0244671, object CC2_24587 (Casualty Card, R. A. Vosper). Copy viewed at RAF Museum StoryVault.
[31] Royal Air Force Museum item ID OC0244672, object CC2_24588 (Casualty Card, R. A. Vosper). Copy viewed at RAF Museum StoryVault.
[32] London Gazette, issue 33178, 2 Jul 1926, page 4324.
[33] London Gazette, issue 33202, 17 Sep 1926, page 6035.
[34] London Gazette, issue 33660, 11 Nov 1930, page 7179.

Constant companions? The Misses Mary Cureton Atcherley

I have not found a baptism record for Mary Cureton Atcherley, daughter of William Atcherley and his wife Mary (Cureton). However the ages given for Mary on census returns and on her death all indicate that she was born in 1810-11. The census returns, from 1841 to 1881, are consistent in one other respect too: they all show one of Mary’s nieces living with her, a niece who was also named Mary Cureton Atcherley.

The life of the elder Mary Cureton Atcherley began with an unusual event which was soon followed by tragedy. The unusual event was the birth of twins, of which Mary was one. Mary and Hannah were the fifth and sixth children born to William and Mary Atcherley. Any celebrations that attended these additions to the Atcherley family of Mardol in Shrewsbury were, unfortunately, short-lived.  What happened next is recorded in an inscription on the family’s upright tomb chest in the graveyard of Baschurch All Saints:

SACRED to the Memory of MARY Wife of WILL ATCHERLEY of SHREWSBURY and Daughter of THO and MARY CURETON of Hordley in this County

She died Octr 4th 1810 in the 30th year of her Age.

HANNAH their Infant Daughter died Feby 24th 1811 aged 7 Months; and was buried in the same Grave with her Mother.

Mary Atcherley, nee Cureton, was buried at Baschurch on 8 October 1810 and her baby daughter joined her on 26 February 1811. Curiously, the Baschurch burial register records the latter as “Mary Atcherley / Infant / Shrewsbury”. Was this a simple clerical error, with the name of Hannah’s mother, or of Hannah’s twin sister, being written by mistake?  Or were the names of the girls switched after the burial, so that the name of Mary Cureton could be perpetuated by the survivor of her twin daughters?

From the events of 1810/11 we jump forward thirty years to the census of 1841, the first national census to record the names, and other details, of all the occupants of every household enumerated. Some of the details recorded were rather vague (adult ages were typically rounded down to the nearest five years, and relationships between household members and specific places of birth were not given) but the household of William Atcherley at Cadogan Place, in a part of Frankwell, Shrewsbury known as The Mount can be identified. Living with William at that time were two Mary Atcherleys: his daughter (aged 30) and his granddaughter (aged 13). The houses pictured below, though located elsewhere in Frankwell, would probably have been a familiar sight.

“Old houses, Frankwell, Shrewsbury.”

The younger Mary Cureton Atcherley was the first-born child of William’s son Thomas Cureton Atcherley. She was born at Astley Abbots in Shropshire, and baptised there at the church of St Calixtus on 25 May 1828. She was baptised for a second time two years later on 18 May 1831 at Shrewsbury St Chad, along with her younger siblings Anne and Eliza.

Both the elder and the younger Mary Cureton Atcherley must have been regarded with considerable affection by William Atcherley, as he made generous provisions for them in his will of 2 August 1845. In that document, “William Atcherley of the Mount near Shrewsbury in the county of Salop Gentleman” bequeathed to his daughter Mary Cureton Atcherley “all the household goods furniture plate linen china and books except books of account horses and carriages and all other the goods things and effects which shall be in about and upon the dwelling house coachhouse stable and premises now occupied by me”. The remainder of William’s real and personal estate with the exception of “trust and mortgaged estates” were to be sold and from the proceeds various monetary bequests were to be paid, including the following:

To my said daughter Mary Cureton Atcherley the legacy or sum of one thousand two hundred pounds To my Granddaughter Mary Cureton Atcherley the daughter of my son Thomas Cureton Atcherley the legacy or sum of three hundred pounds and I direct that the same shall be paid to her on her attaining the age of twenty one years or on the day of her marriage which ever event shall first happen

William’s other children and grandchildren were to receive smaller amounts or were residuary legatees (receiving equal shares of whatever money was left). William Atcherley died at his home at The Mount in October 1850, at the age of 72.

The Misses Mary Cureton Atcherley – neither of these two ladies ever married – both invested their inheritances in annuities. They were thus recorded in the census of 1851, when they were visitors at the home of widow and farmer Mary Cross at Plealey in the parish of Pontesbury, as annuitants. Finding the Atcherley aunt and niece on this census was not easy as their names were written by the enumerator as Mory Burton Asterley and Mary Burton Asterley. I can only assume that the writing on the original household schedule was not very clear. I flushed them out by searching for Mary (no surname) born around 1828 in Astley Abbots – thank goodness her age and birthplace were both written accurately.

By 1861 the elder Mary Cureton Atcherley had left Shropshire and moved to Lancashire, where she set up home at 13 Plymouth Grove in Chorlton. Sharing her home were, in addition to her niece, her nephew Edward Cureton Atcherley (who would only live for about another year; he died in Wolverhampton in 1862), a domestic servant and a lodger. Although both aunt and niece were ladies of independent means, the income from a lodger was no doubt very useful.

Miss Mary Atcherley (the elder) was still living at 13 Plymouth Grove in 1863 according to that year’s edition of Slater’s Directory of Manchester and Salford, but by 1871 she had taken up residence at another Chorlton address, 3 Norton Place. The younger Mary was again recorded with her, and once more there was a domestic servant and a lodger.

The census of 1881 was the last on which the elder Mary Cureton Atcherley appeared. Now aged 70, Mary was still in Lancashire but had moved to 4 Marriott Street in Withington. She had no servant, and her income was supplemented by a boarder rather than a lodger, but the niece who shared her name and who herself was now 50 years of age, was still with her. The niece probably remained with her aunt until the latter’s death, in January 1883. Unlike the other members of her immediate family, all of whom she had outlived, Mary was buried not at Baschurch in Shropshire, but at her local church of St Paul in Withington (pictured above / right; click on the image to see the original at the Geograph website). By some dreadful error her name was written in the register as “Henry Cureton Atcherley”.

I wrote earlier that both the elder and the younger Mary Cureton Atcherley must have been regarded with considerable affection by William Atcherley, father of one and grandfather of the other. It seems that similar bonds of affection were shared between aunt and niece, for they appear to have been constant companions over a period of more than 40 years. But I have warned elsewhere against making assumptions based on census data, which provides only a series of snapshots of people’s lives, fleeting images ten years apart which may or may not give a reliable picture of how they lived.

The census of 1871 shows that the younger Mary was then a “private teacher” and that of 1881 recorded her occupation as “governess”. She was almost certainly the Miss M C Atcherley of Leamington who, according to the Aberystwyth Observer of 8 July 1865, was then staying at 52 Marine Terrace in that town. I think there can be very little doubt therefore that she was also the Miss Atcherley of 12 Charlotte Street in Leamington who advertised her “select Ladies’ School” in the Leamington Spa Courier and the Worcester Journal from 1863 to 1866.

It is interesting to note that when Priscilla Atcherley – a sister of the younger Mary Cureton Atcherley – was married in 1865, the wedding took place at Leamington. The register showed that Priscilla was a resident of the town, so perhaps she spent some time there with her sister before she became Mrs William Matthews. I strongly suspect that their aunt remained in Lancashire during that time, though visits between niece and aunt very likely took place.

So the Misses Mary Cureton Atcherley may not have been constant companions in the sense of spending an unbroken period of over four decades living together under the same roof. But the word constant does not only describe something that is invariable or unchanging, it also describes someone who is steadfast, faithful and loyal. That meaning, I’m sure, applies to the relationship between the elder and the younger Mary Cureton Atcherley, regardless of any periods of time the two may have spent apart.

Picture credits. Monumental inscription at Baschurch: photo by the author. Frankwell, Shrewsbury: image from a lantern slide dated around 1905 and out of copyright. St Paul’s church, Withington: photo © copyright Bill Boaden, taken from Geograph and adapted, used and made available for re-use under a Creative Commons licence.


[1] 1841 Census of England and Wales. Piece 926, book 8, folio 28, page 5.
[2] 1851 census of England and Wales. Piece 1990, folio 269, page 13.
[3] 1861 census of England and Wales. Piece 2880, folio 119, page 2.
[4] 1871 census of England and Wales. Piece 3973, folio 119, page 8.
[5] 1881 census of England and Wales. Piece 3891, folio 34, page 19.
[6] MIs at Baschurch All Saint (2).
[7] Baschurch, Shropshire burial register covering 1811. Entry for Mary Atcherley. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[8] Meg Walton (undated), The History of the Mount. At: The Mount Residents’ Group website (accessed 21 Feb 2015).
[9] Astley Abbots, Shropshire baptism register covering 1828. Entry for Mary Cureton Atcherley. Copy viewed at Shropshire Archives. Indexed at FamilySearch, Batch C13109-2, Film 991959.
[10] Shrewsbury St Chad, Shropshire baptism register covering 1831. Entries for Mary Cureton Atcherley, Anne Atcherley and Eliza Atcherley. Copy viewed at Shropshire Archives. Indexed at FamilySearch, Batch C01575-4, Film 503526, 503527, 503528 (MaryAnne, Eliza).
[11] Copy of will of William Atcherley from the Registry of the Bishop of Lichfield (PROB 11/2146 q90 p306-307); transcribed by Barbara Lang.
[12] Death of Edward Cureton Atcherley registered at Wolverhampton, June quarter 1862; volume 6b, page 253.
[13] Slater’s Directory of Manchester and Salford (1863), page 85 (Manchester Directory).
[14] Death of Mary Cureton Atcherley registered at Chorlton, March quarter 1883; volume 8c, page 425; age given as 72.
[15] Withington St Paul, Lancashire burial register covering 1883. Entry dated 29 January for Henry (sic) Cureton Atcherley. Copy viewed at Ancestry. Indexed at FamilySearch, Film 2356397, Digital folder 004497633, Image 00912.
[16] Aberystwyth Observer, 8 Jul 1865, page 4. Copy viewed at Welsh Newspapers Online.
[17] Leamington Spa Courier, 14 Mar 1863, page 7; Worcester Journal, 2 Sep 1865, page 1; Leamington Spa Courier, 7 Jul 1866, page 5; and others.
[18] Leamington All Saints, Warwickshire marriage register. Entry dated 10 Jan 1865 for William Matthews and Priscilla Atcherley. Copy viewed at Ancestry – Warwickshire, England, Marriages and Banns, 1754-1910. Indexed at FamilySearch, Batch M04744-5, Film 1067480; also Film 1067480, Digital Folder 4292041, Image 00235.
[19] Constant. At: Merriam-Webster website (accessed 21 Feb 2015).