Richard Atcherley, yeoman farmer of Wolverley

In the early days of my Atcherley family history research, the Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain and Ireland of John Burke and John Bernard Burke provided a useful source of information for the genealogy of the Atcherleys of Marton. One problem with pedigrees such as those produced by the Burkes however is that, by their very nature, they focus on one family line. The brothers and sisters of each heir to the family seat may be mentioned along the way, but if they are, their descendants are almost always ignored. Such was the case with Richard, the younger son of the first Thomas Atcherley of Marton.

Richard Atcherley was not only ignored by the Burkes, he also received the briefest of mentions in Richard Gough’s Antiquities and Memoirs of the Parish of Myddle: “Richard, the younger son, was marryed at Wolverly, and died about middle age.” Fortunately, there a number of other sources of information about Richard. Patchy as they are, those sources have enabled me to compile a more detailed account of the life and the family of this Richard Atcherley.

The first source is of course the record of Richard’s baptism, on 21 August 1625, at the church of St Peter in Myddle. Written in Latin, the entry in parish register shows that “Richardi” was the son of “Thomae Atcherley de Marton taner et Janae uxor” – Thomas Atcherley of Marton, tanner, and Jane his wife (see Thomas Atcherley and his Marton tannery for more on Thomas). Sadly, Jane died within two years of Richard’s birth (she was buried at Myddle on 15 April 1627), but as we have seen from Gough’s Antiquities and Memoirs, the infant Richard Atcherley survived the loss of his mother.

Gough also tells us that, in later life, Richard’s father Thomas Atcherley went to live at Wolverley (in the parish of Wem) with his next wife, Ann. There, Thomas’s last will and testament was written on 10 February 1657/58. His burial, at Wem, took place on 24 February 1657/58. The will of Thomas Atcherley tells us more about his son Richard, about the property he inherited – and about Richard’s family.

map - Wolverley area, 1830sRichard was bequeathed his father’s lands at Wolverley, Northwood, Newtown and Horton (all of these places can be seen on the map, right). Richard was in addition given a range of household effects from Wolverley, plus a number of his father’s other possessions. Thomas Atcherley’s will also mentioned his daughter-in-law, Richard’s wife, Susanna (who received 20 shillings) and their daughters Susanna and Ann (who received five pounds each).

So Richard did marry, as Gough stated, although I have not been able to locate a record of their wedding. Fortunately another will, an abstract of which came to light through one of my Google searches for the name Atcherley, reveals who Susanna was. That will, dated 10 March 1653/54 and proved on 23 February 1654/55, named Susanna and Richard Atcherley as the sister and brother-in-law of the testator, and it appointed Richard, who was “of Loppington pish [= parish] in the County of Salopp”, as an executor. The testator was Ambrose Brookes of Edge in the Cheshire parish of Malpas. From his will we also learn that he and Susanna had a brother named Thomas, a sister named Elizabeth, and a brother-in-law (Elizabeth’s husband) named Randle Johnson (Richard Atcherley’s co-executor).

Richard Atcherley and Susanna Brookes were probably wed in, or shortly before, the year 1650. Sadly, baptism records for several of their children have proved to be as elusive as that of their marriage. This is a great shame as the missing information would help with tracing the movements of this Atcherley family over the years when children were being added to it. I have attempted to track them anyway.

Married life for Richard and Susanna may have started in Whitchurch, just inside the Shropshire border with Cheshire. Oddly, there are two versions of the parish register from the time when the couple’s first child, Susanna, was baptised – and that event, which took place on 10 August 1651, is recorded in both. In one, “Susana” is said to be the daughter of “Ric: Atcherlay”, while in the other, her father is named as “Richard Acherley”.

Ann Atcherley, second child of Richard and Susanna (who we know of from the will of her grandfather), was possibly born in Loppington parish about 1653; this is where Ambrose Brookes placed the family when he wrote his will. However from around 1655 onwards, it looks like the Atcherleys were based in the parish of Wem – and had another child, who did not survive. Wem parish register shows that on 1 February 1655/56, a “young Child of Richard Acherleyes of Northwood was buried”. No name was given.

The fourth child of Richard and Susanna also made an appearance in the Wem parish register – but the family had moved again by the time he was born. According to the register, “Thomas the son of Richard Acherley of Newtowne yeamon [= yeoman] was borne the 18th day of November and was baptized the 16th day of December”. Although he was born before the will of his grandfather was written, Thomas was not mentioned in that will. I am puzzled by the fact that Thomas Atcherley the elder did not leave something for the grandchild who was named after him. Even if he had though, the younger Thomas would not have seen the benefit of his bequest – he was buried at Wem on 14 March 1669/70, aged 13.

Richard’s widowed stepmother passed away in 1660: “Anne Atcherley of Wolverley widdow” was interred at Loppington on 27 November that year. If Richard and Susanna had not moved into the Atcherley property at Wolverley before Ann’s death, I’m sure they did so soon afterwards. There they remained until Richard “died about middle age.”

“Richard Acherley gnt” was buried at Wem on 6 April 1672. He was 46. The parish register which recorded his burial also contained details of the baptisms (and in one case, it appears, the burial) of two of his youngest children: Sara (1664 – 1667/68), and Richard junior (baptised 11 June 1667). Interestingly, the interment of “Thomas a servant of Richard Acherley” was also noted, on 8 March 1668/9.

Aware that his demise was imminent, and that he needed to make provision for the family he would very soon leave behind, “Richard Atcherley of Overly [= Wolverley] in the pish of Wem” wrote his will (or had it written for him) on 3 April 1672. This document gives the names of two more daughters, for whom I have not found baptisms. They were two of five surviving offspring born to Richard and Susanna, who were all remembered in Richard’s dying wishes. In his own words, those children were: “Susana my eldest daughter”, “Ann my second daughter”, “Mary & Elnear Atcherley my tow yongest daughters”, and “my sonn Richard Atcherley being now within A little of fife yeare ould”. There was another child too, who although provided for, was not named. This was because he or she was a “sone or daughter which is not now borne”.

On 9 Apr 1672, three days after Richard Atcherley’s burial, a “trew and parfit Inntarey” (inventory) of his “Goods & Cattell” was taken. As with Samuel Atcherley’s true and perfect inventory, this document gives us some idea of what life had been like for the departed yeoman in question.

Cattle, by Aelbert Cuyp

Richard’s livestock was listed first: “Ten Cowse one bull & tow boullocks and fore Calfes” (value £44) “tow Mares and horses” (£10), “seaven swine & sixe shipe [= sheep]” (£5 10s), and “tow waining [= weaning] Calfes” (15s). Some of the foodstuffs derived from the cattle, pigs and sheep, plus some avian livestock, also appear: “one & thirtey Cheses and butter” (value £2 10s), “beefe & bacen & other vittual [=victuals] geese & other poultey [= poultry]” (£2).

On the arable side, there was “Corne of all sorte within the house & barne”, threshed and unthreshed (value £20) and Corne groing on the ground (£4 5s). ‘Corn’ was a generic term covering oats, wheat, rye and barley (and even peas). In addition there was Hay and straw (value £4), which would have provided food and bedding for the livestock, plus the inevitable “Implments of husbantry” and “Carts & plowes” (£4).

Comparing these elements of Richard’s inventory with Samuel Atcherley’s (of 1731), despite the much smaller quantity of cheese on the premises it appears that Richard had a mixed dairy/arable farm of a moderate size, supplying local markets as well as his family’s own needs. This would have added to the income he received in the form of rents and profits from his lands elsewhere.

The inventory also featured Richard’s “studdey of books” (£5), showing that Richard was literate and liked to read. His wardrobe also seems to have been fairly extensive, as “all his waring Apariell of all maner and sorte what soever” was valued at £15. And of course there was furniture (including “six fedder bedes” and “tow flock beds” worth £40), linens (£10), brass and pewter (£12) and kitchenware, plus “Carpits and Cushins”, yarn and cloth, plus malt and a malt mill (for brewing). In total, Richard’s possessions were valued at £268 18s.

All this was left by Richard to Susanna, his “deare & loving wife” (being “trustey and loving” too, Susanna was made the sole executrix of Richard’s will). In accordance with their marriage settlement, Richard also devised to Susanna all his “ffree houlte Astate” in Newtown, Horton and Loppington (the latter estate had been added by Richard to his portfolio of property after he inherited the lands left to him by his father).

Susanna was in addition permitted to remain in Richard’s house at Wolverley, “soe long as She keepeth her sole & unmarread & noe longer”; another condition was that she should set out the sum of £50 yearly to raise the marriage portions of the couple’s four daughters (and for their unborn child), until their son Richard junior came of age at 21. Daughters Susanna, Ann, Mary and Eleanor were also to receive land (Woodgate Farm, a copyhold estate in Loppington) and/or money (the profits from Richard’s freehold lands).

Richard’s “sonn & heare”, Richard junior, was given the Atcherley lands in Wolverley, Newtown, Horton and Loppington, with their buildings, woods and underwoods – on the condition that he “doth pay unto that child that is now unbourne A hundred Pounds when the sayd Richard doth com to the eage of tow & Twentey yeares if the child be then leving”. In addition, in the event that the unborn child turned out to be a boy, £50 was left so that he could be apprenticed to a good trade.

With the backing of her inheritance from Richard, Susanna raised their children and ensured that this Atcherley line continued. The child who was key to this was the one who Richard never saw – Thomas Atcherley, who was born about three months after Richard’s death. His story is told, in part, in Atcherleys Reunited.


Picture credits. Extract from Ordnance Survey map (printed in 1833): This work is based on data provided through www.VisionofBritain.org.uk and uses historical material which is copyright of the Great Britain Historical GIS Project and the University of Portsmouth; it is used under a Creative Commons licence. Cattle: Extract from Cattle near the Maas, with Dordrecht in the distance by Aelbert Cuyp (1620 – 1691), taken from a public domain image at Wikimedia Commons.


References.

[1] John Burke, John Bernard Burke (1847), A genealogical and heraldic dictionary of the landed gentry of Great Britain and Ireland; Volume I, pages 31-32. Copy viewed at Google Books.
[2] Richard Gough (1875), Antiquities and Memoirs of the Parish of Myddle. Page 49. Copy viewed at Google Books. Note: Although published in 1875, Gough wrote his manuscript in 1700-01.
[3] Myddle, Shropshire, parish register covering 1625, entry for baptism of Richard Atcherley. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Shropshire Baptisms. Indexed at FamilySearch, Batch P01576-1, Film 908237.
[4] Myddle, Shropshire, parish register covering 1627, entry for burial of “Janae uxor Thomae Atcherly de Marton taner”. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Shropshire Burials.
[5] The National Archives, Kew. Item ref PROB 11/276/129: Will of Thomas Atcherley, Gentleman of Wem, Shropshire. Copy viewed at Ancestry – England & Wales, Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills, 1384-1858. Also available from The National Archives website.
[6] Wem, Shropshire, parish register covering 1657/58, entry for burial of Thomas Acherley. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Shropshire Burials.
[7] The National Archives, Kew. Item ref PROB 11/247/574: Will of Ambrose Brookes, Yeoman of Edge, Cheshire. Copy viewed at Ancestry – England & Wales, Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills, 1384-1858. Also available from The National Archives website. Abstract in: George F Matthews (ed.) (1926), Year books of probates (from 1630), Vol. 8, Commonwealth Probates Vol IV (1655), Part 1, Page 43; copy viewed at Genealogy Gophers.
[8] Whitchurch, Shropshire, parish registers covering 1651, entries for the baptism of Susana Atcherlay / Acherley. Copies viewed at Findmypast – Shrophire Baptisms. Indexed at FamilySearch, Batch C03756-1, Film 510683.
[9] Wem, Shropshire, parish register covering 1655/56, entry for burial of unnamed child of Richard Atcherleyes. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Shropshire Burials.
[10] Wem, Shropshire, parish register covering 1656, entry for baptism of Thomas Acherley. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Shropshire Baptisms.
[11] Wem, Shropshire, parish register covering 1669/70, entry dated 14 Mar for burial of “Thomas ye Son of Richard Atcherly & of Susana his wife”. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Shropshire Burials.
[12] Loppington, Shropshire, parish register covering 1660, entry for the burial of Anne Atcherley. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Shropshire Burials.
[13] Wem, Shropshire, parish register covering 1672, entry for burial of Richard Acherley”. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Shropshire Burials.
[14] Wem, Shropshire, parish register covering 1664, entry dated 3 Jun for baptism of “Sara the Daughter of Richard Atcherley & Susanna his Wife”. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Shropshire Baptisms.
[15] Wem, Shropshire, parish register covering 1667/68, entry dated 29 Jan for burial of “[blank] a chield of Richard Acherley was buried”. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Shropshire Burials.
[16] Wem, Shropshire, parish register covering 1667, entry baptism of “Richard the Son of Richard Acherley & of Susanna his wife”. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Shropshire Baptisms.
[17] Wem, Shropshire, parish register covering 1668/69, entry for burial of “Thomas a servant of Richard Acherley”. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Shropshire Burials.
[18] Lichfield Record Office, item reference B/C/11: Will of Richard Atcherley, yeoman, of Wem (with inventory). Copy supplied by LRO held; also viewed at Findmypast – Staffordshire, Dioceses [sic] Of Lichfield and Coventry Wills and Probate 1521-1860. Indexed at Staffordshire Name Indexes.
[19] Samuel Garbet (1818), The history of Wem. Page 328. Copy viewed at Google Books.
[20] Wem, Shropshire, parish register covering 1672, entry for baptism of Thomas Acherley. Copy viewed at Findmypast.

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