Thomas Atcherley and his Marton tannery

Quote There is a kneeling in this Peiw, which belongs to that chiefe house in Marton which Thomas Acherley purchased of Lloyd Peirce, Esq.; it is not that house wherein Andrew Acherley now dwelles but the house which stands on the right hand as wee go from the street to Andrew Acherley’s dwelling house, and is now made use of for malting roomes and corne chambers; and the barne that stands on the west side of it is all the building that beelongs to it. I can give noe account of the family of Lloyd Peirce, neither is it necessary; but I shall give an account of the Acherleyes, since they had any estate in this parish. Unquote — Richard Gough (1701), Antiquities and Memoirs of the Parish of Myddle.

The amazing account of the deeds (and misdeeds) of the parishioners of Middle (or Myddle) in Shropshire written by Richard Gough [] includes stories relating to the first few generations of the Atcherleys of Marton. The information provided by Gough regarding those early Atcherleys does have to be treated with some caution given that it is, at best, second-hand – the events he described took place before he was born. Nevertheless, in Richard Gough’s Antiquities and Memoirs of the Parish of Myddle we have a starting point for learning about the origins of the Marton Atcherleys, and the source of their wealth.

Quote There was one Richard Acherley [], a younger brother of that antient and substantiall family of the Acherleyes of Stanwardine in the feilds. He was a tanner, and had his tan-house in Stanwardine in the feild, but he lived (as a tenant) at Wicherley Hall. Hee purchased lands in Marton of David Owen, and one Twiford. I supose these two had married co-heiresses, for I finde noe mention of butt one house of the lands, and that stood on a sandy banke on this side of Mr. Acherley’s new barnes. Richard Acherley had ishue, Thomas Acherley [], to whom he hee gave these lands in Marton. Unquote

Map - Baschurch, Stanwardine, Marton 1830s

Marton, in the parish of Middle, is situated less than two miles (just under three kilometres) away from Stanwardine in the Fields, in the adjoining parish of Baschurch (the map above shows Baschurch, Stanwardine and Marton in the 1830s). There are records of Atcherleys at Stanwardine which date back to at least the thirteenth century, so there are no grounds to doubt that the Atcherleys of Marton came from there as stated by Gough. Unfortunately, while the parish registers of Middle began in 1541, we have none for Baschurch until 1600. A baptism record for the first Thomas Atcherley of Marton is therefore lacking (as indeed are many other events for which I dearly wish there were records!).

“Gough the Historian”, as Richard is sometimes known, was clearly a little puzzled about the former owners of the Marton lands acquired by Richard Atcherley. It was modern-day historian David Hey who managed to crack the conundrum . At the UK National Archives David found a record of a Chancery court case from 1623, which I have since looked at, photographed, and transcribed myself. This reveals that on 8 February 1612/13 a John Windell of London purchased “One Messuage or Tenement & ye Lands and Tenements thereunto belonging, of him the saide Roger Twyford lyeing and being in Marton in the parrish of Middle in the saide Countie of Salop then or late in the possession or occupacon of William Baker, and David Owen, or one of them”.

Afterwards, according to David Hey, “This property changed hands several times until Richard Atcherley’s son, Thomas, finally bought it in 1622”. The Chancery case shows that one of those changes of hands, in 1617, brought the property into the holding of “Richard Atcherley of Stannardine in the Countie of Salop aforesaide Gent”.

So the lands at Marton which “one Twiford” had owned, which David Owen had occupied, and which Richard Atcherley “of Stannardine” later held, were not given by Richard to Thomas Atcherley: Thomas had purchased them in his own right. Indeed, in Thomas’s own words he “did purchase to him and his heires the sd Mesuage and lands for a verie valuable consideracion given for the same and att a Deare Rate”. It was stated at Chancery that Thomas had entered into “three or fower sureties bounde in Statute bonde or Recognizaunce of Six or Eight hondred pounds” in order to free the lands he had bought from all incumbrances. Once he had acquired the lands, Thomas “Doth Lett and sett some parte thereof” while other parts were kept “in his owne possession”.

To return to Gough’s Antiquities and Memoirs: “This Thomas was a tanner and dwelt in Marton, and held Mr. Lloyd Peirce his house there, and dwelt in it, and suffered the other to go to decay. He built a tan-house, which is now standing by the old mill brooke.”

The tan house, which was standing when Richard Gough put pen to paper in 1700-01, still stands today (the image of the house below is from Google Street View). Long since converted into a dwelling house, it is a Grade III listed building. According to David Hey (writing in 1974):

Quote The house which stands so attractively in its garden at the top of the bank that slopes down to the Old Mill Brook is still known as the Tan House and belonged to the owners of Marton Hall until 1954 […] one is led to wonder from the name and from Gough’s account whether it was originally built as a tannery or a storage building, with perhaps some accommodation for the servants who worked there. The Atcherleys were the richest family in the parish during the seventeenth century and could well have afforded a high-class building of this kind. Unquote

Tanning was the basis of the prosperity enjoyed by Thomas Atcherley of Marton. An ancient craft, the conversion of animal hides or skin into durable leather required the presence of both cattle (for hides) and oak trees (for tannic acid, obtained from the trees’ bark). Both of these commodities were likely to have been present on the land owned and rented by Thomas AtcherleTanner, Nuremberg, 1609y, and on that of his neighbours. Water was needed for the process too: the siting of tanneries like the Atcherley tan house, close to a stream or river, was therefore standard practice. (The picture, left, shows a tanner working in Nuremberg, Germany, in 1609.)

From Richard Gough we learn that Thomas Atcherley sold the produce of his tanning business at Oswestry market. We learn too that the considerable amount of money Thomas brought home proved, on at least one occasion, to be something of a temptation to others – in particular one Richard Chaloner. Chaloner was described by Gough as “an untowardly liver, very idle and extravagant, endeavouring to suply his necessytyes rather by stealeing than by his honest labour.” Gough continued:

Quote This Richard Challoner was vehemently suspected by Thomas Acherley, of Marton, concerning an attempt to robbe him. This Thomas Acherley, Grandfather to Andrew Acherley that now is, was a tanner and used Oswaldstrey markett constantly and brought much money hence; and as hee was coming homeward in the night he found the gate at the old Mill brooke, neare Marton, made fast, and as hee stooped to open it hee saw a man with a club staffe arise out of the hedge and offer a blow att him, butt the horse starting, Thomas Acherley escaped the blow and he roade away and escaped. Hee often declared itt was this Challoner that offered to strike him. Unquote

Later in life, Thomas Atcherley moved to Wolverley in the nearby parish of Wem. He was living there at the time when, following the English Civil War, Cromwell and the Parliamentarians were fearful of rebellion. Even before Prince Charles (later King Charles II) landed in Scotland, on 23 June 1650, there was unrest north of the border, and this encouraged the Royalists in England. Writing in 1910 about the events of 1650, John Ernest Auden stated:

Quote From the receipt of the first news of a probable invasion from Scotland there was trouble and anxiety in England on the part of the Parliament, plotting and conspiracy on that of the Royalists. But the former kept a tight grip on the counties, and not the lightest on unruly Shropshire. On April 29, the Government sent word for ‘Major Brayne to have a Commission to be Major of foot of the regiment now to be raised in Shropshire under the command of Col. Thomas Mackworth,’ and on May 17, ‘a Summons from the Commissioners instructed for the speedy raising of horse and foot for the defence of the county of Salop,’ was issued to the High Constables of the various hundreds. Unquote

Further summonses followed, requiring the wealthier members of the community to supply men (to serve as soldiers), horses, arms, and money to pay wages. In this way Cavalry and Infantry were first raised, with Dragoons or Mounted Infantry “to complete the Shropshire muster” raised next:

Quote … a warrant of Captain Robert Allen to the High Constable of Bradford North, dated Sept. 28, 1650, ordered him to summon the persons who were charged with a Dragoon-horse and arms, to bring the same ‘complete at my Randevous held at Wellington’ upon Thursday, the 3rd day of October, ‘by nyne in the morning,’ and also those who were in arrears for the pay for their riders … Unquote

Among those who were listed at the end of the warrant was “Mr Thomas Atcherley of Wolverley”, who was directed to “send in his Dragoone-horse and arms complete with one week’s pay.”

The Act for Setling of the Militia of the Commonwealth of England passed in July 1650 stated that no person should “be charged with a Dragoon-horse and Arms unless such person have the yearly Revenue of Two hundred marks per annum, or who shall be worth Two thousand marks in moneys, or other Personal Estate, or an Estate equivalent”. An English mark was two-thirds of a pound, or 13s and 4d, so Thomas Atcherley of Wolverton, although retired from the tanning business, was still a wealthy man.

According to the parish register of Wem, “Thomas Acherley of Woulverley yeaman was buried the 24th day of Februearie 1657”. His last will and testament, which had been written two weeks earlier (on 10 February 1657/8) was proved two months after his funeral on 27 April 1658. It revealed that he had land not only at Marton and Wolverley, but also at “Northwood Newtowne and Morton”. As well as making bequests of his goods, chattels and cattle, Thomas left numerous legacies to family members and friends: one of 10 shillings, fifteen of 20 shillings, three of 40 shillings, six of £5 and one gift of £10.

The poor also benefitted from the will of Thomas Atcherley, who at the end of his life referred to himself as a gent. From the wealth which he had accumulated from his tanning business, he left £5 “to be dealt to the poore” on the day of his burial, 20 shillings to the poor of Wem parish, and 20 shillings to the poor of Loppington parish. To the poor of Middle parish, where he had earned his fortune, Thomas bequeathed 40 shillings.

> On to Untangling the family tree of Thomas of Marton and Wolverley – Part 1.


Picture credits. Map showing Baschurch, Stanwardine in the Fields and Marton (1830s): 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. The Tan House, Marton: Embedded Google Street View image (non-commercial use). Tanner, Nuremburg, 1609: Adapted from a public domain image at Wikimedia Commons.


References

[1] Richard Gough (1875), Antiquities and Memoirs of the Parish of Myddle. Copy viewed at Internet Archive. Note: Although published in 1875, Gough wrote his manuscript in 1700-01.
[2] David G Hey (1974), An English Rural Community: Myddle under the Tudors and Stuarts. Copy viewed at Shropshire Archives.
[3] The National Archives, Kew. Item C 2/JasI/S15/20 (Court of Chancery: Six Clerks Office: Pleadings, Series I, Elizabeth I to Charles I): Simpson v Atcherley. Copies of documents viewed at The National Archives. Indexed at The National Archives website.
[4] Tan House, Marton. At: Discovering Shropshire’s History (website, accessed 12 Apr 2016).
[5] Naser A. Anjum et al (eds.) (2012), Phytotechnologies: Remediation of Environmental Contaminants. Page 84. Copy previewed at Google Books.
[6] Jill Armitage (2015), Nottingham: A History. Chapter 6. Copy previewed at Google Books.
[7] John Ernest Auden (1910), Shropshire and the Royalist Conspiracies between the end of the First Civil War and the Restoration, 1648—1660. In: Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological and Natural History Society. Third Series. Volume X. Pages 118-121. Snippets viewed at Google Books, and text (captured by OCR) viewed (via proxy server) at Hathi Trust website.
[8] HMSO (1911), July 1650: An Act for Setling of the Militia of the Commonwealth of England. In: Acts and Ordinances of the Interregnum, 1642-1660, pages 397-402. Text viewed at British History Online (website, accessed 12 Apr 2016).
[9] Abraham Rees (1819), The Cyclopædia, Volume XXII. Mark. Copy viewed at Google Books.
[10] Wem, Shropshire, parish register covering 1657/8. Entry dated 24 Feb 1657 for burial of Thomas Atcherley. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Shropshire Burials.
[11] 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.

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