John Atcherley , born on 18 May 1766, was – like his father before him – the second of three sons born to a father of the same name as himself. Unlike his father before him however, this John Atcherley was not destined to take on the family farm at Moortown in the Shropshire parish of Ercall Magna.
In my story about his father (John Atcherley and the deterrence of felonies) I noted that John junior was baptised (and most likely born) in Westminster, Middlesex. Just as John senior’s younger brother Thomas died unmarried in his twenties, so too did John junior’s younger brother Robert (see Robert Atcherley and the ‘Rutlandshire Cavalry’). Both John Atcherleys also had an older brother named Samuel – but while John senior’s older brother died aged in infancy (aged 3), John junior’s older brother survived into adulthood and so it was he who took over the tenancy of the Atcherley farm at Moortown.
Over the course of the wider Atcherley family’s history, many other younger sons found themselves in the same position as John. These subordinate siblings typically found other careers to support themselves and their families – as military men, merchants or clergymen for example. Some managed to acquire farms of their own. So what did John do?
To my great frustration, besides the record of his baptism I have found no other sources of information relating to John Atcherley over the first four decades of his life. But then, at the age of 41, John was married – to Elizabeth Meadows  – at Wellington All Saints in Shropshire on 23 November 1807.
The entry in the marriage register for John and Elizabeth did not describe John’s occupation. The printed registers of the time, which had been in use since 1754, made no provision for recording such information (although in some cases it was nonetheless included!). There are however clues in the register as to the status of the bride and groom. Both signed the entry made for their marriage (Elizabeth signing as “Elizabeth Medowes”) and had therefore received an education. The wedding itself meanwhile was “by Licence”, for which a fee (likely between £2 and £3) had been paid, rather than after Banns.
The FamilySearch Wiki entry on Marriage Allegations, Bonds and Licences in England and Wales states that: “From quite early times people of social standing who did not wish to attend the parish church to hear their banns called married by license. A marriage by license therefore became a standard symbol of social status.” Although the wiki entry goes on to say that “licenses are found right across the social scale”, in the case of John Atcherley, and quite possibly Elizabeth Meadows, I think it likely that their marriage by licence did reflect their social standing.
After the Canons of 1604, which codified the system by which the church issued marriage licences, “the person applying for the license, who was usually though not always, the bridegroom, provided a bond and an allegation and these were generally filed in the registry, although not all survive.” Thankfully John Atcherley’s allegation (or affidavit) and bond have survived, along with many others belonging to the Diocese of Lichfield and Coventry, and digital copies can be found on the Findmypast website.
John made his allegation in person at Newport in Shropshire, on 12 November 1807, before the Reverend John Langley. “Being sworn on the holy Evangelists”, John made oath that he was of the age of twenty one years and upwards, a bachelor, and intended to marry Elizabeth Meadows of the parish of Wellington in the county of Salop, a spinster also aged twenty one years and upwards, “not knowing or believing any lawful let or impediment by reason of precontract or consanguinity, affinity, or any other lawful cause whatsoever, to hinder the said intended marriage”.
Returning to the FamilySearch Wiki we learn that “The bond, sworn ‘by two sufficient witnesses’, one of whom was usually the groom, his father or a friend, pledged to forfeit a large sum of money (ranging from £40 to £200), if there was any consanguinity (a relationship within the prohibited degrees) between the parties or any pre-contract to another person. The large sum of money to be forfeit was intended to underline the serious nature of the oath, and it should not be thought that the couple had these funds at their disposal.” The large sum of money pledged in John’s case was “Five Hundred pounds of lawful Money of Great Britain”.
John Atcherley’s fellow witness or bondsman was John Meadows, who made his mark at the bottom of the marriage bond (in contrast to John Atcherley’s beautifully clear signature). Most likely he was the same John Meadows who made his mark in the register of Wellington All Saints as a witness to John and Elizabeth’s wedding. He was almost certainly the father of Elizabeth: “Elizabeth the Daughter of John & Sarah Meadows” had been privately baptised at Crudgington in the parish of High Ercall on 1 May 1781 by the incumbent of Waters Upton, and she was baptised again – in the church of St Mary & All Saints in High Ercall – on 28 October 1781.
According to the marriage bond, John Meadows was “of Waters Upton in the County of Salop Tailor”. The bond – and the allegation made by John Atcherley – recorded the groom’s place of residence and occupation too, the later stating that he was: “John Atcherley of the Parish of High Ercall in the County of Salop and Diocese of Lichfield & Coventry Farmer”.
So John was a farmer, or at least he was at the time of his wedding and presumably in the years before that event. But did he remain so? The records which might tell us – those of his children’s baptisms – are sadly largely silent on the matter; indeed there is no baptismal record at all that I can find for his and Elizabeth’s sixth and last child, Thomas .
The couple’s firstborn was “Sarah  Dr of John & Elizabeth Atcherley”, baptised at Waters Upton on 17 January 1809. Then came “John  son of John and Elizabeth Atcherly born Apl. 5”, baptised at the chapel of Priors Lee in the parish of Shifnal (suggesting that this Atcherley family was living in that chapelry at the time). The entry dated 14 June 1812 in the register of Waters Upton, “Mary  Dr of John & Elizabeth Atcherley Upton”, shows that the family was definitely living in the parish in which their third child was baptised. The baptismal record for next child of John and Elizabeth’s, Robert , was dated 30 April 1814 and should have been made in one of the new printed registers introduced in 1813. The new registers standardised the format for recording baptisms and included space for the “Quality, Trade, or Profession” of each child’s father – but at Waters Upton the old register remained in use until March 1815!
So on 30 April 1814 the baptism of “Robt Son of John & Elizabeth Atcherly Upton” was recorded. Finally, on 4 October 1818, details of the baptism of Elizabeth  daughter of John & Elizabeth Atcherley of Waters Upton were set out in a new style register, in which John’s occupation was given as – Labourer.
From farmer to labourer – John Atcherley had experienced a significant decline in his fortunes if this record was accurate. I believe that it was. Four of John and Elizabeth’s children were married, and from the marriage register entries relating to the three who wed after civil registration was introduced in 1837 we can see what John’s occupation was recorded as. Robert Atcherley, when he married in 1838, said that his father was a labourer. Elizabeth Atcherley, who ‘tied the knot’ in 1840, may have chosen to remember her father’s more prestigious status when she told the clergyman that John was a farmer. Nine years later when Thomas Atcherley was married, he followed the example of his older brother Robert, describing his father as a labourer.
John Atcherley did not live to witness any of his children’s weddings. Aged 53 and residing at Ellerdine in the parish of Ercall Magna at the time of his death, he was buried at High Ercall on 16 October 1819. His demise probably took place not long after the birth of Thomas, his youngest child – which might perhaps explain why Thomas’s baptism was missed.
John’s widow, Elizabeth Atcherley née Meadows, was 15 years younger than he was and lived for nearly 30 years after his death. She died, on 8 July 1849 at Eyton in Shropshire and at the age of 68, from a “Diseasd Heart” (see the extract from her death register entry above). Her son Thomas had been present at her passing, and when he registered her death she was described as the “Widow of John Atcherley Labourer”. Elizabeth was buried at Wellington All Saints, where she had been married, on 11 July 1849.
It is interesting to note that when Elizabeth was enumerated on the 1841 census, she was residing at Moortown – but not at the farm of her brother-in-law Samuel Atcherley. Instead she was living ‘next door’ in the household of farmer Thomas Allen, and she was working as a washer woman – not an uncommon way for a labourer’s widow to support herself. One of the six farm servants living with farmer Allen, his housekeeper and widow Atcherley was my great great grandfather Henry Atcherley – who, when he was married at Eyton in 1847, claimed that his father was John Atcherly, a farmer (more on this another time!).
The reason for John Atcherley’s ‘fall’ from farmer to labourer is a mystery. Did he suffer from some financial misfortune? Was there a disagreement between John and his mother Elizabeth Atcherley née Beech (who administered her late husband’s estate after he died intestate), and / or between John and his brother Samuel , which led to him being estranged from the family and left to fend for himself?
One thing that is certain is that John’s humble status at the end of his life meant that his children did not start their lives in the best of circumstances. I have already written about his first two children in Sarah and John Atcherley: From Waters Upton to the Workhouse. The fates of Mary, Robert, Elizabeth and Thomas will be the subjects of future stories.
Picture credits. Wellington All Saints church: Photo taken from the UpSticksNGo Crew Flickr photostream and used under a Creative Commons licence. Extract from GRO death certificate for Elizabeth Atcherley: Image © Crown Copyright, posted in compliance with General Register Office copyright guidance.
 St James Piccadilly, Westminster, Middlesex parish register covering 1766. Entry dated 6 June 1766 for baptism of “John Alcherley [= Atcherley] Son of John and Elizabeth [born] 18 [May]”. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Westminster Baptisms. Indexed at FamilySearch, Batch C13551-3, Film 1042308, Ref ID 2:2PVNNX6.
 Wellington All Saints, Shropshire, marriage register covering 1807. Entry dated 23 Nov 1807 for “John Atcherley of the Parish of High Ercall and Elizth Meddows of this parish”. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Shropshire Marriages.
 Post 1754 marriage registers, what can be gleaned from them? At: Intriguing History (website, accessed 20 Jan 2019).
 Anon (2015), Marriage Allegations, Bonds and Licences in England and Wales. At: FamilySearch Research Wiki (website, accessed 20 Jan 2019).
 Diocese of Lichfield and Coventry marriage allegations and bonds. Allegation and bond dated 12 Nov 1807 for John Atcherley of the Parish of High Ercall, Shropshire. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Staffordshire, Dioceses [sic] of Lichfield & Coventry marriage allegations and bonds, 1636-1893.
 Waters Upton, Shropshire, parish register covering 1781. Entry dated 1 May 1781 for baptism of Elizabeth Meadows. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Shropshire Baptisms.
 High Ercall, Shropshire, parish register covering 1781. Entry dated 28 Oct 1781 for baptism of “Elizabeth Daughter of John Meadows of Crudgington”. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Shropshire Baptisms.
 Waters Upton, Shropshire, parish register covering 1809. Entry dated 17 Jan 1809 for baptism of Sarah Atcherley. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Shropshire Baptisms. Abtract in Shropshire Parish Register Society (1913), Shropshire Parish Registers, Volume XIII, Waters Upton, page 74; copy at Mel Lockie’s website. Indexed at FamilySearch, Batch P00652-1, Film 908235.
 Chapelry of Priors Lee in parish of Shifnal, Shropshire, parish register covering 1810. Entry dated 29 Apr 1810 for baptism of John Atcherley. Copies viewed at Shropshire Archives and at Findmypast – Shropshire Baptisms. Indexed at FamilySearch, Batch C06492-1. Film 503517.
 Waters Upton, Shropshire, parish register covering 1812. Entry dated 14 Jun 1812 for baptism of Mary Atcherley. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Shropshire Baptisms. Abtract in Shropshire Parish Register Society (1913), Shropshire Parish Registers, Volume XIII, Waters Upton, page 78; copy at Mel Lockie’s website. Indexed at FamilySearch, Batch P00652-1, Film 908235.
 Steve Jackson (2015), Baptisms at Waters Upton. At: Waters Upton One Place Study (website, accessed 20 Jan 2019).
 Waters Upton, Shropshire, parish register covering 1814. Entry dated 30 Apr 1814 for baptism of Robt Atcherly. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Shropshire Baptisms. Abtract in Shropshire Parish Register Society (1913), Shropshire Parish Registers, Volume XIII, Waters Upton, page 79; copy at Mel Lockie’s website. Indexed at FamilySearch, Batch P00652-1, Film 908235.
 Waters Upton, Shropshire, parish register covering 1818. Entry dated 4 Oct 1818 for baptism of Elizabeth Atcherley. Copies viewed at Shropshire Archives and at Findmypast – Shropshire Baptisms. Indexed at FamilySearch, Batch I03136-5, Film 1657590, Ref ID item 44 p 9.
 Wellington All Saints, Shropshire, marriage register covering 1838. Entry dated 11 Feb 1838 for Robert Acherley and Emma Lawrence. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Shropshire Marriages.
 Wellington All Saints, Shropshire, marriage register covering 1840. Entry dated 6 Sep 1840 for Richard Ferrington and Elizabeth Atcherley. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Shropshire Marriages.
 Eyton, Shropshire, marriage register covering 1849. Entry dated 4 May 1849 for Thomas Atcherley and Jane Hussey. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Shropshire Marriages. GRO copy of entry in marriage register held, and made available at the Atcherley.org.uk Flickr photostream.
 High Ercall, Shropshire, burial register covering 1819. Entry dated 16 Oct 1819 for John Atcherley. Copies viewed at Shropshire Archives and at Findmypast – Shropshire Burials.
 Death of Elizabeth Atcherley registered at Wellington, Shropshire, September quarter 1849; volume 18, page 175. Copy of entry in register of death held, and made available at the Atcherley.org.uk Flickr photostream.
 Wellington All Saints, Shropshire, burial register covering 1849. Entry dated 11 Jul 1849 for Elizabeth Atcherley. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Shropshire Burials.
 1841 census of England and Wales. Piece 905, book 7, folio 19, page 3. Moortown, Ercall Magna, Shropshire.
 Eyton, Shropshire, marriage register covering 1847. Entry dated 6 May 1847 for Henry Atcherly and Mary Jones. GRO copy of entry in marriage register held, and made available at the Atcherley.org.uk Flickr photostream.