A good old Shropshire name – Part 2

Was the ancestor of the Atcherley family a Norman invader or settler, who brought his family name with him to England? Or was he an ancient Salopian, a native of Shropshire who took his name from the settlement where he lived? Since I last posed these questions, in my first article about the origins of this “good old Shropshire name,” I have carried out some further research.

First let’s go back to basics and look at the origins of surnames or family names in Britain. Genealogist Paul Blake says: “After 1066, the Norman barons introduced surnames into England, and the practice gradually spread. Initially, the identifying names were changed or dropped at will, but eventually they began to stick and to get passed on. … By 1400 most English families, and those from Lowland Scotland, had adopted the use of hereditary surnames. … Surnames deriving from a place are probably the oldest and most common. … Many people took their name from their farm or hamlet.” [1]

What then of the earliest people who may have taken their surname from a place named Atcherley (or something similar)? A document dating back to II Richard II (the second year of the reign of Richard II, i.e. 1387 or 1388) shows that in that year “Hugh de Atcherley, barker, and Agnes his wife, and … Hugh their son, and Margery and Agnes their daughters” leased a tenement in Shrewsbury [2]. Almost certainly Hugh junior was the “Hugo de hachurley filius Hugonis de hachurley” recorded in the “Rotulus de speciali Gilda mercatoria” – the roll of special guild merchants – of Shrewsbury in 1397 (the transcriber of the guild roll noted the “bad spelling of the Place-names”) [3]. He was very likely also the “Hugonis de Achurley de Stanwardyn in le ffelde” named as the father of “Ricardus Achurley” in the Shrewsbury Burgess Roll of 1416-17, as well as the Hugh de Acherley who appeared at the head of a list of residents of Baschurch in a document dated 3 January 1425/26, now held by Shropshire Archives [4].

Morris stated that Hugh de Atcherley – Hugh of Atcherley (or Hachurley, or Achurley, or Acherley) – was “the ancestor of the Family of Atcherley of Stanwardine and Marton” [2]. Was the ‘lost’ settlement suggested as the likely source of his surname by the Internet Surname Database [5] a village or a hamlet, or (as Paul Blake suggested was often the case) simply a farm? Was it the place named in 1403, in a fine roll [6], as Acheley? If so, where was this place?

A later record of the place named Acheley can be found in a patent roll from 1558. This makes reference to “a virgate of land called ‘Hernesland’ in Acheley, co. Salop” which was “in the tenure of Alan Horde, gentleman” – possibly a descendant of the Richard le Hore named in the fine roll of 1403, when ‘Hernesland’ was written as ‘Hervyeslond’. Listed along with Acheley were the following places: “Marshe, Welley, Benthall, Acton Rounde alias Acton Roudge, Presthope alias Prestopp, Wenlocke, Willey Hill alias Yealde, Borowhill, Holmer, Ferleigh, Shurlet and Shirlet, co. Salop.” [7]

Many of the places named in this list can be found in an area to the south of Shrewsbury … and in that same area is a small settlement in the parish of Much Wenlock named Atterley. At first sight this seems a possible contender. The Internet Surname Database includes Atterley as a variant of Atcherley. However with very few exceptions (Atterleg in 1262, Apterlegh in 1285 and a few occurrences of Atterleye), it appears that there has been little variation in the spelling of Atterley from the 1200s onwards [8]. There is no indication that I can find to suggest that it – or the small number of people named after it – have ever been known as Atcherley.

Another candidate for the birthplace of the Atcherleys is Atchley, in the parish of Ryton (situated to the south-east of Telford). This place name was written as Archesleg in the latter part of the 13th century, when the landowner (William, Lord of Ryton) had his court house there [9]. It has also been written as Acheley on occasion, the earliest example I know of being a document dating from 1505 held by Shropshire Archives [10]. Nearly three centuries later the register of nearby Donington included the burial of Elizabeth Arden, of Acheley in the parish of Ryton. Atchley and similar names including Acheley, as I have previously noted, occur as surnames in the older registers of certain parishes in south Shropshire and also London. However I have not yet seen any evidence of people named “de Atchley,” or of people named “de Acheley” (or variants thereof) who could be connected with Atchley in Ryton.

So far, not so good. However, my quest for a place named Acheley and for people named after that place then led me to “Robert Acheley of Mytley, co. Salop, yoman” who on 3 February 1446 was “pardoned of his outlawry in the county for not appearing before the king to answer touching divers trespasses…” [12]. Where, I wondered, was Mytley – and was there a place named Acheley nearby?

An online search for Acheley and Mytley produced very few results, but those results showed these names in a list of estates which also included Sandford, Stele (now Steel, as in Steel Farm), Whichesall (Whixall), Lynford (Linford), Weston and Longford [13]. These places, some of them villages while others are barely hamlets, lie to the west of Market Drayton. As does another small settlement named Mickley. And to the north of Mickley, near Sandford in the parish of Prees, are Aychley Farm and Aychley Cottages. Was Mickley formerly known as Mytley? And more to the point, was Aychley formerly known as Acheley?

> On to Part 3


[1] Paul Blake (web page): What’s In a Name? Your Link to the Past.
[2] Joseph Morris (1903), The Provosts and bailiffs of Shrewsbury. In: Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological Society, Series 3, Vol. 3. Pages 298-299.
[3] C H Drinkwater (1906), Seven Shrewsbury Gild Merchant Rolls of the Fourteenth Century. In: Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological Society, Series 3, volume 3, page 80.
[4] The National Archives: Access to Archives: Shropshire Archives, Documents relating to the Wakeman and Penbury families.
[5] The Internet Surname Database (website): Last name: Atcherley.
[6] Public Records Office (1931), Calendar of the Fine Rolls preserved in the Public Record Office (A.D. 1399-1505). Page 211.
[7] Source: PRO (1939), Calendar of the Patent Rolls preserved in the Public Record Office, (A.D. 1557-1558), pages 378379.
[8] Robert William Eyton (1856): The Antiquities of Shropshire. Volume III.
[9] Robert William Eyton (1855): The Antiquities of Shropshire. Volume II, page 87.
[10] Shropshire Archives, document reference BB/E/9/4/1: Copy of confirmation of grant re lands in Ruyton.
[11] Shropshire Parish Register Society (1902): Shropshire Parish Registers. Lichfield Diocese. Volume III.
[12] Calendar of the patent rolls preserved in the Public Record Office. Henry VI. Volume 4, page 411.
[13] Sir Bernard Burke (1863), A Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the landed Gentry of Great Britain and Ireland. Fourth edition. Part II, page 1327.