Edge of the tree no longer: Thomas Atcherley, alias Edge

Until yesterday Thomas Atcherley [], alias Edge, appeared to be a rather marginal figure in the Atcherley family’s history. But waiting for me when I got home last night was a copy of his will, the contents of which changed everything. This historic document, dating back to 1679, has helped to show that Thomas is the forebear of many of the Atcherleys alive today. Despite his alternative surname, Thomas Atcherley is no longer on the edge of his family tree: he is now at the heart of it.

During the early stages of my Atcherley family history research I learned that the family had its roots in the Shropshire parish of Baschurch. There the Atcherleys lived as farmers and tanners for hundreds of years, in and around the township of Stanwardine in the Fields. In the early 1600s however, a branch of the family became established at Marton in the neighbouring parish of Myddle. Many of the more noteworthy Atcherleys were members of this branch, which I often refer to as the Marton line. Through the will of Richard Atcherley, the last male heir of this line, the Atcherleys of Marton were spared from extinction in 1834 (see Richard Atcherley and his hopes for posterity), but only until 1970 when its most famous son, Sir Richard Llewellyn Roger Atcherley, passed away unmarried.

Thomas Atcherley, alias Edge, was a member of the Marton line. His origins were described by Richard Gough, the historian of Myddle, in 1700/01. Writing about the the five daughters of Richard Groome of Sleape Hall, Gough said:

 The second was marryed to Thomas Acherley Edge, of Wykey. The reason why hee had three names was thus—hee was a bastard child of one Edge his daughter, who lived in a tenement beeyond Marton neare the Wood, called the Rowlands. … Edge’s daughter, in her labour att child bearing fathered the child upon Thomas Atcherley, grandfather of Andrew Acherley, now living. Att the baptizing of the child, old Edge was one of the godfathers, and hee named the child Thomas Atcherley. The minister paused awhile, as supposeing it was a mistake, and after said againe, name this child. To whom Old Edge answered, “I am neither drunk nor mad; I say, Thomas Atcherley,” and soe hee was named.  [1]

Myddle church, ShropshireThe registers of Myddle show two baptisms in the early 1600s for sons named after their father, Thomas Atcherley of Marton, tanner [2]. The first was on 31 December 1609, and the second was on 5 January 1616/17. There is no record of a burial for the first Thomas, so it would appear that the second baptism was that of “Thomas Acherley Edge” (even though the register appears to show that he was the son of Thomas Atcherley and his second wife, Jane). (For further discussion on this, see Untangling the family tree of Thomas of Marton and Wolverley – Part 1.) When Thomas Atcherley senior made his will on 10 February 1657, he left his lands to his sons Thomas and Richard, bequeathed various sums of money to his daughters, other relations, friends, and the poor of the parishes of Wem, Loppington and Middle. He also left “Tho: Atcherley alias Edge Twenty Shillings” [3].

Thanks to my fellow Atcherley researcher Barbara Lang, we know where and when Thomas Atcherley, alias Edge, was married, and the name of his bride. An entry in the Myddle parish registers dated 24 November 1655, found by Barbara, shows “The marriage of Thomas Atcherley of Wykey in the parish of Ryton yeoman and Mary Groome, daughter of Richard Groom of Marton in the parish of Myddle.” Barbara also found an entry from just over a year later, on 4 January 1656/57, showing the “Birth and Burial of a child of Thomas Atcherley and Mary his wife.” [4]

After the birth and burial of his unnamed child in 1656/57 and his inclusion in the will of his father in 1657, Thomas seemed to disappear from the records and his role in the story of the Atcherley family appeared to be at an end. Recently however, I began to question the apparently minor role played by Thomas. My efforts to trace the origins of the Atcherleys who lived at Stanwardine from the early 1700s onwards, had led me to the conclusion that their ancestor was a Thomas Atcherley who had lived in Shropshire during the 1600s, and Thomas Atcherley alias Edge was one of two people who seemed to fit the bill. So when I first created the family tree of “Thomas of Shropshire” here at Atcherley.org.uk I introduced it with the following words:

 It seems logical to assume that the Atcherleys who lived in the parish of Baschurch during the 18th and 19th centuries were descendants of those who lived there in the 17th century. If so, their most likely ancestor would be one of the sons of Richard Atcherley of Stanwardine. However, I believe there is another possible progenitor for the Atcherley families who farmed at Baschurch from the early 1700s into the 1800s: Thomas Atcherley alias Edge, son of Thomas Atcherley of Marton in the parish if Myddle. I feel the need to do some more digging before I can be sure about the roots of this part of the Atcherley family tree. 

Why did I conclude that Thomas Atcherley alias Edge was in the frame? Well, it’s a long story which I will try to keep fairly short. In following the “Baschurch line” backwards from the 1800s I eventually came to John Atcherley, who had married Mary Basnet at Ellesmere in 1721. Both were of the Shropshire parish of West Felton at the time of their marriage, which meant that John was most likely a son of Thomas and Sarah Atcherley of Twyford in that parish. Thomas and Sarah (Williams), both of West Felton, had married at Baschurch on 3 January 1683/84. At this point however I felt that I had reached a dead end, the dreaded ‘brick wall’ feared by all genealogists. This was because I could not identify with any certainty a baptism relating to Thomas of West Felton. [5, 6, 7]

The plot thickened when I found that Thomas of Twyford in West Felton had a brother named Richard, who lived in the neighbouring parish of Whittington. The kinship of Thomas and Richard was evident from several historic documents, including Richard’s will of 10 March 1725/26 in which he named two of Thomas’ sons (Thomas Atcherley of Twyford and Richard Atcherley) as his nephews. Richard also named a sister in his will, Anne Waters; she seemed likely to be the “Anne Acherley, of Whittington” who had married “Thomas Rogers, of Gilshffeeld” (Guilsfield, Montgomeryshire) at Whittington on 26 July 1696 (in which case she had re-married before Richard made his will). Now I was looking for the baptisms of Thomas, Richard and Anne. Were there any other siblings I wondered? The Whittington parish registers suggested another two, as they contained a record not only of the burial of “Richard Atcharley, of Bucknell, in ye p. of Whittington” on 17 March 1725/26 but also records of the burials of “Margaret Atcherley, of Bucknhill” on 9 May 1704 and “Mary Acherley, of Bucknhill” on 19 January 1705/06. Neither Margaret nor Mary were described as daughters, wives or widows of another Atcherley, which suggested that they had died as unmarried adults. [8, 9]

Baptismal records for Thomas and Richard remained elusive, but I did have probable baptisms for Anne, Margaret and Mary (along with another sister, Elizabeth) in the parish of Ruyton of the Eleven Towns, from 1662 to 1670. In all cases the father was named as Thomas, and in the case of Margaret, the mother’s name was given: Mary [10]. It seemed entirely possible to me that Thomas of Twyford and Richard of Bucknhill were also sons of this Thomas and Mary, but where and when were their baptisms, and who were Thomas and Mary anyway? One candidate for Thomas was a son of John Atcherley (or Acherley) of Stanwardine and Shrewsbury; this Thomas was baptised at Shrewsbury on 29 December 1635 [9] and when building my initial Atcherley family tree I had concluded that he was the likely father of Anne, Margaret, Mary and Elizabeth of Ruyton.

The other candidate was of course Thomas Atcherley alias Edge. He was of Wykey, in the parish of Ruyton, according to Gough and also according to the record of his marriage – to a woman named Mary. This Thomas and Mary had seen their first child baptised and buried at Myddle in 1656/57. Could I find any evidence to show that they were also the parents of Anne, Margaret, Mary and Elizabeth, and of Thomas and Richard? If I could, it would not only resolve the question about the origins of the Baschurch line of the Atcherley family, it would also mean that the Baschurch line (alive and thriving in the 21st century) is in fact part of the supposedly extinct Marton line.

When I attended Who Do You Think You Are? Live! at Olympia on 25 February this year (see Echoes of the past) I had a number of questions for which I hoped to obtain answers. The origins of the Baschurch line was not one of them, yet in the end the show did help to resolve this mystery. One of my purchases on the day was the hot-off-the-press 13th edition of The Family and Local History Handbook. Reading through this book some weeks afterwards I spotted an advert for Staffordshire Name Indexes, a site which offers indexes of names from various collections, including wills, held by the Staffordshire and Stoke On Trent Archive Service. Within the index of Wills of the Diocese of Lichfield and Coventry, 1650-1700, was one for a Thomas Atcherley of Felton, yeoman, proved in 1680. Recognising the potential significance of this document, I quickly ordered a copy.

The will, when it arrived, turned out to be everything I had hoped for and more [11]. It had been written on 21 November 1679 and in it, “Thomas Atcherly of Tweyford in the parrish of ffelton: & Cowntie of Sallop yeamn” named his wife as Mary and his children as Thomas, Richard, Anne, Mary, Margaret, Elizabeth and Sarah (all of whom, except Thomas, were under 21). This backed my theory that Thomas, Richard, Anne, Margaret, Mary and Elizabeth were all children of a Thomas and Mary Atcherley, and added another daughter to the family (Sarah). However it did not confirm the identity of Thomas, the testator … until I saw that Thomas had also named his father in law: Richard Groome of Marton. He also went on to name his brother in law, Abraham Puller of Edgboulton (in the parish of Shawbury). According to Richard Gough, Abraham had married Mary Groome’s sister, who was Richard Groome’s fourth daughter. (This daughter was probably named Anne, as an Abraham Puller, parents Abraham and Anne, was baptised at Shawbury, Shropshire on 3 June 1656 [10]).

Thomas Atcherley bequeathed the remainder of the lease on his messuage and tenement at Twyford jointly to his wife Mary and his oldest son Thomas, with Thomas and his heirs to inherit after the decease of Mary, and Richard to inherit if Thomas should “happen to dye and depart this life beefoure hee bee marryed.” Richard and his sisters were to receive legacies of £20 each “at such times as they & everie of them shall attayne to the age of one & twentie yeares.” He was “weake in bodye” when he made his will, and evidently died soon afterwards as the will is accompanied by “A full and trew inventory of the goods & chattell of Thomas Atcherley deceased December the 18 1679.” Included in the inventory were household effects including furniture, linen, brass and pewter; food stuffs (namely butter and cheese); implements of husbandry; quantities of wheat, rye and barley; and livestock including six cows, “seven young bullox,” six heifers, twelve sheep, swine, and two “ould mares.” The total value of these goods and chattels was put at £129 17s. and 4d.

Thanks to Thomas’s will, his son Thomas continued to live at Twyford; there he had six children, one of whom was John who founded the Baschurch line of the family (to my knowledge, the only surviving Atcherley descendants of the Marton line). Thomas’s other son, Richard, went to live at Bucknhill / Bucknell in Whittington parish, along with his sisters. Richard married twice, his first wife bearing a daughter named Mary who married Richard Noneley and had six children with him in the parish of Loppington. Anne married at Whittington (and appears to have married again at a later date), while Margaret and Mary died there as spinsters; the fates of Elizabeth and Sarah are however unknown at present.

The will of Thomas Atcherley also has a value to present day descendants of the Atcherley family, which cannot be measured in monetary terms. It has acted as the key which has unlocked a long-forgotten secret from the past, one which shows us that the Marton line of the family, through the branch established by Thomas Atcherley, alias Edge, has survived to the present day. As a result, the many members of that branch can now trace their ancestry back to the parish of Myddle at the beginning of the 1600s.


[1] Richard Gough (1701), Antiquityes and Memoyres of the Parish of Myddle. Pages 72-73.
[2] Hand-written transcript of Myddle parish registers viewed at Shropshire Archives.
[3] The National Archives, Documents Online: Will of Thomas Atcherley, Gentleman of Wem, Shropshire (catalogue reference PROB 11/276).
[4] Barbara Lang: GEDCOM file.
[5] Copy of Ellesmere parish register viewed at Shropshire Archives. (Entry dated 5 May 1721 shows the marriage of “John Acherley & Mary Basnet both of the Parish of West Felton.”)
[6] Register of West Felton viewed at Shropshire Archives. (Entry dated 6 April 1693 shows baptism of “John ye son of Thomas Atcherley of Twyford.”)
[7] Hand-written transcript of Baschurch parish registers viewed at Shropshire Archives. (Entry dated 3 Jan 1683/84 shows marriage of “Thomas Atcherley & Sarah Williams of ye p. of Welsh felton.”)
[8] The National Archives, Documents Online: Will of Richard Acherley, Gentleman of Whittington, Shropshire (catalogue reference PROB 11/608).
[9] ShropshireOnline.info: Whittington, Halston Parish Registers, St. Asaph Diocese, Shropshire 1642-1834. [No longer online]
[10] FamilySearch.
[11] Lichfield Record Office: Document reference B/C/11; Atcherley, Thomas 1680.