John Roger Atcherley and railway accountancy – Part 2

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The preface of Bradshaw’s Railway Manual of 1881 stated that there were then “upwards of 350 independent Railway undertakings in the United Kingdom”, while the General Index listed 342 UK railway companies from the Abbotsbury to the Yarmouth Union. Many of these firms were small affairs, with very limited lengths of ‘railroad’ to their names. The Whitland and Cardigan Railway Company (WCR), of which John Roger Atcherley [] had become auditor, was a prime example.

Wagons roll….

The WCR was incorporated – as the Whitland and Taf Vale Railway Company – by an Act of Parliament dated 12 July 1869, “to construct a railway from the South Wales Section of the Great Western, near Whitland, to Crymmych Arms, Pembrokeshire, for Cardigan and Newport.” The length of this railway was to be 14½ miles, with the Act authorising capital of £37,000 (in 10 shilling shares) and £12,300 on loan. A further Act in 1874 authorised additional capital of £10,000 and an extra £3,300 on loan – along with provision of “a narrow gauge communication to Whitland” and other facilities by the Great Western Railway.

The reports of the WTVR’s directors and engineer presented at the company’s half-yearly meeting at the end of August 1875 painted an encouraging picture. Minerals and goods traffic had continued, and the line had opened to passenger traffic on 12 July. Three days later, a railway inspector from the Board of Trade had given the railway a clean bill of health. Receipts were up £213 compared with the same 5 week period in the previous year. In communicating these facts to its readers, the South Wales Daily News concluded by saying that “the whole affairs of the company appeared to be satisfactory”, and that a “vote of thanks to the chairman terminated proceedings.”

In 1876, a public meeting was held at Cardigan for the purpose of bringing a railway line to the town. Two of the three options under consideration involved WTVR extending its line to meet this objective. By November that year the company had submitted a Bill to be introduced during the next session of Parliament, to enable them to do exactly that. In its account of the Bill’s progress published on 23 March 1877, the Carmarthen Weekly Reporter made this appeal:

Encouraged, as they should be, by the success of the bill in the House of Commons, should not the inhabitants of Cardigan and vicinity adopt every effort to urge the movement to arrive at a successful issue by which the town of Cardigan would be connected with other county towns by way of traffic, and not as hitherto “50 miles from everywhere”.

The Bill was unopposed and received Royal assent on 2 August 1877. This news was shared by the Board of Directors at the subsequent half-yearly meeting. Its report concluded:

Provision has been made in the Act empowering the Great Western Railway Company to subscribe £10,000 to the extension, and the shareholders of that company have authorised their directors to do so. The extension has rendered a change in the name of your company desirable, and the joint undertaking will henceforth be known as the Whitland and Cardigan Railway.

Going off the rails

The directors’ report also included some less welcome news: there had been only a small increase in traffic in the previous 6 months. This small increase became a decrease in traffic as time went on, reducing the profitability of the line. Possibly this discouraged some would-be investors – attracting sufficient shareholders was certainly a problem for the company. No dividends were paid on shares after the company’s change of name in 1877. The half-yearly meetings such as the one in 1875 mentioned above when all seemed well, soon became a distant memory.

At their meeting in February 1881, the directors and shareholders found themselves discussing the terms of a “proposed working arrangement with the G.W.R.” and two Bills passing through Parliament which would enable this. At that meeting, the South Wales Daily News of 19 February 1881 reported, a “lengthy account” was given of a meeting between company representatives and Sir Daniel Gooch regarding the terms under which the GWR would provide a £14,000 loan.

There were some misgivings, but James William Bowen, QC, a director of the company and one of those who had met with Gooch, said “As far as I can see it is the Great Western Railway or death.” Ultimately “resolutions were passed approving of the Whitland and Cardigan Railway Bill, and also of those sections of the Great Western Company’s Bill” under which the GWR sought power to lend money to the WCR.

By this time John Roger Atcherley was an auditor of the WCR. I suspect that his assistance in this capacity had been offered by the Great Western Railway because of the investments they had made in the company. One week on from the aforementioned report in the South Wales Daily News, the same paper gave an account of the WCR’s half-yearly meeting. This naturally included the latest on the company’s woes, and its negotiations with Sir Daniel Gooch and other representatives of the GWR:

Mr J. W. Bowen, Q.C., said he would, perhaps, be expected to give an account of his stewardship. […]The previous day (Thursday) he (Mr Bowen) had two hours’ conversation with Sir Daniel Gooch, Sir Alexander Wood, and Mr Saunders, the Secretary of the Great Western Railway Company. […] Subsequently to this interview he saw Mr Atcherley, one of their auditors, and he told him that he had not put the Whitland and Cardigan case as favourably as it might be, seeing that they now paid interest to the Great Western Railway Company and to the bank, and that debentures to the Great Western Railway would take priority of these charges. Mr Atcherley promised to lay this further statement before Mr Grierson [General Manager of the GWR], so that it might be brought before the Great Western directors next Wednesday.

John Roger Atcherley was re-elected as auditor at the above meeting. Subsequent copies of Bradshaw’s Railway Manual and reports on the Whitland and Cardigan Railway’s half-yearly meetings show that he remained in that position right up to 1890 – in which year the perennially unprofitable WCR was finally taken over by the Great Western. The extension to Cardigan had opened to passenger traffic in 1886, but this had not been enough to save the Whitland and Cardigan Railway Company.

A coupling at last for John

Meanwhile, there had been developments in John’s domestic life. On 9 May 1877, at the church of St Chrysostom in Rusholme, Manchester, John Roger Atcherley, aged 44, a bachelor and an accountant of 20 Porteous Road in Paddington, London, wed Mary Carruthers Miller [], aged 39, a spinster, of 190 Plymouth Grove, Manchester. Given the distance between them, how did John and Mary met and become ‘an item’?

Mary Carruthers Miller had begun her life in a place considerably further north than Manchester. A daughter of John Miller and Louisa, née Hetherington, Mary was born on 8 April 1842 at Annan in Dumfriesshire, Scotland, and was baptised there on 30 May that year. At the time of the 1871 census she was still living in Dumfriesshire (with her uncle John H Carruthers), but by 1881 she was residing with her widowed father and two of her sisters at 211 Plymouth Grove in Chorlton, Manchester.

John Atcherley’s sister [] and aunt [], both named Mary Cureton Atcherley (see Constant companions? The Misses Mary Cureton Atcherley), had been sharing homes in Chorlton when the censuses of 1861 and 1871 were taken. (Coincidentally, their address in 1861 was 13 Plymouth Grove.) Although they had moved to Withington by 1881, this was only 3 miles away from Chorlton. My guess, therefore, is that John’s introduction to Mary Carruthers Miller came about through his sister, or aunt, or both!

With Mary, John moved to a new home at 37 Mount Park Road in Ealing – which in honour of the birthplace of so many of his ancestors he named Stanwardine. The couple were enumerated there when the 1891 census was taken, by which time John’s salary had risen to £330 per annum. In August 1892 his salary rose to £350; The Official Guide to the Great Western Railway published the following year showed the position those earnings were attached to: John was Secretary of the GWR’s Superannuation Fund. John would rise no higher within the company he served however, and the pay rise of 1892 would be his last.

End of the line

On 6 February 1894, 51-year-old John Roger Atcherley was admitted to Holloway Sanatorium (pictured above) suffering from “Resistive Stupor”. Situated in 22 acres of parkland near Virginia Water in Surrey, the sanatorium had opened in 1885. Thomas Holloway, the ‘quack medicine’ purveyor turned philanthropist whose gave his name and money to the institute had set out to establish a Sanatorium for the mentally sick of the middle classes “the professional breadwinner whose income ceases when he is unable to work”. It was just the place for John, who was too well off for treatment in a pauper asylum but not rich enough to be able to afford a private establishment.

At the time of his admission John’s bodily condition was described as “Fair”, but mentally he had apparently been unwell for a month. The cause of his condition was recorded as “domestic trouble”. Quite what was going on at home is impossible for us to know, but John’s reaction to it was a condition which has been described as follows:

Resistive stupor. — In this condition, as soon as any impulse to act arises, an absolutely opposite and counter impulse also arises. The result of this is a condition of rigidity and tension, the amount of tension varying with the intensity of the counter impulse. This tension is expressed by two symptoms, termed negativism and automatism. Negativism is shown when the patient absolutely refuses to speak, strenuously resists all movements, such as dressing and undressing, walking, and feeding. […] Automatism is found in the less severe form of resistive stupor. The tension results in jerky, stiff automatic action like that of a “wax- work”; the tone of voice is monotonous, speech […] not infrequently limited to a reiteration of the same word or sentence. Peculiar attitudes may be assumed, and peculiar automatic movements constantly made, such as the touching of some particular spot or piece of furniture.

Poor John. He was discharged from the sanatorium on 4 March 1894, having been “Relieved” – but he had not recovered. He died at home three days later on 7 March, the cause of his death being certified as “General Paralysis of the Insane 4 months” and “Asthma”. His death was registered by his sister-in-law Isabella Hetherington Miller, who had been present when John died. The address she gave showed that she had been living with John and Mary.

“J. R. Atcherley” of Ealing was buried at Perivale St Mary the Virgin on 12 March 1894. Probate was granted to his widow Mary on the 28th of that month, John’s effects being valued at £1872 2s (but later resworn as £1904 17s). Mary Carruthers Atcherley continued to reside at Stanwardine, 37 Mount Park Road, with her sister Isabella, until her own death on 2 August 1917 – leaving effects valued at £4996 19s 2d and bringing this account of her accountant husband, John Roger Atcherley, to a close.

Picture credits. Map of Whitford and Cardigan Railway: Adapted from an image by ‘Afterbrunel’, taken from Wikimedia Commons and used, and made available for re-use, under a Creative Commons licenceMap of Whitford and Cardigan Railway: From Wikipedia , used under a Creative Commons licence. Holloway Sanatorium in 1884: Adapted from a public domain image taken from Wikimedia Commons, original source the London Illustrated News.


[1] South Wales Daily News, 2 Sep 1875, page 7, column 1. “The Whitland and Taf Vale Railway.” Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[2] South Wales Daily News, 8 Sep 1876, page 5, column 6. “Railway Communication With Cardigan.” Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[3] South Wales Daily News, 20 Nov 1876, page 6, column 3. “Parliamentary Notices. Local Schemes for the Ensuing Session.” Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[4] Carmarthen Weekly Reporter, 23 Mar 1877, page 3. “The Proposed railway Extension to Cardigan.” Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[5] South Wales Daily News, 31 Aug 1877, page 4, column 6. “Reports of Railway Companies.” Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[6] Whitland and Cardigan Railway. At: Wikipedia (website, accessed 31 Dec 2017).
[7] South Wales Daily News, 19 Feb 1881, page 3, column 8. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[8] S E Thomas (ed.) (1881), Celebrities of the day, Volume 2, page 191. (James William Bowen, Q.C.) Snippets and OCR text viewed at Google Books.
[9] South Wales Daily News, 19 Feb 1881, page 3, column 8. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[10] South Wales Daily News, 26 Feb 1881, page 4. “Whitland and Cardigan Railway Company.” Copy viewed at British Newspaper Archive.
[11] James Grierson. At: Grace’s Guide to British Industrial History (website, accessed 30 Dec 2017).
[12] Western Mail, 20 May 1890, page 2. “Whitland and Cardigan Railway. Winding-up Agreed Upon. Creditors Accept 10s. in the £.” Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[13] George Bradshaw (1882), Bradshaw’s Railway Almanack, Directory, Shareholders’ Guide, and Manual. Page 363. Snippet viewed at Google Books.
[14] Pembrokeshire Herald and General Advertiser, 2 Mar 1883, page 4. Copy viewed at Welsh Newspapers Online.
[15] W J Adams (1889), Bradshaw’s Railway Manual, Shareholders’ Guide, and Official Directory for 1889. Page 346. Snippet viewed at Google Books.
[16] W J Adams (1890), Bradshaw’s Railway Manual, Shareholders’ Guide, and Official Directory for 1890. Page 345. Snippet viewed at Google Books.
[17] Marriage of John Roger Atcherley and Mary Carruthers Miller registered at Chorlton, June quarter 1887; volume 8c, page 1098.
[18] Rusholme St Chrysostom, Lancashire, marriage register covering 1887. Entry for John Roger Atcherley and Mary Carruthers Miller. Copy viewed at Ancestry – Manchester, England, Marriages and Banns, 1754-1930. Abstract at Lancashire OPC website. Indexed at FamilySearch, Film 1408890, Digital folder 004452226, Image 00337.
[19] Annan, Dumfriesshire, Scotland, baptism register covering 1842. Entry for Mary Carruthers Millar. Indexed at FamilySearch, Batch C11812-4, Film 1067955, Ref No 2:160B4L7.
[20] 1871 census of Scotland. Piece 818, folio 4, page 2. Denbie House, Dalton, Dumfriesshire. Head: John H Carruthers, married, 65, staff surgeon R N retired, born Ruthwell. Niece: Mary C Miller, unmarried, 26, visitor, born Annan. Plus 2 servants (housemaid, cook).
[21] 1881 census of England and Wales. Piece 3918, folio 85, page 1. 211 Plymouth Grove, Chorlton Upon Medlock, Lancashire. Head: John Miller, widower, 79, gentleman, born Dumfries County, Scotland. Dau: Margaret E Renshaw, widow, 39, independent, born Dumfries, Scotland. Dau: Mary C Miller, unmarried, 30, independent, born Dumfries, Scotland. Dau: Isabella H Miller, unmarried, 28, independent, born Dumfries, Scotland. Plus a maid servant.
[22] North Division, Borough of Paddington, Register of Voters 1887. Page 82. (Shows Atcherley, John at 20 Porteus-road.)  Copy viewed at Ancestry – London, England, Electoral Registers, 1832-1965.
[23] Ealing Division, County of Middlesex, Register of Voters 1889. Page 217. (Shows Atcherley, John Roger at 37, Mount-park-road.)  Copy viewed at Ancestry – London, England, Electoral Registers, 1832-1965.
[24] The Official Guide to the Great Western Railway, 1893, page 14. Snippet viewed at Google Books.
[25] Surrey History Centre, Woking, Surrey, England. Holloway Sanatorium, General registers 1885–1900 (3237/5/1–3); Register of Patients 1050 to 1521, admission number 1277. Copy viewed at Ancestry – Surrey, England, Admissions to Brookwood and Holloway Mental Hospitals, 1867-1900.
[26] Holloway Sanatorium. At: Wikipedia (website, accessed 31 Dec 2017).
[27] Anon (ed.) (circa 1912?) Cassell’s Science and Art of Nursing. Volume IV, page 59. Text viewed at the Internet Archive.
[28] Death of John Roger Atcherley registered at Brentford, March quarter 1894; volume 3a, page 71; age given as 51. Copy of entry in register of deaths obtained from GRO.
[29] The Times, issue 34208, 10 Mar 1894, page 1. Deaths.
[30] The Globe, 12 Mar 1894, page 7. Deaths. Copy viewed at British Newspaper Archive.
[31] The Argus (Melbourne), 4 May 1894, page 1. Copy viewed at Trove.
[32] Perivale, Ealing, Middlesex burial register covering 1894. Entry for J R Atcherley. Copy viewed at Ancestry.
[33] National Probate Calendar (1894) shows: ATCHERLEY John Roger of 37 Mount-Park-road Ealing Middlesex died 7 March 1894 Probate London 28 March to Mary Carruthers Atcherley widow Effects £1872 2s. resworn July 1894 £1904 17s. Copy viewed at Ancestry.
[34] 1901 census of England and Wales. Piece 1190, folio 58, page 4.
[35] 1911 census of England and Wales. Piece 6873, Schedule 257.
[36] Death of Mary C Atcherley registered at Brentford, September quarter 1917; volume 3a, page 148; age given as 75.
[37] National Probate Calendar (1917) shows: ATCHERLEY Mary Carruthers of Stanwardine 37 Mount Park-road Ealing Middlesex widow died 2 August 1917 Probate London 13 September to Isabella Hetherington Miller spinster and Harry Harding accountant. Effects £4996 19s. 2d. Copy viewed at Ancestry.