Friday, 26 August 2016

(227) Atherton of Atherton Hall and Bewsey Hall

Atherton of Atherton
The Athertons are one of the most ancient of Lancashire families, and their ancestors can be traced at Atherton near Leigh (Lancs) to at least the reign of King Henry I (1100-35). By 1212 they were known as the 'de Athertons', and a fairly coherent genealogy can be pieced together from the early 14th century. They seem to have been normally resident at Atherton (on the site later called Old Hall or Lodge Hall), and in 1360 Sir William de Atherton had licence for an oratory there and for another in his house at Ashton-in-Makerfield (Lancs). The genealogy below begins with another Sir William Atherton, born in about 1384. The family seem to have been relatively minor county gentry, intermarrying with other Cheshire and Lancashire families of their kind and occasionally holding local office, until in the 16th century Sir John Atherton (c.1513-73), kt rose to greater prominence in the service of the Earl of Derby. As a young man he took part in various military campaigns, including the suppression of the Pilgrimage of Grace, and in 1544 he was knighted during the sack of Edinburgh and Leith. He was MP for Lancashire in 1559, but although he was favourable to the Elizabethan Settlement his second wife was a known recusant, and this led to suspicions of his own soundness in matters of religion, which blighted the further development of his political career. He and his first wife, who were married when they were both children, were childless and were divorced in 1551 on the grounds of her infidelity, but by his second marriage he had a son, John Atherton (c.1557-1617), who like his father served as MP for the county and was also MP for Lancaster. At the time of the Armada, when England was put on an invasion footing, he was made  Capt. of the Crown's forces in Cheshire and Lancashire, so his mother's recusancy did not prevent his being trusted. His son and heir, John Atherton (d. 1628) was a barrister in London.

When the Civil War broke out, the head of the family was John Atherton (c.1600-46), who was a captain in the militia during the 1630s. Despite this, he does not seem to have been active on either side, and it may be that although not old he was infirm. His son, Capt. John Atherton (1624-56) was a Presbyterian and joined the Parliamentarian forces, but little seems to be recorded of his activities during the war. When he died in his early thirties he left a single son, who is said to have died a few days later, but his wife was pregnant and in due course bore another son, who inherited the estate. This was Sir Richard Atherton (1656-87), whose religion and politics seem to have been very different from those of his father, as he was an Anglican and a high Tory. He was MP for Liverpool in the 1670s and 1680s and seems to have been elected on the interest of the Molyneux family who owned estates just outside the town. This would explain his support for the Catholic Lord Molyneux, when he became Lord Lieutenant under King James II. In 1675 he inherited the Bewsey Hall estate near Warrington, which must have materially improved the fortunes of the family. When he died, at much the same age as his father, he was succeeded by his only son, John Atherton (1678-1708), with whom the religious and political polarity of the family flipped once more, since John allowed the Unitarians to build a chapel at Atherton, which he may have attended. John was the third generation of the family to die young, and he was succeeded by his only son, Richard Atherton (1701-26), whose strong views and peculiar enthusiasms earned him the nickname of 'mad Richard' Atherton. Like his grandfather he was a strong Tory and an opponent of nonconformity, and he ejected the Unitarians from the chapel his father had allowed them to build on his land. During the long minority following his father's death the estate revenues had evidently accumulated healthily (although his father had left debts of £3,000), and as soon as he came of age he embarked on the creation of a new Baroque country house at Atherton, which was unfinished at his death in 1726. This is said, improbably, to have cost over £60,000 to build by the time it was finished by his daughter and son-in-law in 1742, but it was clearly a grandly conceived project.

With Richard Atherton's early death in 1726, the family's luck in producing male heirs despite the short lifetimes of successive owners finally ran out. Four of his five known children died in infancy and his heir was his daughter, Elizabeth Atherton (c.1721-63), who married Robert Gwillym (c.1714-78) of Langstone Court (Herefs) in about 1738. Their eldest son, Robert Vernon Atherton Gwillym (1741-83) inherited the Lancashire estates and took the name Atherton in lieu of Gwillym in 1779. When he died his only surviving son, Atherton Leigh Atherton (1768-89) inherited, but he died in France while on the Grand Tour, and the estate passed once again through the female line. His sister, Henrietta Maria Atherton (1772-1820) married in 1797 Thomas Powys (1775-1825), later 2nd Baron Lilford, whose main estates were in Northamptonshire. On Henrietta Maria's death in 1820, the Atherton family effectively died out, and Lord Lilford demolished Atherton Hall, seeing no need to have two large houses on his remote Lancashire estates. Bewsey Hall, which had been updated in the late 18th century, was retained, but in about 1830 his son and successor pulled down a good deal of that house too, and turned the remainder into a farmhouse. 


Atherton Hall, Lancashire


A section of the Ordnance Survey 6" map surveyed in 1847, showing Old Hall and Atherton Hall and the landscaped grounds.
The Old Hall, sometimes referred to as Lodge Hall, was the seat of the Athertons from time immemorial. Little is known of its ancient appearance, as it was rebuilt in the mid 18th century - perhaps when it was superseded by the New Hall - as a three storey three-bay house. It was called 'an old brick building, moated round' in 1836, but was later given large two-storey battlemented square bay windows either side of the front door. This house was demolished in 1972 but some of the outbuildings still survive to mark the site. There was a deer park here by Elizabethan times and probably much earlier.


Atherton Hall: elevation of entrance front from Vitruvius Britannicus, vol. 3, 1725.

Atherton Hall: ground plan of the house from Vitruvius Britannicus, 1725.






In  1723, Richard Atherton (1701-26) began building a very grand new house of red brick with stone dressings on a site to the east of the old hall, to the designs of William Wakefield (d. 1730). The house was incomplete at Atherton's death in 1726 and was finished by his son-in-law, Robert Gwillym, in 1743, by which time it is said to have cost an improbable £63,000. The handsome Baroque front elevation of 102 ft. was illustrated in Vitruvius Britannicus, volume 3, and was of seven bays and two storeys above a high basement, with a full cornice and balustraded parapet. In the centre was a temple front with engaged Ionic columns supporting a triangular pediment containing a trophy of arms, and topped by three martial apotropaic figures. This gave onto a very large two-storey entrance hall, which as John Aiken noted at the end of the 18th century, achieved grandeur at the expense of utility, since it occupied such a high proportion of the footprint of the house. The garden front was treated as five bays, grouped 1-3-1 by giant pilasters, with the same high basement and tall cornice and parapet. Both fronts had massive stone staircases,  the full width of the central three bays, leading up to doorcases on the piano nobile.


Atherton Hall: the garden front depicted in the background of a painting of the Gwillym family by Arthur Devis,
perhaps in the early 1750s.

After the Atherton estates passed in 1797 to Lord Lilford, Atherton was surplus to requirements. Lilford Hall in Northamptonshire was the family's main seat, and Bewsey Hall was preferred when they journeyed into Lancashire. Unsuccessful attempts were made to sell Atherton, but when these failed, the main block of the house was demolished in 1824-25; the site is still recognisably the focal point of the landscape. The service wings (visible in the Devis painting), which terminated in low three-storey towers with pyramidal roofs and pilaster strips at the angles, were retained and survive today.  Later alterations and additions (especially the neo-Georgian ones of 1930, by Isaac Taylor of Manchester) have linked them to form a three-sided court, which was converted into seven dwellings after 1979.


Atherton Hall in 1823, on the eve of demolition.

Atherton Hall: entrance front in the late 18th century

The heavily wooded park of the house was landscaped in the 18th century and given an S-shaped curved lake spanned by the Lion Bridge designed by Wakefield in 1724. In the 19th century, much of the park was given to the town of Leigh as a public park (Lilford Park), but due to lack of maintenance the lake silted up and in 1905 the bridge was demolished. A memorial incorporating one of the eponymous lions, very worn, and a few bits of masonry, was erected at the site in the 1990s. Another lion, in better condition, survives at Haigh Hall.


Atherton Hall: the terminal tower of one of the surviving service wings of the 18th century house. The wings can be seen in the Arthur Devis painting above.


Descent: Sir William Atherton (b. c.1384), kt.; to son, Sir William Atherton (c.1409-40), kt.; to son, William Atherton (d. before 1450?); to brother, John Atherton (d. 1488); to son, George Atherton (c.1486-1518); to son, Sir John Atherton (c.1513-73), kt.; to son, John Atherton (d. 1628); to son, John Atherton (c.1600-46); to son, Capt. John Atherton (1624-56); to son, Sir Richard Atherton (1656-87), kt.; to son, John Atherton (1678-1708); to son, Richard Atherton (1701-26); to daughter, Elizabeth Atherton (c.1721-63), wife of Robert Gwillym (c.1714-78); to son, Robert Vernon Atherton Gwillym (later Atherton) (1741-83); to son, Atherton Leigh Atherton (1768-89); to sister, Henrietta Maria Atherton (1772-1820), wife of Thomas Powys (1775-1825), 2nd Baron Lilford; to son, Thomas Atherton Powys (1801-61), 3rd Baron Lilford; to son, Thomas Littleton Powys (1833-96), 4th Baron Lilford; to son, John Powys (1863-1945), 5th Baron Lilford; to brother, Stephen Powys (1869-1949), 6th Baron Lilford...


Bewsey Hall, Lancashire


Bewsey Old Hall: a drawing of 1772 showing the house as altered in Jacobean times and the drawbridge over the moat.
It is thought that there has been a building - perhaps initially a hunting lodge - on this moated site since the 12th century. The present late 16th or early 17th century brick building is a fragment of the later house. To its north there stood a medieval hall range, rebuilt in the 17th century with a porch and a matching cross-wing to create a balanced E-plan front. The house is said to have been substantially remodelled in the late 18th century but was largely demolished except for the surviving fragment in about 1830. A late Georgian farmhouse and a 19th century kitchen are now attached to the surviving building. 


Bewsey Old Hall: a photograph of 1859 shows the house very much as it exists today
Bewsey Old Hall: the house after conversion to apartments in 2014. Image: Urban Splash
Very little survives inside of any interest after years of alteration and decay and the recent conversion of the building into seven apartments, but there are said to be indications that a second-floor room was hastily fitted up in the early 17th century with a partition and elaborate painted finishes, possibly for the use of King James I, who stayed here in 1617. The moat surrounding the house is now dry on the east side, but in 1724 there was a gatehouse guarding a bridge across this arm, and archaeology has revealed traces of this and of a terraced 17th century garden. The drawbridge was still in place in 1772.


Bewsey New Hall, built in 1860-61 for Lord Lilford.






In  1860-61 a new half-timbered house (Bewsey New Hall) was built on a different site west of Camp Road for the 4th Baron Lilford as replacement for the Old Hall. The new building was almost certainly designed by W.G. Habershon, but Lady Lilford disliked the house so much that she refused to live in it. It was largely demolished in the 1940s, apart from a fragment of the west wing.

Descent: Edward Butler sold to Sir Thomas Ireland (1560-1625), kt.; to son, Thomas Ireland; to daughter, Dame Margaret (d. 1675), wife of Sir Gilbert Ireland (1624-75), kt.; to cousin, Sir Richard Atherton (1656-87), kt.; to son, John Atherton (1678-1708); to son, Richard Atherton (1701-26); to daughter, Elizabeth Atherton (c.1721-63), wife of Robert Gwillym (c.1714-78); to son, Robert Vernon Atherton Gwillym (later Atherton) (1741-83); to son, Atherton Leigh Atherton (1768-89); to sister, Henrietta Maria Atherton (1772-1820), wife of Thomas Powys (1775-1825), 2nd Baron Lilford; to son, Thomas Atherton Powys (1801-61), 3rd Baron Lilford; to son, Thomas Littleton Powys (1833-96), 4th Baron Lilford; to son, John Powys (1863-1945), 5th Baron Lilford.


Atherton family of Atherton Hall



Atherton, Sir William (b. c.1384), kt. Son of Sir William Atherton (d. 1414), kt. and his wife Agnes, daughter and heir of Ralph Vernon of Shipbrook, Cheshire, born about 1384. He married 1st, c.1400, Elizabeth daughter of Sir John Pilkington, kt., and 2nd, 1422, Eleanor [surname unknown], and had issue:
(1.1) Sir William Atherton, kt. (q.v.);

(1.2) Margaret Atherton; married, 1438, John Dutton (d. 1461) of Hatton and had issue;
(1.3) Elizabeth Atherton; married William Whitmore (c.1421-84) of Thurstanton, mayor of Chester in 1473.
He inherited the Atherton Hall estate from his father in 1414.
His date of death is unknown.

Atherton, Sir William (c.1409-40), kt. Son of Sir William Atherton (b. c.1384), and his first wife, Elizabeth, daughter of Sir John Pilkington, kt., born about 1409. He married, c.1423, Margaret (fl. 1479), daughter of Sir John Byron, kt., and had issue:
(1) William Atherton (d. by 1450?); inherited the Atherton estate from his father in 1440 and came of age after 1444; married, 1444, Isabella (fl. 1479), daughter of Richard Balderston but died without issue in his minority;
(2) John Atherton (d. 1488) (q.v.);
(3) Nicholas Atherton (fl. 1438/9).
He inherited the Atherton Hall estate from his father.
He died in 1440. His widow married 2nd, before 1443, Sir Robert Harcourt, kt.; her date of death is unknown but she was living in 1479.

Atherton, John (d. 1488). Younger son of Sir William Atherton (d. 1440), kt. and his wife Margaret, daughter of Sir John Byron, kt. High Sheriff of Co. Durham, 1461. He married late in life, Jane, daughter of John Warren of Poynton (Cheshire), and had issue:
(1) George Atherton (c.1486-1518).
He inherited the Atherton Hall estate from his elder brother, probably before 1450.
He died 7 April 1488; an inquisition post mortem was held 24 August 1507 when his son was of full age.

Atherton, George (c.1486-1518). Only recorded son of John Atherton (d. 1488) and his wife, born about 1486. He married 1st, (div. on grounds of consanguinity*), Anne, daughter of Sir Richard Assheton of Middleton, kt., and 2nd, Anne, daughter of Sir Thomas Butler, of Bewsey (Lancs), kt., and had issue:
(1.1) Sir John Atherton (c.1513-73), kt. (q.v.);
(2.1) Anne Atherton; married Thomas Leland, son of William Leland of Morley and had issue.
He inherited the Atherton Hall estate from his father in 1488 and came of age in 1507.
He died in 1518. 
* Many sources place the date of the divorce at 1506, 1507 or 1508, but these dates are not reconcilable with Sir John Atherton having been born in c.1513, for which there is good evidence in an inquisition post mortem.

Atherton, Sir John (c.1513-73), kt. Only recorded son of George Atherton (d. 1518) and his first wife, Anne, daughter of Sir Richard Assheton of Middleton, kt., born about 1513. He took part in the Earl of Derby's expedition against the Pilgrimage of Grace, 1536 and was in charge of troops in northern England and Scotland, 1542-44; he was knighted at Leith by the Earl of Hertford, May 1544. In the late 1540s and 1550s he was active in raising and training men for the Lancashire musters, and in 1557 he led some of his tenants in the Earl of Derby's campaign against the Scots. MP for Lancashire, 1559; JP for Lancashire by 1544; High Sheriff of Lancashire, 1550-51, 1554-55 and 1560-61. He was a conformist in religion although there were occasional rumours of recusancy against him; his second wife was a recusant and was regularly presented as such after his death. He married 1st, before 1518, when they must both have been children (div. 1551 on the grounds of her adultery), Elizabeth (d. 1576), daughter of Sir Alexander Radcliffe, kt. of Ordsall (Lancs), and 2nd, Margaret, daughter and co-heir of Thomas Catterall of Little Mitton (Lancs), and had issue:
(2.1) John Atherton (c.1557-1617) (q.v.);
(2.2) Richard Atherton;
(2.3) William Atherton;
(2.4) Margaret Atherton (d. 1585); married William Jessop (d. 1630) of Broomshall near Sheffield (Yorks) and had issue; buried 26 April 1585 at Sheffield;
(2.5) Elizabeth Atherton; died young;
(2.6) Elizabeth Atherton; married Henry Bulmer.
He inherited the Atherton Hall estate from his father in 1518 and came of age about 1534. He sold a number of manors in Lancashire and between 1562 and 1570 bought property at Slingsby, Fryton and Hovingham in Yorkshire (NR).
He was buried at Leigh, 8 July 1573. His first wife died on 1 May 1576. His second wife survived him and married 2nd, William Edwards of Wrexham (Flints.); her date of death is unknown.

Atherton, John (c.1557-1617). Eldest son of Sir John Atherton (c.1513-73), kt. and his second wife, Margaret, daughter and co-heir of Thomas Catterall of Little Mitton (Lancs), born about 1557. High Sheriff of Lancashire, 1582. MP for Lancashire, 1586 and for Lancaster, 1588-89. JP for Lancashire by 1583; High Sheriff of Lancashire, 1582-83. At the time of the Armada, he was appointed Capt. of the Lancashire and Cheshire forces, 1588. He married 1st, Elizabeth, daughter of Sir John Byron, kt. of Colwick and Newstead (Notts), and 2nd, before 1587, Katherine (d. 1622), third daughter and co-heir of John Conyers, 3rd Baron Conyers, of Hornby Castle (Yorks), and had issue:
(1.1) John Atherton (d. 1628) (q.v.);
(1.2) Elizabeth Atherton; married James Browne;
(1.3) Rachel Atherton (d. 1643); died unmarried and without issue, 1643;
(2.1) John Atherton, of Skelton (Yorks); heir to his mother; married Anne, daughter of Sir John Byron, kt. and had issue a daughter;
(2.2) A son;
(2.3) A daughter;
(2.4) A daughter;
(2.5) A daughter.
He inherited the Atherton Hall and Yorkshire estates of his father in 1573. He sold the Yorkshire estate to Sir Charles Cavenish, kt. in 1594.
He was buried at Leigh, 23 May 1617. His widow married 2nd, Francis Savile, son of Henry Savile of Lupset (Yorks), and died 8 March 1622.

Atherton, John (d. 1628). Only recorded son of John Atherton (c.1557-1617) and his first wife, Elizabeth, daughter of Sir John Byron, kt., of Newstead (Notts), perhaps born c.1576. Educated at Grays Inn (admitted 1594). Barrister-at-law. He married 1st, Grismond, daughter of Henry Butler of Rawcliffe Hall (Lancs), and 2nd, about December 1602, Cicely, daughter of Ralph Calveley of Saighton (Cheshire), and had issue:
(1.1) John Atherton (c.1600-46) (q.v.); 
(2.1) Richard Atherton of Chowbent.
He inherited the Atherton Hall estate from his father in 1617.
He was buried at Leigh, 23 July 1628. His wives' dates of death are unknown.

Atherton, John (c.1600-46). Only recorded son of John Atherton (d. 1628) and his first wife Grismond, daughter of Henry Butler of Rawcliffe Hall (Lancs), perhaps born c.1600. Educated at Grays Inn (admitted 1620). Perhaps the John Atherton of Chowbent (in Leigh) who was appointed a Capt. of Light Horse by the Lord Lieutenant of Lancashire, 1636. He married, c.1620, Eleanor (d. 1648?), daughter of Sir Thomas Ireland of Bewsey Hall (Lancs), and had issue:
(1) Thomas Atherton; died young;
(2) George Atherton; died unmarried;
(3) Capt. John Atherton (1624-56) (q.v.);
(4) Margaret Atherton (b. 1626), baptised at Leigh, 2 July 1626; married, before 1646, John Bradshaw (1614-94), son of John Bradshaw of Bradshaw, and had issue three sons and eight daughters; living in 1664;
(5) Eleanor Atherton (1628-82), baptised at Leigh, 26 February 1627/8; married Robert Clayton (d. 1664) of Fulwood (Lancs) and had issue four sons and four daughters; buried at Broughton (Lancs), 17 July 1682;
(6) William Atherton (b. 1629), baptised at Leigh, 3 February 1628/9; educated at Grays Inn (admitted 1648); died unmarried;
(7) Ireland Atherton (1630-1708), baptised at Leigh, 4 February 1629/30; married, 31 March 1656 at Wigan (Lancs), Katherine Alred (d. 1698), and had issue; buried at Leigh, 5 May 1708;
(8) twin, Thomas Atherton (b. 1632), baptised at Leigh, 3 January 1632/3; probably died young;
(9) twin, Henry Atherton (b. 1632), baptised at Leigh, 3 January 1632/3; probably died young;
(10) Ralph Atherton (1635-38), baptised at Leigh, 8 October 1635; died young and was buried at Leigh, April 1638;
(11) Anne Atherton (1637-95), baptised at Leigh, 2 November 1637; married, 3 August 1655 at Preston (Lancs), Thomas Clayton, citizen and merchant of London, and had issue three sons and seven daughters; buried at Standish (Lancs), 28 May 1695.
He inherited the Atherton Hall estate from his father in 1628.
He died in about 1646. His wife was probably the 'Ellen Atherton' of Leigh whose will was proved in 1648.

Atherton, Capt. John (1624-56). Third but eldest surviving son of John Atherton (c.1600-46) and his wife Eleanor, daughter of Sir Thomas Ireland of Bewsey Hall (Lancs), baptised at Leigh, 9 February 1623/4. A Presbyterian in religion, he built the Old Bent chapel at Atherton, which remained unconsecrated and was later used by nonconformists. He was a Captain in the Parliamentary army during the Civil War. JP for Lancashire; High Sheriff of Lancashire, 1654. He married, before 1645, Mary (d. 1665), daughter of Richard Bold of Bold Hall (Lancs), and had issue including:
(1) John Atherton (d. 1656?); died young, according to one source a few days after his father;
(2) Eleanor Atherton; died young;
(3) Mary Atherton; died young;
(4) Joan Atherton; died young;
(5) Sir Richard Atherton (1656-86), kt. (q.v.).
He inherited the Atherton Hall estate from his father in about 1646.
He died early in 1656*. His widow married 2nd, 1658 (settlement 1 October), Lawrence Rawstorne (1619-1700) of Newhall and had further issue one son (who died young); she was buried at Leigh, 7 July 1665.
* One Internet source gives a date of 17 January 1655/6, but I have been unable to verify this.

Atherton, Sir Richard (1656-87), kt. Only surviving son of Capt. John Atherton (1624-56) and his wife, born posthumously, 1656*. Educated at Brasenose College, Oxford (matriculated 1672) and Grays Inn (admitted 1675). He was brought up an Anglican by his mother, and was a high Tory in politics. MP for Liverpool 1677-79, 1685-87; Mayor of Liverpool, 1684-85; JP for Lancashire, 1677-86 and DL, 1682-86; he was knighted by King Charles II at Windsor, 22 June 1684 and was made a freeman of Preston, 1682. During his mayoralty he persuaded the corporation of Liverpool to surrender the city charter of 1677 to Judge Jeffreys and to seek a new grant. At the end of his life he was a supporter of Lord Molyneux, the newly-appointed Roman Catholic Lord Lieutenant, whose perennial quarrels with the corporation of Liverpool must have made Atherton unpopular there. He married 1st, 27 November 1676 at St Chad, Rochdale (Lancs), Isabel, daughter of Robert Holt of Castleton and Stubley, and 2nd, 25 November 1686 at Ulverston (Lancs), Agnes (b. 1664), daughter of Miles Dodding of Conishead (Lancs), and had issue:
(1.1) John Atherton (1678-1708) (q.v.);
(1.2) Catherine Atherton (b. 1679), baptised at Warrington, 3 April 1679;
(1.3) Marie Atherton (1680-1705), baptised at Warrington, 5 February 1679/80; married, 20 March 1700/01 at Warrington, Edward Molyneux, and had issue two daughters; buried at Warrington, 11 May 1705;
(1.4) Isabel Atherton (b. 1682), baptised at Warrington, 24 January 1681/2; married 21 May 1702 at Warrington, William Rawstorne of Preston, and had issue;
(1.5) Dorothy Atherton (b. 1682), baptised at Warrington, 17 December 1682.
He inherited the Atherton Hall estate from his father at his birth and the Bewsey Hall estate in 1675 from Dame Margaret Ireland.
He was buried at Warrington, 11 January 1686/7, but his will was not proved until 1690. His first wife died between 1682 and 1686; his second wife presumably survived him but her date of death has not been traced.
*One Internet source gives the date as 23 September 1656, but I have been unable to verify this.

Atherton, John (1678-1708). Only son of Sir Richard Atherton (1656-87) and his first wife, Isabel, daughter of Robert Holt of Castleton and Stubley, born 29 January 1677/8 and baptised at Warrington, 12 February 1677/8. Educated at Brasenose College (matriculated 1694) and Grays Inn (admitted 1697). On his father's death he was placed in the guardianship of James Holt MP and William Banks II MP, whose political and religious leanings may explain the wide divergence of his views from those of his father and son. In adulthood he was a nonconformist in religion, and encouraged and supported the Unitarian meeting at Atherton. He married, 4 April 1700 at Whitegate (Cheshire), Elizabeth (b. 1676), daughter and heiress of Robert Cholmondeley of Vale Royal, and had issue:
(1) Richard Atherton (1701-26) (q.v.);
(2) Elizabeth Atherton (1703-53), born 19 May and baptised at Warrington 29 May 1703; married, 4 December 1722 at Preston (Lancs), Thomas Heber (1697-1752) of Marton (Yorks WR) and had issue three sons and two daughters; died 23 March and was buried at Marton, 27 March 1753;
(3) Frances Atherton (b. 1705), born 3 August and baptised at Warrington, 10 August 1705; unmarried and living in 1724;
(4) Mary Atherton (b. 1707), baptised at Warrington, 15 October 1707; probably died in infancy.
He inherited the Atherton Hall and Bewsey Hall estates from his father in 1687 and came of age in 1699. In 1708-09 his widow sought petitioned Parliament for leave to raise £3,000 for the payment of his debts by leasing estates and selling timber, but this was rejected.
He was buried at Warrington, 20 January 1707/8, aged 29. His wife survived him but her date of death has not been traced.

Atherton, Richard (1701-26). Only recorded son of John Atherton (1678-1708) and his wife Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of Robert Cholmondeley of Vale Royal (Cheshire), born 21 May and baptised at Warrington (Lancs), 29 May 1701. He is said to have been a Jacobite in politics and was active in fomenting political opposition in Wigan in 1724-26. In religion he was an opponent of nonconformity (unlike his father), and on coming of age he demanded the surrender of the Unitarian chapel which had recently been built at Atherton on land leased from the estate. A pigeon-fancier, he was 'a very compleat judge of a pigeon' and collected examples of as many different species of dove and pigeon from around the world as he could come by; he intended to have four dovecotes in turrets on the roof of Atherton Hall, but died before these were constructed. These eccentricities led to his sometimes being referred to in the family as 'mad Richard'. He married, 16 June 1719 at Leyland (Lancs), Elizabeth (1702-42), daughter of William Farington of Shaw Hall, Leyland, and had issue:
(1) John Atherton (b. & d. 1720); died in infancy and was buried at Leyland, 1 April 1720;
(2) Elizabeth Atherton (c.1721-63) (q.v.);
(3) Isabella Atherton (b. & d. 1722); buried at Leyland, 26 November 1722;
(4) Mary Catherina Atherton (d. 1724); buried at Leyland, 7 January 1723/4;
(5) Richard Atherton (b. & d. 1725), baptised at Leyland, 7 May 1725; died in infancy and was buried at Leyland the following day.
He inherited the Atherton Hall and Bewsey Hall estates from his father in 1708 and came of age in 1722. He began the construction of a new Atherton Hall in 1723, which was unfinished at his death; his will instructs his executors to complete the building.
He was buried at Leigh, 29 November 1726; his will was proved at Chester, 19 December 1724. His widow married 2nd, 20 August 1729 at Weld Chapel, Southgate (Middx), Jonathan Goldsmith of London, and was buried at Leigh, 10 April 1742.


Elizabeth Atherton,
by Arthur Devis.
Atherton, Elizabeth (c.1721-63). Only child of Richard Atherton (1701-26) and his wife Elizabeth, daughter of William Farington of Shaw Hall, born about 1721*. She married, c.1738 (settlement, 1738), Robert Gwillym (c.1714-78) of Langstone Court (Herefs), and had issue:
(1) Richard Atherton Gwillym (b. & d. 1740), baptised at Leigh, 2 March 1739/40; died in infancy and was buried, 21 June 1740;
(2) Robert Vernon Atherton Gwillym (later Atherton) (1741-83) (q.v.);
(3) Elizabeth Goldsmith Atherton Gwillym (1742-1823), baptised at Leigh, 3 September 1742; married, 10 December 1767 at Warrington (Lancs), Lawrence Rawstorne (1742-1803) and had issue three sons and two daughters; died at Hutton Hall and was buried at Penwortham (Lancs), 18 November 1823;
(4) Jane Atherton Gwillym (1743-57), baptised at Leigh, 22 August 1743; died young and was buried at Leigh, 4 September 1757;
(5) William Atherton Gwillym (1744-71), baptised at Leigh, 1 January 1744/5; educated at Brasenose College, Oxford (matriculated 1763) and Trinity Hall, Cambridge (admitted 1765); presumably inherited his father's Herefordshire property; died 1771;
(6) Alice Charlotte Gwillym (1748-51), baptised at Leigh, 25 March 1748; died young and was buried at Leigh, 27 April 1751;
(7) Thomas Symons Atherton Gwillym (1753-58), baptised at Leigh, 7 April 1753; died young and was buried at Leigh, 5 June 1758;
(8) Frances Atherton Gwillym (d. 1757); buried at Leigh, 10 October 1757.
She inherited the Atherton Hall and Bewsey Hall estates from her father in 1726? and completed the building of Atherton Hall in 1743.
She was buried at Leigh, 30 May 1763. Her husband married 2nd, Frances [surname unknown] and had further issue one son; he was buried at Warrington, 21 August 1778, and his will was proved at Chester, 7 October 1778 and in the PCC, 13 September 1808.
* The baptism of an Elizabeth, daughter of Richard and Elizabeth Atherton at Preston (Lancs), 29 May 1721, appears to relate to a different person.


R.V.A. Gwillym, 1766
by Joseph Wright of Derby.
Image: St Louis Art Museum
Gwillym (later Atherton), Robert Vernon Atherton (1741-83). Second son of Robert Gwillym (c.1714-78) of Langston and Walford-on-Wye (Herefs) and his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Richard Atherton of Atherton Hall and Bewsey Hall, baptised at Leigh, 28 August 1741. Educated at Brasenose College, Oxford (matriculated 1763) and Trinity Hall, Cambridge (matriculated 1767). MP for Newton (Lancs), 1774-80. He took the name and arms of Atherton in lieu of Gwillym for himself and his descendants by royal licence, 1779. He and his wife were painted by Joseph Wright of Derby in 1766. He married, 25 January 1763 at Winwick (Lancs), Henrietta Maria (1744-79), daughter and co-heir of Peter Legh of Lyme Park (Cheshire) and had issue:
(1) Atherton Leigh Gwillym (later Atherton) (1768-89), born 4 June and baptised at Leigh, 25 July 1768; educated at Manchester Grammar School; inherited the Atherton and Bewsey estates from his mother but died unmarried in the south of France shortly before coming of age, 27 March 1789;
(2) Robert Gwillym (1769-73), baptised at Leigh, 3 November 1769; died young and was buried at Leigh, 10 June 1773;
(3) Henrietta Maria Gwillym (later Atherton) (1772-1820) (q.v.);
(4) Elizabeth Gwillym (later Atherton) (1774-1837), baptised at Leigh, 29 October 1774; married, 18 May 1802 at Marylebone (Middx), her cousin, George Anthony Legh-Keck MP (1774-1860) of Stoughton Grange (Leics) and Bank Hall, Bretherton (Lancs), but had no issue; died 21 January 1837;
(5) Hester Gwillym (later Atherton) (1776-1830), baptised at Leigh, 25 July 1776; married, 14 October 1800 at St John, Preston (Lancs), Rev. James John Hornby and had issue two sons (who both died without issue); buried at Winwick (Lancs), 23 June 1830;
(6) Frances Gwillym (1777-79), baptised at Leigh, 26 September 1777; died in infancy and was buried at Leigh, 27 January 1779;
(7) Leigh Egerton Gwillym (later Atherton) (1778-79), born 15 December 1778 and baptised at Leigh, 15 January 1779; died in infancy and was buried at Leigh, 17 November 1779.
He inherited the Atherton and Bewsey Hall estates from his mother in 1763.
He was buried at Leigh, 9 July 1783. His wife was buried at Leigh, 28 September 1779.

Atherton, Henrietta Maria (1772-1820). Eldest daughter of Robert Vernon Gwillym (later Atherton) (1741-83) and his wife Henrietta Maria, daughter and co-heir of Peter Legh of Lyme Park (Cheshire), baptised at Leigh, 24 July 1772. She married, 5 December 1797 at Penwortham (Lancs), Thomas Powys (1775-1825), 2nd Baron Lilford, and had issue:
(1) Hon. Henrietta Maria Powys (1799-1870), born 7 February and baptised at Leigh, 8 February 1799; married, 10 September 1827, John Campbell Colquhoun (1803-70) of Killermont and Garscadden, and of Chartwell (Kent), politician and author, son of Archibald Colquhoun of Edinburgh, and had issue two sons; died in London, 21 January 1870 and was buried at Crockham Hill, Sevenoaks (Kent);
(2) Hon. Eleanor Powys (1800-80), baptised at St George's Hanover Square, London, 8 April 1800; married, 8 Jul 1839, as his second wife, Sir John Murray Naesmyth (1803-76), 4th bt., of Dawyck House (Peebles.) and had issue one son and one daughter; died 13 March 1880; will proved 27 April 1880 (effects under £12,000);
(3) Thomas Atherton Powys (1801-61), 3rd Baron Lilford, born 2 December 1801; a Lord of the Bedchamber 1831-35 and 1835-37; a Lord-in-Waiting 1837-41; married, 24 May 1830, Hon. Mary Elizabeth (1806-91), daughter of Henry Richard Fox, 3rd Baron Holland, and had issue four sons and six daughters; died 15 March 1861 [the Powys family, Barons Lilford, will be the subject of a future post];
(4) Hon. Robert Vernon Powys (1802-54), born April 1802; an officer in the East India Company's Bengal army (Capt.); married, 14 April 1825, Jane (d. 1842), third daughter of William Beckett, of Enfield (Middx), and had issue five sons and one daughter; died 26 May 1854;
(5) Hon. Mary Powys (1804-83), born 12 December 1804; married, 11 May 1830, Rev. James Drummond (d. 1882), rector of Galby (Leics); died 5 November 1883;
(6) Rt. Rev. & Hon. Horatio Powys DD (1805-77), born 20 November 1805; educated at Harrow and St. John's College, Cambridge (matriculated 1824; MA 1826; DD 1854); ordained deacon, 1830 and priest, 1831; rector of Warrington (Lancs), 1831-54; Bishop of Sodor and Man, 1854-77; married, 21 Feb 1833, Percy Gore (d. 1888), eldest daughter of William Currie of East Horsley Park (Surrey), and had issue three sons and five daughters; died 31 May 1877;
(7) Hon. Elizabeth Atherton Powys (c.1807-91), born about 1807; married, 15 February 1828, Rev. Richard Leonard Adams (1802-75), rector of Shere (Surrey) and had issue; died 8 January 1891; will proved 19 February 1891 (effects £2,314);
(8) Rev. & Hon. Atherton Legh Powys (1809-86), born 23 September 1809; educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge (matriculated 1829; MA 1834); ordained deacon, 1841 and priest, 1842; rector of Titchmarsh (Northants), 1842-61; married, 23 September 1841 at Melton Mowbray (Leics), Charlotte Elizabeth (d. 1869), daughter of Richard Norman, and had issue three sons and two daughters; lived latterly at Southsea (Hants); died at Gotham (Notts), 28 August 1886; administration of goods with will annexed granted 16 March 1887 (effects £1,030);

(9) Hon. Frances Hester Powys (c.1810-40), born about 1810; married, 5 April 1831, Rev. Thomas Henry Causton (d. 1854); died 17 June 1840;
(10) Hon. Jane Lucy Powys (c.1811-1905), born about 1811; married, 18 May 1836, Rev. John Pierce Maurice, rector of Michael Marsh (Hants) (d. 1874), and had issue four sons; died 4 December 1905.

(11) Maj. the Hon. Henry Littleton Powys (later Powys-Keck) (1812-63), of Stoughton Grange (Leics), born 28 March 1812; married 1st, 20 November 1840, Margaretta Matilda (d. 1845), third daughter of J. J. Bancho, of Parsonstown, Ireland, and had issue three sons; married 2nd, 16 July 1862, Maria (d. 1902), youngest daughter of Admiral Sir John Gore KCB GCH RN, but had no further issue; died 10 July 1863;
(12) Lt Col the Hon. Charles Powys (1813-97), born 4 March 1813; served in the Sikh War and the Indian Rebellion; married 1st, 29 Mar 1836, Mary (d. 1854), only surviving child of William Scott Kennedy, and 2nd, 15 Aug 1854, Agnes Anne (d. 1906), only daughter of John Richards, of Penzance (Cornw), and had issue by his second wife; died 16 October 1897.

She inherited the Atherton and Bewsey Hall estates from her brother in 1789.
She died 11 August 1820. Her husband died in London, 4 July, and was buried at Achurch (Northants), 15 July 1825; his will was proved 14 December 1825.


Sources


J. Aiken, A description of the country from thirty to forty miles round Manchester, 1795, p. 298; VCH Lancashire, vol. 3, 1907, pp. 324-28, 435-39; J.S.F. Walker & A.S. Tindall, Country Houses of Greater Manchester, 1985, p. 185; R. Pollard & Sir N. Pevsner, The buildings of England: Lancashire - Liverpool and the south-west, 2006, pp. 140-41, 632-33.


Location of archives


Atherton family of Atherton and Bewsey: deeds and papers relating to Lancashire and Herefordshire property, 13th-18th cents [Lancashire Archives, DDLi]


Coat of arms


Gules, three sparrowhawks, two and one, argent.


Can you help?


Here are a few notes about information and images which would help to improve the account above. If you can help with any of these or with other additions or corrections, please use the contact form in the sidebar to get in touch.


  • Can anyone provide information about the descent of Atherton Hall or Bewsey Hall in the later 20th century?
  • The genealogical details above for the earliest generations of this family are remarkably thin; I should be most grateful to anyone who can provide additional information from authoritative sources.



Revision and acknowledgements


This post was first published 26th August 2016, and was updated 30 July 2017.

3 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  2. Lee McStein writes:

    Fantastic bit of work here on Atherton Hall!

    Up here in Leigh we are getting stuck into a hearty research project on the Hall, the Atherton Family and the estate and it's remains.

    In fact, using the information provided in the Vitruvicus Britannicus and further information we gained from further digging, one of our volunteers has managed to produce a 3D digital reconstruction of the Hall from our current research - take a look: https://sketchfab.com/models/32b9f0f45253485384d1e7e25422ee1b

    We'd love to speak to you further about this as we are about to embark on a pretty exciting project that should shed further light on the Atherton Family and the Lilford's ownership of both Atherton, Bewsey Old Hall and Bank Hall near Preston.

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  3. Many, many thanks for this. The death date for Elizabeth Gwillym (later Atherton) (b. 1774) may be gleaned from her obituary in the Gentleman's Magazine for June 1837, p. 668, which reports that she died "Jan. 21. Aged 63."—DHR, Blacksburg, VA.

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