Richard Atherton

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Sir Richard Atherton (22 September 1656 - 11 January 1687), was a Tory politician and an English Member of Parliament elected in 1671 representing Liverpool (UK Parliament constituency). He also served as Mayor of Liverpool from 1684 to 1685. [1] [2] He resided at Bewsey Old Hall, Warrington and died in 1687. [3] He was 11th in descent from Sir William Atherton MP for the same county in 1381 and was the last Atherton in the male line to have been a member of parliament.


Sir Richard Atherton
Richard Atherton

(1656-09-22)22 September 1656
Warrington, England
Died11 January 1687(1687-01-11) (aged 30)
Warrington, England
OccupationEnglish politician
Isabel Holt
(m. 1676)
Agnes Dodding
(m. 1686)

Early life

Born in Warrington on 22 September 1656, the posthumous son of John Atherton (1624-1656). He was raised by his mother Mary Rawsthone (née Bolde, daughter of Richard Bolde, of Warrington). [4] It is possible that both his mother and father descended from Edward I of England.

His father has been described as of the traditional political elite, a presbyterian, who had served as a Captain in the parliamentary army during the English Civil War (1642-1651) and taken prisoner at the Battle of Marston Moor. During peacetime his father served twice as Sheriff of Lancaster under the Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell. [5] His elder brother died days after his father.

Atherton, unlike his father was an Anglican and a High Tory. He was educated at Brasenose College, Oxford in 1672 and Gray's Inn in 1675. [6]


Whilst his father had been a parliamentarian who fought against the royalists, Atherton’s political career took place during the period of Restoration covering the reign of Charles II (1660–1685) and the brief reign of his younger brother James II (1685–1688). [7]

His terms in office from Member of Parliament during the 1670s, followed by Mayor and Alderman of Liverpool, covered the whole Restoration period of Stuart monarchs, a period which ended with the death of Queen Anne. The growth of Liverpool had accelerated since 1660, by trading with America and the West Indies in cloth, coal and salt from Lancashire and Cheshire in exchange for sugar and tobacco. Atherton was first elected as Member of Parliament for Liverpool in 1671, on the interest of Lord Molyneaux, but was unseated on petition. [8] He is said to have been a regular visitor to the Court of Charles II. [9]

In 1684 he became Lord Mayor of Liverpool. He secured the surrender of the Liverpool Charter, which was delivered to George Jeffreys, 1st Baron Jeffreys, known as Judge Jeffreys at Bewsey Old Hall in 1684. [10]

Atherton was politically aligned to the young Earl of Derby, who had succeeded his father in the baronetcy at the age of one in 1672. The Stanleys of Bickerstaffe descended from Sir James Stanley, younger brother of Thomas Stanley, 2nd Earl of Derby, 3rd Baron Stanley. The Liverpool charter had been described as municipal subordination and a form of oligarchy. [11]

The notes on the Liverpool Charters refer to Atherton as the first modern Mayor of Liverpool. [12] He remained in this role until 1685, returning to represent the city in parliament from 1685-1687, and died in office, just one year prior to the Glorious Revolution, which deposed James II.


Atherton inherited Bewsey Old Hall from his great-aunt, Dame Margaret Ireland, the widow of Gilbert Ireland upon her death in 1675. [13] Atherton’s grandmother was Eleanor Ireland, and like Dame Margaret, also descended from Sir Thomas Ireland. A year later, now with considerable wealth, he married Isabel, the first daughter of Richard Holt of Castleton and Stubley on 22 November 1676. [9] They had one son John, and three daughters, Catherine, Isabel and Dorothy. [14] [15]

Bewsey Old Hall Boteler Grammar School Warrington - 1526-1926 Plate 3.jpg
Bewsey Old Hall

He received a knighthood months after the aftermath of the Rye House Plot of 1683 (a plot to assassinate the King), a period of trials and executions. These were politically turbulent times, leading to the rebellion of 1685, the Monmouth Rebellion and Argyll's Rising. [16] The ceremony took place on 22 June 1684 by King Charles II at Windsor Castle.

He remarried on 1 November 1686. His second wife was Agnes, the daughter of Miles Dodding of Conishead. [9] They had no children.

He died in Warrington and was buried there on 11 January 1687. Immediately prior to his death he made a will on 30 December 1686 and appointed his brother in law, James Holt and friend William Bankes as guardians of his children. [9]

His male line of descent became extinct with the death of his grandson, Richard Atherton (1700-1726) at an early age.


His son, John Atherton (1678-1707) [17] inherited his estate and married Elizabeth Cholmondeley, of Vale Royal Abbey, and permitted the Unitarians to build a chapel on the Atherton estate. His grandson, was known as “mad Richard” Atherton (1701-1726), a high Tory, closed the chapel and was responsible for the construction of Atherton Hall.

His great granddaughter Elizabeth Atherton (1721-1763) married Robert Gwillym. Their son Robert Vernon Atherton Gwillym, who sat in the House of Commons from 1774 to 1780, changed his name from Gwillym to Atherton in 1779, almost certainly so he could inherit all of the Atherton estate, only to die in France in 1783, just a few years later. [18]


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  1. "Ophechte Haerlemsche Courant, April 19". National Library of the Netherlands. 1685.
  2. "Ophechte Haerlemsche Courant, April 19". Europeana. 1685.
  3. Henning, Basil Duke (1983). The House of Commons, 1660-1690: Introductory survey. Appendices, constituencies, members A-B. ISBN   9780436192746.
  4. Dugdale, William; Raines, Francis Robert (1872). "The visitation of the county palatine of Lancaster, made in the year 1664-5, by Sir William Dugdale, knight, Norroy king of arms". Chetham Society.
  5. "Atherton's serving under Oliver Cromwell. John, father of Richard Atherton MP".
  6. "The History of Parliament: Richard Atherton MP".
  7. Touzeau, James (1910). The Rise and Progress of Liverpool from 1551 to 1835 | . Retrieved 21 December 2019.
  8. Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, Volumes 35-37 - Liverpool Charters|. 1886. Retrieved 22 December 2019.
  9. 1 2 3 4 Farrer, William; Brownbill, John, eds. (1907). "A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London: Richard Atherton". pp. 435–439.
  10. Cooke, Bill (2020). The Story of Warrington. pp. 173–174. ISBN   9781838594381.
  11. Mullet, M, B.A., M.LITT. (1972). "Politics of Liverpool 1660-88" (PDF). p. 48.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  12. "Liverpool Town Hall - MAYORS OF THE CITY OF LIVERPOOL SINCE 1207".
  13. "Bewsey Old Hall". The Guide to Cheshire, Derbyshire and the Wirral. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  14. Cooke, Bill (2020). The Story of Warrington: The Athens of the North. p. 441. ISBN   9781838596255.
  15. "The Palatine Note-book: For the Intercommunication of Antiquaries, Volume 4". 1884.
  16. Local Gleanings Relating to Lancashire and Cheshire: V.1-2, April 1875-Dec. 1878 |. 1876. Retrieved 21 December 2019.
  17. "John, son of Richard Atherton MP leaves debt".
  18. "GWILLYM, Robert Vernon Atherton (?1741-83), of Atherton Hall, nr. Manchester". History of Parliament Online.