Atherton One Name Study

Peter ATHERTON[1]

Male 1741 - 1799  (58 years)


Personal Information    |    Media    |    Notes    |    Sources    |    Event Map    |    All

  • Name Peter ATHERTON 
    Born 1741  Garston, Liverpool, Lancashire Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Male 
    Died 16 Aug 1799  Harrogate, Yorkshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Person ID I21807  Atherton One Name Study
    Last Modified 30 Jul 2017 

    Father William ATHERTON,   b. Yes, date unknown,   d. 1746 
    Mother Ann UNKNOWN,   b. Yes, date unknown,   d. 1773, Woolton, Liverpool, Lancashire Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Family ID F1437  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family 1 Bridget FOSTER,   b. Yes, date unknown,   d. Mar 1767 
    Married 29 Nov 1759  Liverpool, Lancashire, England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Children 
     1. William ATHERTON,   b. 1760, Liverpool, Lancashire, England Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 7 Jun 1764, Prescot, Lancashire, England Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 4 years)
     2. Ann ATHERTON,   b. 1762, Liverpool, Lancashire, England Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 13 Jun 1812  (Age 50 years)
     3. Margaret ATHERTON,   b. 1766, Warrington, Lancashire, England Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Yes, date unknown
     4. Elizabeth ATHERTON,   b. 1767, Warrington, Lancashire, England Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 7 May 1812  (Age 45 years)
    Last Modified 9 Jun 2017 
    Family ID F1625  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family 2 Elizabeth BURN,   b. Yes, date unknown 
    Children 
     1. William BURN,   b. Between 1772 and 1786,   d. Yes, date unknown
    Last Modified 17 Aug 2017 
    Family ID F6967  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsBorn - 1741 - Garston, Liverpool, Lancashire Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsMarried - 29 Nov 1759 - Liverpool, Lancashire, England Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsDied - 16 Aug 1799 - Harrogate, Yorkshire, England Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Earth 

  • Documents
    Peter Atherton 1741-1799
    Peter Atherton 1741-1799
    Will of Ann Whitfield of Woolton - Page 1
    Will of Ann Whitfield of Woolton - Page 1
    Will of Ann Whitfield of Woolton - Page 2
    Will of Ann Whitfield of Woolton - Page 2
    Peter Atherton Family Tree 1741-1799
    Peter Atherton Family Tree 1741-1799

  • Notes 
    • Peter Atherton was born in Garston, Liverpool in 1741, the son of William Atherton, a Yeoman, and his wife Ann. (He was christened 24 June 1741 at All Saints Church, Childwall.) He had a sister Ann, born in 1743, who married John Glover, a watch maker from Speke, also at All Saints Church, Childwall (4 June 1763). William Atherton died in 1746 and his widow appears to have married again (to Henry Whitfield in 1750) because Peter Atherton refers in his will to a half brother Henry Whitfield and a half sister Elizabeth Fazakerly. (7) Peter married Bridget Foster 29 November 1759 at St Peter's Church, Church Street, Liverpool. At the time of the wedding his occupation was stated as 'file cutter' (he did the finer work in the cutting of gear wheels etc.). He may well have had some work in association with Thomas Vernon, a witness at the wedding, who was a watchmaker in Pool Lane (South Castle Street), Liverpool. (8) Peter Atherton and Bridget had three daughters: Ann born August 1762 in Liverpool, Margaret born 1766 and Elizabeth born 1767 in Warrington. Sadly Bridget seems to have died in March 1767 shortly after the birth of Elizabeth.
      What follows is the introduction to a fascinating paper - `Peter Atherton, Cotton Machinery Manufacturer, 1741-1799`
      published in full by the Lancashire & Cheshire Antiquarian Society - written by Dr Ken Davies in Jun 2010, a retired lecturer of Liverpool John Moore's University. Ken was a founding trustee and chairman of the Greenfield Valley Trust:

      `The nineteenth century is recognised as a period when revolutionary developments in mechanical engineering took place in Britain. However, the enabling foundations for these achievements were laid during the previous century. In particular specialised machine-making evolved rapidly during the second half of the eighteenth century. Lancashire was a prime area for such major developments spurred on by inventions for the cotton industry associated with Hargreaves, Arkwright, Crompton and Cartwright with power generated by water wheels and later steam engines. The demand for machinery and power systems led to the need for machine tools and skilled machine makers.
      Clockmakers especially were important in meeting this need and in the early development of mechanical engineering. They understood the principles of gears and the lathes and wheel cutting engines they used for making the parts of large clocks could be readily adapted to manufacture parts for textile machinery. Indeed textile machinery was commonly referred to as 'clockwork' in the late eighteenth century insurance records.
      It was in this context that Peter Atherton rose to importance. He appears to have gained esteem amongst his contemporaries as he is named as one of a group of delegates, led by Patrick Colquhoun, representing the north west of England cotton manufacturers who in May 1788 'waited on' William Pitt the Younger to make representations about the great increase in the amount of cotton goods the
      East India Company was importing into England and about the unfair advantage the Company had in exporting cotton goods (London Chronicle, 27 May 1788). He was also approached by Peter Ewart, the northern area agent for
      Boulton and Watt (1790-92), to advise on the availability of skilled workmen in the region (Birmingham Central Library Boulton & Watt (BCL B & W) MS 3147/3/249 12 December 1791).
      Several economic historians have suggested that Atherton was a significant figure in industrial development during the last quarter of the eighteenth century. Musson and Robinson describe him as 'having established a very high reputation in engineering' (A. E. Musson and E. Robinson, Science and Technology in the Industrial Revolution, (Manchester, 1969), p. 439; A. E. Musson and E. Robinson, 'Origins of Engineering in Lancashire', Journal of Economic History, 20 (1960), pp. 209-233 (p. 222)).
      Chris Aspin writes that Atherton was 'one of the most successful textile machine makers in the closing decade of the eighteenth century'and should have 'the credit of designing the second generation of spinning mills, which had either a projection at the front or a wing at each end. The later Holywell mills had projections and they were much copied.'(4. C. Aspin, The Water Spinners, (Otley, 2003), pp.124, 158).
      Chapman adjudges Atherton to be the first really successful designer of the taller and generally steam powered textile mills in the 1790s and Tann refers to Messrs. Atherton and Co as 'one of the most important Lancashire cotton spinners'. (S. D. Chapman, 'Fixed Capital Formation in the British Cotton Industry 1770-1815', Economic History Review, New Series 23 (1970), pp.235-266 (p. 240). Atherton's mills are his Type C. He suggests that only a handful were built because steam power was much more expensive to operate than water power in the 1790s; J. Tann, The Development of the Factory, (London, 1970) p.99.).
      There are many other scattered references to Atherton and his work and a rather more extended description of him by Chris Aspin (C. Aspin, pp.124, 137-9.) but there has been no attempt to write a biography. This article may help towards filling that gap.
      In 1767 and 1768 Atherton clearly had a well-known business in Warrington for the most famous report of him is that in January 1768 John Kay and Richard Arkwright approached him for assistance in creating a model of a spinning machine because some parts were beyond Kay's technical ability.
      Atherton at first refused owing to the poverty of Arkwright's appearance but later relented and lent a workman (a smith and watch tool maker) to make the heavier part of the machine. (J. Aikin and W. Enfield, General Biography, 10 vols (London, 1799), i p. 391; E. Baines, History of the cotton manufacture in Great Britain, (London, 1835), pp.149-150; A Ure, The Cotton Manufacture of Great Britain investigated and illustrated, 2 vols (London, 1861) i p.250.
      These accounts have been repeated in many later descriptions of Richard Arkwright including R.S. Fitton, The Arkwrights: Spinners of Fortune, (Manchester, 1989) p. 14.
      A working model was successfully produced. This was patented in 1769 by Arkwright with John Smalley as a witness. (Patent AD1769/931 dated 3 July 1769).`




      A further section of the paper shows exactly how highly respected Peter Atherton is thought of in his field of employ:
      `In 1767 and 1768 Atherton clearly had a well-known business in Warrington for the most famous report of him is that in January 1768 John Kay and Richard Arkwright approached him for assistance in creating a model of a spinning machine because some parts were beyond Kay's technical ability.
      Atherton at first refused owing to the poverty of Arkwright's appearance but later relented and lent a workman (a smith and watch tool maker) to make the heavier part of the machine. (J. Aikin and W. Enfield, General Biography, 10 vols (London, 1799), i p. 391; E. Baines, History of the cotton manufacture in Great Britain, (London, 1835), pp.149-150; A Ure, The Cotton Manufacture of Great Britain investigated and illustrated, 2 vols (London, 1861) i p.250.
      These accounts have been repeated in many later descriptions of Richard Arkwright including R.S. Fitton, The Arkwrights: Spinners of Fortune, (Manchester, 1989) p. 14.
      A working model was successfully produced. This was patented in 1769 by Arkwright with John Smalley as a witness. (Patent AD1769/931 dated 3 July 1769).`

  • Sources 
    1. [S14500662] Ken Davies.