ATHERLEY, Arthur (1772-1844), of Tower House, Arundel, Suss.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press



1806 - 1807
1812 - 1818
1831 - 1834

Family and Education

b. 1772,1 1st. s. of Arthur Atherley, banker, of Southampton and Susanna, da. of John Carter of Portsmouth, Hants. educ. Eton 1787; Trinity Coll. Camb. 1790; L. Inn 1791. m. 2 June 1793, Lady Louisa Kerr, da. of William John, 5th mq. of Lothian [S], 3s. 3da. suc. fa. 1820. d. 21 Oct. 1844.

Offices Held

Lt. Winchester suburbs vols. 1803, capt. 1804, maj. commdt. 1807.


Atherley’s ancestors had been prominent in banking and trade in Southampton since the early eighteenth century and, according to an obituary notice, were distinguished for their ‘earnest advocacy of the principles of civil and religious liberty, and progressive reform’.2 His banker father, whose business concerns extended to brewing and distilling interests in Portsmouth, left ample provision for his descendants at his death, 26 Feb. 1820, out of a personal estate of about £90,000. Atherley inherited his estates in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight,3 but continued to live in Arundel and does not appear to have taken up business. By contrast, his younger brother George (d. 1856) was a partner in the Southampton bank of Atherley and Fall and provided his brother with a continuing link with the town, serving as its mayor in 1821 and becoming the first chairman of the Hampshire Reform Association in 1835.4

Atherley had sided consistently with his Whig friends during his two spells in the House before 1820, and had been a member of Brooks’s since 18 Jan. 1807. He unsucessfully contested Arundel at a by-election in October 1819, after the preferred candidate of the 12th duke of Norfolk had retired in his favour, but his threat to petition proved empty.5 At the 1820 general election he tried again, but was beaten in a four-way contest.6 By right of a freehold at Westbourne, near Chichester, he cast a single vote for the Whig candidate for Sussex.7 In December 1820 he signed a requisition for a Hampshire county meeting on the ‘late impolitic and disgraceful proceedings’ against Queen Caroline.8 When a Tory agent heard his name mentioned in connection with a vacancy at Chichester in February 1823, he interpreted it as a mark of the desperation of local Whigs, and no more was heard of the matter.9

Atherley does not seem to have sought a return to the Commons thereafter, and his emergence from retirement to contest Southampton at the 1831 general election was apparently at the solicitation of local reformers. His absence from the inhabitants’ meeting in favour of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 25 Apr., was explained on the score of his no longer being a resident.10 On the hustings he was introduced as ‘a genuine Whig’, and having declared himself to be ‘an uncompromising friend of reform’, he energetically defended the ministerial proposals as ‘not revolution, but restoration; not anarchy, but peace’. The confidence he expressed to Lord Holland, 25 Apr., was justified by his return at the head of the poll, which he hailed as ‘a monument of imperishable fame’.11 He voted for the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, and gave steady support to its details, though he only paired for the enfranchisement of Gateshead, 5 Aug., and Rochester, 9 Aug. 1831. He was in both government majorities on the Dublin election controversy, 23 Aug. Next day he explained that he had not presented a constituency petition against certain provisions of the beer bill because its prayer was founded on a misapprehension. He voted for the third reading of the reform bill, 19 Sept., its passage, 21 Sept., and Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct. At a Southampton meeting four days later he accused the Lords of behaving with ‘prejudice and faction’ by rejecting the bill. His Commons colleague added that the lack of contribution to debate by the Members had been a conscious ploy to expedite its passage.12 That November he chaired a meeting of the Southampton Bible Society.13 He voted for the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, and, as confirmed by John Heywood Hawkins*, a Sussex neighbour, was in London to divide for its first clause, 20 Jan. 1832.14 With the exception of his minority vote against the new bill’s adoption of the enfranchisement of £50 tenants-at-will, 1 Feb., he divided steadily for its details and voted for its third reading, 22 Mar. He divided for the address calling on the king to appoint only ministers who would carry the bill unimpaired, 10 May, and his unswerving support for reform was applauded at a Southampton meeting, 14 May.15 He presented the resulting petition with another from Cheltenham for withholding supplies until the measure passed, 22 May. He voted against a Conservative amendment to increase the Scottish county representation, 1 June, and with ministers on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan. 12, 16, 20 July, relations with Portugal, 9 Feb., and the navy civil departments bill, 6 Apr. 1832.

At the 1832 general election Atherley topped the poll for Southampton, and in the new Parliament was classed as ‘a Whig’ who had been a ‘friend and supporter of Charles James Fox’.16 His retirement for age and health reasons at the 1834 dissolution was not unexpected.17 He died in October 1844 at Arundel, where an obituarist noted that he had been a ‘liberal benefactor’ to the poor.18 His will, dated 24 Apr. 1841, confirmed the financial provision made by his father for his children and divided his library of books (in English, French, Italian and Latin) between his daughter Sydney, the wife of Colonel Samuel Long, and his eldest son the Rev. Arthur Atherley (1794-1857), vicar of Heavitree, Devon, who was also heir to the Hampshire estate. His Arundel residence appears to have been sold. Of his other sons, Mark Ker Atherley (?1804-84) fought in the Crimea and rose to the rank of general, while Henry Fox Atherley also entered the church. The residue of his personal estate was divided between his unmarried daughters Louise and Matilda.19 He was interred at All Saints’ church, Southampton.20

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Authors: Philip Salmon / Howard Spencer


  • 1. IGI (Hants); Hants Independent, 26 Oct. 1844.
  • 2. A. Temple Patterson, Hist. Southampton, i. 21, 119; Hants Independent, 26 Oct. 1844.
  • 3. Hants Chron. 28 Feb. 1820; PROB 11/1629/251; IR26/810/466; Gent. Mag. (1857), i. 857.
  • 4. Gent. Mag. (1856), i. 546; J. Silvester Davies, Hist. Southampton, 182; Temple Patterson, i. 175.
  • 5. Suss. Advertiser, 11 Oct. 1819
  • 6. Ibid. 13 Mar. 1820.
  • 7. Suss. Pollbook 1820 (Baxter), 13.
  • 8. The Times, 29 Dec. 1820.
  • 9. Add. 38744, f. 102.
  • 10. Hants Advertiser, 30 Apr. 1831.
  • 11. Ibid. 7, 14, 28 May 1831; Add. 51836.
  • 12. Hants Advertiser, 15 Oct. 1831.
  • 13. Salisbury Jnl. 28 Nov. 1831.
  • 14. Cornw. RO, Hawkins mss 10/2178.
  • 15. Hants Advertiser, 19 May 1832.
  • 16. Dod’s Parl. Companion (1833), 3rd edn., 87.
  • 17. Temple Patterson, i. 174.
  • 18. Gent. Mag. (1844), ii. 650; Suss. Advertiser, 29 Oct. 1844.
  • 19. PROB 11/2006/799; IR26/1667/1083; Gent. Mag. (1844), ii. 650; (1857), i. 857.
  • 20. Hants Independent, 26 Oct. 1844.