ATHERLEY, Arthur (?1771-1844), of Southampton and Tower House, Arundel, Suss.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1806 - 1807
1812 - 1818
1831 - 1834

Family and Education

b. ?1771, 1st s. of Arthur Atherley, banker, of Southampton by Susannah, da. of John Carter of Portsmouth, Hants. educ. Eton 1787; Trinity Coll. Camb. 6 May 1790, aged 18; L. Inn 1791. m. 2 June 1793, Lady Louisa Kerr, da. of William John, 5th Mq. of Lothian [S], 3s. 3da. suc. fa. 1820.

Offices Held

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


The Atherley family prospered in trade in Southampton in the early 18th century. Atherley’s father was a partner in the local banking house of Atherley and Fall, regarded as a Whig bank. His mother’s family dominated Portsmouth politics. He received a gentleman’s education and married a marquess’s daughter. His father joined Brooks’s Club in 1795, he on 18 Jan. 1807, and he was also a member of the Whig Club. He was a friend of Lord Holland, whom he informed after the election of 1802 that ‘a singular piece of ill fortune’ had prevented his return for Southampton. He had been proposed by his friends on the corporation, but withdrew rather than ‘disturb the harmony of the town’. By 1805 it was clear that he would try again. At that time he was ‘adverse to Mr Pitt’s measures, and ministry’.1

In 1806 Atherley headed the poll with the support of the Grenville ministry. He was listed among the ‘staunch friends’ of their abolition of the slave trade and after their dismissal voted for Brand’s motion, 9 Apr. 1807. At the ensuing election he warned Holland, ‘I fear I shall fall a martyr to the cry of No Popery ... however, I shall die in a good cause’. Yet, ‘a week had not passed after the election before those who had refused him their votes were expressing their regrets, at what they had done’. His father would not allow him to stand a contest.2 Local politics may have contributed to his setback as well, but by 1812 he was again in a strong position, thanks to the growth of hostility towards the interest of George Rose*, the ministerial manager. He was successful in the contest.

Atherley voted steadily with the Whig opposition when present in the Parliament of 1812 and seems to have paired when unable to attend. He supported Catholic relief throughout, except in 1815. He opposed the corn bill, 3 and 10 Mar. 1815. He voted against the resumption of war with Buonaparte, 28 Apr., 25 May 1815, and thereafter opposed continental entanglements, 20 Feb. 1816, and voted steadily for retrenchment. His first known speech, 13 Mar. 1816, was a complaint of the theft from an inn of his constituents’ petition against the property tax— he duly presented it five days later. He opposed the Bank restriction and the suspension of civil liberties. He voted for parliamentary reform on Burdett’s motion, 20 May 1817. He was absent in March and April 1818 but appeared in opposition to the aliens bill, 5 and 7 May.

Atherley withdrew in the face of a contest in 1818, revealing his intention in March and pleading the ‘interest and comfort’ of his family.3 At a by-election in 1819 and in the general election of 1820 he contested Arundel, where he then resided. In 1831 he regained his seat for Southampton, as a reformer. He died 21 Oct. 1844, ‘aged 74’, having adopted Fox’s principles ‘throughout his whole life’.4

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. A. Temple Patterson, Southampton, 145; Southampton Corpn. Jnls. 1815-35, p. 4; V. Bonham Carter, In a Liberal Tradition, 21; J. Wilson, Biog. Index (1808), 547; Add. 51822, Atherley to Holland, 1 July 1802; Malmesbury mss, ‘An Old Burgess’ to Malmesbury, 8 Oct. 1805.
  • 2. Add. 51544, Holland to Howick, 24 May; 51824, Atherley to Holland, Wed. [Apr. 1807]; Brougham mss 34977.
  • 3. Add. 38458, f. 229; Salisbury Jnl. 8 June 1818.
  • 4. Gent. Mag. (1844), ii. 650.