Chapter 1 – What is an Atterbury

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Donnington Castle, Berkshire, UK, Home of Richard Adderbury Jr.

Chapter 1 – What is an Atterbury?

“And yet what is more natural than that we should desire to know something relating to the origin of our surname, when it arose, who got it first, and how?”[1]

Bardsley’s musings in this excerpt from the preface to his first edition of English Surnames encapsulate the author’s purpose in writing this Chapter, namely to satisfy a “desire to know something relating to the origin of our surname”.  Very little has been written heretofore on the possible background and origins of the Atterbury surname.  In fact, of the various writings found by the author on the history and etymology of English surnames, only Bardsley’s work makes any specific reference to the Atterbury surname or attempts to identify its origins.  Before undertaking this effort to satisfy a seemingly innate desire, it should be pointed out that the author is not an expert in etymology, linguistics, or the history of English place names or surnames.  Consequently, this effort will be that of a lay person in search of the origin and/or meaning of a single surname and its many variant forms.  In the course of this search for our surname origins it is hoped that something may be learned of the ancestors who first possessed it.

The Atterbury surname has taken many different forms over the past millennia.  Although spelled slightly different, many of these surname spellings are believed by the author to stem from a common root.  Often times a particular spelling appears to have arisen inadvertently due to transcription or recording error, such errors many times being the result of phonetics or misinterpretation of the original script from which a transcription was taken.  Some variances appear to be caused by evolving changes in linguistic styles or customs.  Yet other variances in the spelling of our surname may have been a purposeful effort by its possessor to distinguish, obfuscate or differentiate between themselves and others of similar ancestry.  Bardsley referred to these spelling variances as “corruptions”:

“Corruptions which many family names have undergone tend to baffle alike the genealogical and etymological inquirer.”[2]

Anyone who has attempted to study the origins of the Atterbury surname can certainly attest to the fact that there have been many different ‘corruptions’ of our surname down through the centuries and may have felt baffled by its many variant forms.  In this Chapter the author will frequently use the Atterbury form of our surname since this form or minor variations of it occur most frequently in records of the 16th through 21st centuries in both Britain and America.  However, one significant and unique variant or near cousin of the Atterbury surname takes the form of Arthurbury.  From the author’s studies it appears that variants of the surnames of Atterbury and Arthurbury may have evolved from the same roots.  The “proof” for this conclusion will be made clearer as this investigation into the origins of our surname progresses.  The basis for assuming these two forms having had a common root is founded in part in the fact that these surnames were recorded contemporaneously in the same narrow geographic regions, namely in Northamptonshire, Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire and Surrey in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Since the author’s family name is spelled Atteberry, one might wonder why this research should concern itself with the variant forms of Atterbury and Arthurbury?  Let’s start that discussion by pointing out that Atteberry, itself, is a New World corruption of one of the other two forms: Atterbury or Arthurbury.  It is the author’s belief that all the descendants of the American immigrant, William Atterbury, have derived their surnames as a corruption of the surname Arthurbury.  If that is in fact the case, then why should this research into our American family surname even concern itself with the surname of Atterbury?  In the author’s opinion it is not possible to fully understand and appreciate the origins of Arthurbury without having a solid understanding of the origins of Atterbury.  The joint research of both Atterbury and Arthurbury is made necessary by the fact that there are numerous instances in the English and American records where Atterbury has been used either interchangeably with Arthurbury, or Arthurbury has actually been morphed into Atterbury or Arterbury from one generation to another.

Through his research into the ancestry of William Atterbury, the American immigrant, the author discovered that William’s father was identified in the records as Edward Arterbury.  In fact, Edward actually signed his name Arterbury on his apprenticeship indenture.  Further research showed that Edward’s father was identified in the records as Richard Arthurbury, and that Edward’s grandfather was identified as William Arthurbury in church records.  It was only as this Arthurbury family migrated from Morden Parish, Surrey to be closer to London that the family name began its gradual transformation from Arthurbury to Arterbury, and ultimately to Atterbury.  The impetus for this surname transformation can only be surmised, but very likely was brought about by the similarity of Arthurbury to the Atterbury surname, and the overshadowing majority of the Atterbury surname as compared to the relatively obscure Arthurbury surname.  But ancestral names die hard.  Even though William, the immigrant, appeared in Maryland and Virginia records with the surname spelling of Atterbury or close facsimiles thereof, there was one court record in Loudoun County, Virginia in which the Arthurbury spelling could not be suppressed.  In a law suit brought in Loudoun County by Richard Snowden against William Atterbury for indebtedness, William was identified with the alias of William Arthurbury.

“14Aug1760 Order Book Judgment Entry – Richard Snowden against William Atterbury, otherwise William Arthurbury of Prince George’s County (Maryland), lawyer, – in debt – Defendant acknowledged Plaintiff’s action for 1997 lbs. of crop tobacco; Plaintiff to recover against Defendant 1997 lbs. of crop tobacco with interest from 1May1750 and costs.[3]

Following William Atterbury’s sons into Camden District South Carolina in the late 1700’s again the surname of Arthurbury appears in numerous land records.  Gradually these sons of William Atterbury and their descendants dropped the spelling of Arthurbury altogether, replacing it with either Atterbury or Arterbury.  From this succession of records and surname transformations the author has formulated the opinion that the original spelling of our American family surname in England in the 17th and 18th centuries was Arthurbury, and not Atterbury.

Note that in his other writings the author most frequently uses the surname spelling of Atterbury when discussing the ancestral roots of his family.  Selection of this spelling was not inadvertent.  Atterbury was chosen because it was found to be the most frequently occurring spelling during the 18th and 19th centuries in England where much of the author’s research was conducted.  It should also be noted that the Atterbury spelling continued to be the most frequently occurring spelling of this ancestral grouping into the 21st century in England.  For example, during the 104 year period from 1880 to 1984 there occurred 3,381 instances of the Atterbury spelling listed in English telephone directories compared to only three instances of the spelling of “Atterberry” or “Atterbery”.  For comparison, there were absolutely no instances found of either Arthurbury or Arterbury in those same phone directories.  There were several hundred instances of the variant “Atterby”, which possibly was a corruption of Atterbury (but not likely).  Suffice it to say that there were relatively few or no instances found for the other spelling corruptions found in Middlesex County records of the 18th and 19th centuries.  From the foregoing evidence offered by English phone directories it might be concluded that, regardless of its origins and subsequent corruptions, at least in England our family surname ultimately settled into the single form of Atterbury.  It seems possible that such consolidation into a single form may have resulted from the ever increasing literacy level of the population as a whole and on the introduction of mechanical and automated data recording techniques.

In analyzing the possible origins of the Atterbury/Arthurbury surname it is important to recognize that our surname is a complex name as contrasted to a simplex name, i.e., linguistically composed of two or more words.  As such it is necessary to separate the name into its derivative components in order to get at its origins.  

“Compound names are composed of an adjectival element and a habitative or topographic element.  These compound names make up the majority of place­names in England.”[4]

Dame Cateline’s foregoing description of compound place names also applies to surnames, since most English surnames originated from place or local names (more on this later).  In the case of the Atterbury/Arthurbury surname the trailing syllable of “bury” is unquestionably the “habitative or topographic element”, since the word “bury” has its origins in the Saxon word “burh” meaning fortress.  It is the leading syllable of atter or arthur which may not readily fit Dame Cateline’s linguistic model for compound place names.  Some researchers have suggested that atter may actually be from the Saxon word “att” or “ate”, meaning “at” or “at the”; in which case atter would actually have been a preposition rather than an adjective and Atterbury might literally translate into “at the fortress”.  On the other hand, it seems doubtful that arthur would have been either prepositional or adjectival, but rather a proper noun in reference to the given name of Arthur which has its own complex and questionable etymology.  Therefore, Arthurbury might well translate into “Arthur of the fortress” or “a fortress named Arthur”.  But it is also possible that Arthur was itself merely a corruption of Atter as used in our family surname.

From the foregoing somewhat crude interpretations offered by the author of the two surnames: Atterbury and Arthurbury, it might be implied that these two surnames were not of a common origin.  However, if as the author has posited, the surname of Arthurbury was a corruption of Atterbury, then it may be concluded that they were of common origin.  In addition to the fact that there is record evidence in the 16th and 17th centuries in England of these two surnames having been used interchangeably, let’s observe the close phonetic similarities between these two names.  On the tongue of a modern English speaker the words atter and Arthur might not readily be mistaken one for the other.  But, how might these two words have sounded on the tongue of an Old English speaker of the 12th century, particularly when factoring in the peculiar nuances of dialectic variance in the Thames Valley region?  Pronunciation of these two words may have been virtually indistinguishable one from another in the Saxon and Norman dominated region of Thames Valley.

The English surname researcher, Charles Wareing Bardsely, described the evolution of certain surnames which he assumed had their origins from local names compounded by Saxon prepositions.  One example cited by Bardsley entailed surnames that sprung from the Saxon word att or atte.  As evidentiary proof of this hypothesis Bardsley offered such modern surnames as Atlee, Atwood, Atwell, Atbridge, Attenborough and Atterbury.  The author sees one significant variance in these examples offered by Bardsley pertaining to the Atterbury surname.  Clearly the surnames of Atlee, Atwood, Atwell, Atbridge demonstrate the combining of a local name or word with the Saxon word of att or atte.  But what of the added letter “r” at the end of the presumed Saxon preposition att?  A search for other surnames beginning with the atter first syllable shows Atterbury to be virtually the only such surname in existence.  One noted exception is the surname of Atterburn or Atterbourn, but because of the uniquely different local name of “burn” vs. “bury”, Atterbury must be considered of distinctly different origins than Atterburn.

Variations on the trailing syllable of bury seem to have occurred initially without any specific purpose or cause other than phonetic interpretations, but often became adopted as the norm for a particular branch or generation of the ancestral tree.  There are numerous variations on this trailing syllable many of which include: bury, burie, burry, burrie, bery, berie, berry, berrie, burg, burgh, etc., and rarely boro, borough, bary, barrie, birrie or biry. 

As for the first component of the Atterbury/Arthurbury surname there were also numerous variations found including the following in descending order of frequency: Atter, Atten, Aller, Ater, Arter, Attle, Ather, Arthur, Anter, Artur, Arther, Asther, After, Atte, Anther, Alter, Atle, Atta, Arte, etc.  By far the most frequently occurring variation on the first half was the spelling of atter with 437 instances out of a total of 545 records in Middlesex County in the 18th and 19th centuries.  The second most frequently occurring was the spelling of “Atten” at 33 instances, of which the author suspects some were actually transcription errors due to the similarity between the letters of “r” and “n” in script form.  Additionally, the author suspects that most instances where the prefix contained the letter “l” were also the result of transcription errors wherein the letter “t” was mistaken for the letter “l”. 

Before further consideration of the origins of the Atterbury surname, it is useful to have an understanding of how and when the use of surnames evolved in the British Isles.

 “What’s in a name? that which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet.”[5]

These words ascribed to William Shakespeare suggest that a name is merely a linguistic device used to identify or categorize an object or thing, in this instance, a rose.  The inference is that the object or thing might have been in fact called by any other name without altering or modifying the inherent qualities or characteristics of that object or thing.  Shakespeare chose the rose as the vehicle for communicating his underlying premise, that the true meaning of a name draws its essence from the thing or object to which it is applied.  However, names can be transitory and changes in spelling and in application can vary over time and space.  The transitive nature of a name, especially a surname, does not necessarily imply any fundamental change in the basic nature of the thing or object to which it is applied, rather an inadvertent or purposeful change in spelling or pronunciation effected by the passage of time and changes of custom.

Throughout recorded history the use of personal nomenclature (names) has evolved differently depending on the underlying culture and custom.  In its earliest form a person was assigned a single personal or given name, i.e., John, William, Mary, David, etc.  So long as the community was relatively small in numbers, usage of a single personal name would suffice as a linguistic mechanism for distinguishing one being from another.  However, as the population of a given community increased, the pool of established personal names became exhausted and other forms of identification became necessary.  In some cultures a simple suffix was added to the personal name to designate offspring, i.e., the patronymic of Johnson to distinguish a son of John.  Other instances involved a different method of association between father and son that took the form of a prepositional conjunctive such as “ben”, “von”, “van”, “de”, “du”, “a”, and “ap”, e.g., Otto von Bismark or David ben Gurion.

In Roman times it became customary for a person to be given multiple names, each name having a distinct meaning and purpose.  Oftentimes these added names might indicate the person’s geographic region or metropolis of origin, a reference to the person’s ancestral lineage, a specific office or position of rank, a specific theater of service, or an important life achievement.  Such naming conventions probably applied only to persons in the upper echelons of Roman society.  Since the Roman Empire was composed of numerous and varied cultures ranging over large parts of Asia, Europe and Africa, it is more probable that the majority of its subjects retained their own ethnic group’s naming practices, especially among its large majority of lower classes.

In Britain the use of personal nomenclature was also evolutionary and greatly influenced by the practices and linguistic characteristics of its principal ethnic divisions.  In attempting to discover the origin of a specific surname in Britain it is important to understand the history and evolution of its languages over time and the linguistic context from whence they sprang.  Most of the major cultural influences that led to the development of British surnames can be traced to five main ethnic groupings:

  1. Celtic peoples appear to have been among the earliest known inhabitants and occupied the northern and western parts of the British Isles including Wales, Cornwall, Scotland and Ireland during the Iron Age.  In the 1st millennia B. C. Celts’ range of territory spread across modern Europe to as far away as the Po Valley of Italy in the east, to Galicia on the Iberian Peninsula in the south, and Denmark in the north.  The Celtic language was composed of two main elements: Goidelic languages which included Manx, Scots and Irish Gaelic; and Brythonic languages which included Welsh, Cumbric, Cornish and Breton.
  2. Romans commenced an invasion of Britain in about 43 A.D. and established a dominant presence that lasted almost 400 years.  The Roman occupiers were an eclectic blend of peoples from throughout the Roman Empire, but used Latin as their official language.
  3. Anglo-Saxon peoples mainly of Germanic linguistic origin migrated over several centuries across the Channel from Western Europe and occupied much of the southeastern part of Britain.  Like the Celts, the Anglo-Saxon also brought their unique language which ultimately became the foundation of English.  Figure 1-1 contains a map which illustrates the geographic origins and migration paths of the peoples later described as Anglo-Saxons in Britain.  Figure 1-2 illustrates the Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms as they are believed to have existed in Britain prior to the Norman invasion, and consisted of Mercia, East Anglia, Sussex and Wessex.
  4. Norse invasions occurred in the early Medieval Period in several distinct incursions spanning from around 790 to 1015 A.D.  During these invasions the Norse peoples engaged virtually the entire length and breadth of the British Isles in pillaging, looting and destruction, but particularly upon the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms.  Although their primary purpose did not appear to be bent on conquest and occupation, they did establish settlements in the north of England which introduced their language and customs.
  5. Norman Invasion at the beginning of the 12th Century A.D. introduced yet another (and the final) major outside cultural incursion into Britain bringing with it an influence of the Norman French language upon a predominantly Old English landscape.

So, from a linguistic standpoint, the English language that was predominantly used in Britain in the 2nd Millennia A.D. was a mélange of several root languages and dialects mostly originating from the Norse and Germanic regions, but overlaid with strong influences of Latin-Romance languages stemming from the Romans, Normans and Bretons.  How might this diverse compilation of linguistic influences bear upon the development of English surnames?  As suggested by Bardsley, English surnames are in the main also an outgrowth of these same varied and eclectic linguistic influences.  Moreover, Bardsley’s research has found that most surnames are shown to have derived over time from some form of local geographic reference:

“In wellnigh every country where personal nomenclature has assumed a sure and settled basis, that is, where a second or surname has become an hereditary possession in the family, we shall find that that proportion of it which is of local origin bears by far the largest proportion of the whole.”[6]

In the forgoing quotation from Bardsley it is learned that a large proportion of English surnames are derived from a reference to locale.  Bardsley qualifies this assertion with the proviso that it applies in cases where a country has adopted the practice of using a “second name or surname…[as] a hereditary possession in the family”.  In making this statement Bardsley is implying that the use of “personal nomenclature” has undergone evolutionary changes over time.  A precursor to the established convention of surname usage was the long-established practice of using a single given name to identify an individual.  Single-name nomenclature then began to take on added descriptors.  Perhaps one of the earliest known added descriptor was a reference to the name of a specific clan or tribal affiliation.  Tribal affiliations may have been followed by an added reference to one or other of the person’s parents (an ancestral reference).  At some point in time the practice of combining a person’s title or occupation with their name came into vogue.  Ultimately, single-name nomenclature became supplemented by the added reference to a locale.  A biblical example of the usage of a locale might be found in the name, Mary of Magdala (Mary Magdalene). 

In England such local names took various forms, e.g., Cecilia in the Lane, Emma a la Lane, John de la Lane, John de Lane, Philippa ate Lane, Alan a Dale, etc.  Looking over the foregoing examples where given names became compounded with a person’s locale we find illustrated a variety of linguistic influences of Saxon, Latin, or an admixture of Norman and Latin.  The example offered by “Philippa ate Lane” is purely Saxon in origin, where the prefix “ate” or att literally translates into “at the”.  Consequently, this Saxon example would translate into “Philippa at the Lane” in English.  It is believed that the linguistic convention of adopting surnames in Britain did not arise until sometime around the 11th century, possibly influenced by the arrival of the Normans.

Bardsley further elucidated the usage of Saxon prefixes in combination with locale to form surnames as follows:

“…this “ate” or “att” has fared with us in a manner similar to that of the Norman “du” and “de la”.  It has occasionally been incorporated with the sobriquet of locality, and thus become a recognized part of the surname itself…I have just quoted, “Watt at the Well” and “Symme atte Style.”  Now we have at the present day but simple “Styles” to represent the latter, while in respect to the former we have not merely “Wells”, but “Attwell”, or “Atwell”…And not to become tedious in illustrations, “atte–Borough” is now “Attenborough” or Atterbury”..”[7]

In another volume on English surnames Bardsely offered the following more detailed etymology of the Atterbury surname:

Attenborough, Atterbury – (1) Local, ‘of Attenborough’, a parish in Co. Notts. (2) Local, ‘of Attleburgh’, a town in Co. Norf.  I have placed Attenborough and Atterbury together, as they have probably become confused in the course of centuries.  In any case Atterbury represents the older Attleburgh.  (3) Local, ‘at the borough’ or ‘bury’; v. Bury.  Cases: Walter Attebure, Co. Kent, 1273. A.; Alicia de Atteburwe, Co. Camb, 1273. A.; Margaret de Atteburwe, Co. Camb., ibid.; Richard de Atleborw, Co. Camb., ibid.;  Ralf de Atleburgh, temp. Edw. III, Co. Norf.: FF. iv. 225.; John de Atlebergh, Co. Norf., 1256: ibid., iii. 489.; John Attebury, 1306. M.; etc.”[8]

From the foregoing discussion Bardsley has aptly illustrated the manner in which a personal nomenclature could be based initially on the combination of a Saxon prefix with a sobriquet of locality, and cited a specific example of how “atte-Borough” was later transformed into the surname of Atterbury.  In this case the Old English locational word bury is believed to have derived from the Germanic burgh, which in Saxon took on the forms of “burh” or “boro”, and generally had reference to a small manor, settlement or fortification.  Hence, the Saxon origins of Atterbury would appear to be undeniable.  However, on closer scrutiny Bardsley’s interpretation leaves some fundamental questions unanswered.  For example, Bardsley linked the Atterbury surname to a locale in Norfolk by the name of Attleburgh, but did not provide any explanation as to the manner in which the attle may have become transformed into atter.  In fact, of the cited recorded cases of similarly spelled surnames, only those specifically spelled “Attlebury” or near facsimile originated from Norfolk.  Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, Bardsley failed to address the distinct difference in atter and the purported Saxon preposition of att or ate.  One must ask whether the addition of the “er” ending might not give the word atter an entirely different meaning.

While the author cannot dispute the contention by Bardsley and others that the surname of Atterbury is very likely of Saxon origin particularly given the bury ending, it seems highly suspect whether the surname of Atterbury has its origins in the Saxon preposition of att or ate.  If Atterbury did not originate as hypothesized by Bardsley and others, then what might its origins have been?  The author believes that he may have unwittingly stumbled upon the answer to this question when he penned the following text several years ago in his manuscript entitled “Chapter 1 – The Search for William Atterbury’s Parents”:

“Using yet another surname spelling variant, “Adderb…”, there is evidence found that Atterburys resided in Surrey County back into the 16th Century and earlier.”

Using Atterbury and Arthurbury as the assumed original Old English spellings of our family’s surname, the author set about trying to identify a place name anywhere in England from whence the surname may have been adopted.  An exhaustive search led to the discovery of only one reference to a place name of Atterbury, and that was an entry in the Close Rolls in Year 1363 for a settlement in Shropshire.  Following is a brief explanation of the nature and purpose of the Close Rolls:

“The Close Rolls are an administrative record created in medieval England by the royal chancery, in order to preserve a central record of all letters close issued by the chancery in the name of the Crown. The first Close Roll was started in 1204 [and continued thru the reign of Henry VIII in 1547] (in the reign of King John), under the Chancellorship of Hubert Walter…  ”[9]

Letters Close were similar to Letters Patent except that once the seal was broken the document’s authenticity was no longer considered inviolate.  Letters Close issued by the Crown often times were permissive grants to a business, religious entity or individual and usually had property attached.  For example, when a settlement appeared on the Close Rolls, it generally implied that that settlement had permission to occupy specified lands of the Crown and to conduct business, industry or trade on those lands.  An abbey or convent might have held a Letters Close from the Crown to establish a monastery or nunnery on a specific site.  In the instance of the settlement identified as Atterbury in the 1363 Close Rolls it is understood that such a settlement existed with the permission of the Crown.  A review of the Close Rolls for Shropshire prior to the listing of Atterbury in 1363 shows previous listings for settlements of similar sounding names, including Abburbur in 1259, Abberbir in 1268, and Abburbury in 1347.  It seems probable to the author that all of these Close Roll entries pertained to the same settlement and were reflective of the changes in the spelling of its name over the ensuing 110 years.  This is a very important point to remember in the quest for the origins of the Atterbury/Arthurbury surname.  These Close Rolls listings show evidence that the name of Abburbury may have been an antecedent for Atterbury.

As for this specific settlement in Shropshire variously named Abburbur, Abburbury and Atterbury, it seems likely that it was the same location reported in various Middle Age documents as the Parish of Abburbury in the Marches of Wales.  It seems probable that it is also the same location identified on present day maps as Alberbury, which is situated on the south side of the Severn River about 9 miles west of Shrewsbury near the present border with Wales.  Alberbury Priory was established in the 14th century nearby to the townships of Alberbury and Pecknall described briefly as follows:

“Alberbury Priory was the smallest of the three English dependencies of the abbey of Grandmont and the last to be founded. (fn. 1) Fulk Fitz Warin (III) originally intended to erect a house of Arrouaisian canons; he began to build a priory between 1221 and 1226 and invited Alan, Abbot of Lilleshall, to establish a full convent there but the provision he made was inadequate to support them. The next abbot, William, declared that the charge was too onerous and renounced all claims in the priory. (fn. 2) Fulk, influenced perhaps by the recent Grandmontine foundation at Craswall by Walter de Lacy, then turned to the Order of Grandmont and before 1232 placed the house directly under the authority of the abbey of Grandmont in Limousin. His foundation charter granted the brethren the site of the priory with its appurtenances, land, and common rights in Alberbury and Pecknall, a fishery in the Severn, the right to construct mills, and the manor of Whadborough (Leics.): (fn. 3) it was confirmed by Henry III in 1232. (fn. 4) The dedication was in honour of St. Mary, and the priory was known during the Middle Ages as the ‘New Abbey’, or the ‘Black Abbey’ from the habit of the brethren. Only since the time of Leland has it sometimes been called the ‘White Abbey’, from the colour of the stone.”[10]

If as suggested by Bardsley and others the surname of Atterbury was taken from a place name, then it seems reasonable to think that the Parish of Abburbury may have been the birth place of persons named either Abburbury or Atterbury.  Accordingly, we might expect to find an Atterbury population living in Shropshire in the 16th century or later.  This is not the case.  The closest surnames to be found are those of Abberley and Atterley, of which there were many in the 17th thru 19th centuries in Shropshire.  Consequently, it does not seem likely to the author that Abburbury Parish, Shropshire was the origin of the Atterbury surname.

Starting from the premise that the Atterbury/Arthurbury family may have had its origins in Northants, Bucks or Bedford counties (it is in these counties that the earliest records of these surnames are to be found), the author set about trying to locate earlier references to anyone or any place of similar name in those counties in the 14th or 15th centuries.  This inquiry led to the discovery of a book entitled Parochial Antiquities in the Counties of Oxford & Buckinghamshire by White Kennett, D.D., published in two volumes in 1818.  While no listings were found for the surname of Atterbury or any near facsimile, there were listings for a person named Richard de Abberbury, who lived in Oxon in the 14th century.  This surname held sufficient similarity to Atterbury as to trigger further investigation.

This subsequent investigation into the Abberbury surname disclosed the existence of a parish and village named Adderbury in northeastern Oxfordshire about three miles southeast of Banbury.  Operating from the hypothesis that Atterbury might have been a corruption of either Adderbury or Abburbury, it was discovered that the village of Adderbury was Saxon in origin and that it has existed at its present location from at time well before the Norman Invasion.  It seemed plausible to the author that the village of Adderbury may just have been the ancient place name that gave rise to the Atterbury/Arthurbury surname.  It does not require a great deal of imagination to visualize how Adderbury could have been corrupted into Atterbury either through normal linguistic evolution or inadvertently through phonetic misinterpretation.  After all, to the ear, the sound of the “dd” in Adderbury could easily be mistaken for the sound of “tt” in Atterbury.  In all other respects the names are spelled identically.  This prospect is further strengthened by the fact that a family initially named Abburbury and later named Adderbury had lived in the immediate vicinity of Adderbury Parish for almost 200 years during the 13th thru 15th centuries.  As illustrated in Figure 6-4 Adderbury is located not far from sites in Northamptonshire, Buckinghamshire and Bedford, which were the locations of some of the earliest records of Atterburys and Arthurburys in England.

The village of Adderbury is located within about 45 miles from Bedford, and about 40 miles from Milton Keynes and Great Houghton.  The largest population of Atterburys/Arthurburys in the 16th and 17th centuries was located in Northants in the general vicinity of Great Houghton whereas the next largest population was centered in Bucks nearby to Milton Keynes.  A lesser population could be found in nearby Bedford County near Houghton Conquest as well as in Middlesex and Surrey counties.  During this same time period there was one record of a John Atterbury in Oxfordshire in 1605, that being in Horton Parish a couple of miles west of Adderbury.  For comparison, there were absolutely no records found for anyone named either Adderbury or Abburbury in Oxfordshire at any time after 1530.  In fact, very few records were found in all of England after 1530 for anyone named Adderbury or facsimile thereof.  One record was of a Thomas Adderbury born to William Adderbury in Cripplegate, Middlesex.  Additionally, two baptisms and one burial record were found in the records of All Saints, Laleham, Surrey in the 1540’s.

Given that the Adderburys were so prominent in Berkshire and Oxfordshire in the 13th thru 15th centuries, it begs the question as to how they could virtually disappear in England after the 16th century.  One possible explanation is that they did not disappear, but that their name was corrupted into Atterbury/Arthurbury.

To support this theory of the progressive corruption of the Adderbury surname into Atterbury, it is useful to perform a simple mathematical calculation.  The earliest recorded Abburbury was that of Thomas de Abberbury, son of Roger de Abberbury, who sometime before 1279 gave land in Adderbury for the use of the Parish Church.  Given that this Thomas Abberbury was granting land to the church, it can be surmised that his father, Roger de Abberbury, was born sometime before about 1225, and that the Abberburys probably had been present in Adderbury Parish for several generations in order to own sufficient lands to make this grant to the church.  If it is assumed that the first Abberbury generation existed in Adderbury as early as about 1150, and that the adult male population roughly doubled each succeeding generation, then by the tenth generation in about 1450 the male Abberbury/Adderbury population could have grown to about 500 families.  Even the most conservative assessment suggests there should have been more than 25 families.

From the records we only know of one strand of this Abburbury/Adderbury family, and that is the strand which occupied Donnington Castle for almost 127 years between about 1289 and 1415.  Aside from a few of the wives and children, we basically only have a record of those males who succeeded to the family fortunes.  Under the rules of primogeniture the property would pass to the eldest living son.  Barring any male issue, the estate might be entailed to the next male blood relation, usually a brother or uncle.  Under this system of regulated inheritance, younger males stood a good chance of never being reported in the records.  Consequently, it is reasonable to assume that there were likely more than one male Abburbury in each generation who were not recorded in the family’s history.  Those junior males were generally left to fend for themselves, oftentimes taking employment on the family’s estates or pursuing some lesser trade or profession.  Evidence of such secondary offspring is the following record of a cleric named William Abburbury:

“Orders conferred by the bishop in his chapel at Farnham Castle, on Saturday, 23Dec1391… Sub-Deacons:  M. William Abburbury [Fellow of New College, 1386-93], dio. Linc., p.d., tit. At college of St. Mary Wynton in Oxon…”[11]

This William Abburbury would have been a contemporary of Richard de Abburbury Jr., the last lord of Donnington Castle.  Thusly, the area around Adderbury should have become populated by untold Abburburys of whom we have absolutely no record.  Although this Abburbury family appears to have first resided in northern Oxfordshire within the general vicinity of Adderbury Parish and most of the known estate holdings were situated between Banbury and Oxford, on acquisition of Donnington Castle in 1289 the main family seat was moved southerly into Berkshire.  See Figure 1-5 for a pastoral rendering of Donnington Castle engraved by W. and L. Byrne in 1805. 

Some of the best genealogical and biographical material found on this Abburbury family is from an article entitled “Donnington Castle and its Ancient Lords” written by Francis Nottidge Macnamara, M.D., and published in “The Bershire Archaeological Journal”, Vol. 4, Apr1898.  This article was transcribed by the author and is attached hereto in its entirety in Appendix A.  In his article Dr. Macnamara provides one on the most detailed genealogical and biographical sketches of the Abburbury family yet discovered by the author.  The reader is referred to Appendix A for the finer points of Dr. Macnamara’s description.  The author will furnish only the highlights of this distinguished family.

The Abburburys appear to have derived their family surname from the village or parish of Adderbury.  From the fact that Thomas Abburbury, son of Roger de Abburbury, was in possession of several relatively large properties in the vicinity of Adderbury at the beginning of the 14th century, it can be deduced that this branch of the Abburbury family must have lived in Adderbury Parish for several generations.  This longstanding presence in Adderbury Parish is supported by the fact that they presumably adopted their surname from this parish or village.  Virtually nothing is known of Roger de Abburbury or his ancestors, but Dr. Macnamara seems to have uncovered a substantial history of his descendants.  As a guide to the reader the author has compiled a Descendants Chart of this family beginning with Roger de Abburbury in the 13th century down to Richard Abburbury Jr., who died around 1440.

1-Roger de Abburbury (about 1225-)

+Unknown  (about 1225-)

. . . . 2-Thomas de Abburbury (about 1250-1305)

. . . . +Unknown de Coupeland (about 1255-)

. . . . 2-Walter de Abburbury (about 1253-)

. . . . 2-Richard de Abburbury (about 1255-)

. . . . . . . . 3-Richard de Abburbury (about 1276-1333)

. . . . . . . . . . . . 4-John de Abburbury (1313-1345)

. . . . . . . . 3-Thomas de Abburbury (about 1280-about 1350)

. . . . . . . . . . . . 4-Richard de Abburbury (1315-about 1401)

. . . . . . . . . . . . 4-Thomas de Abburbury

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5-Richard de Abburbury Jr. (about 1350-about 1440)

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . +Alice Cleet (about 1355-)

. . . . . . . . 3-Agnes de Abburbury (about 1283-)

. . . . . . . . +Dominus de Coleshull (about 1290-)

It should be noted that the foregoing Descendants List was developed by the author using the chronology of events and succession of ownership in Donnington Castle as taken from Macnamara’s article printed in The Bershire Archaeological Journal.  The accuracy of this family history is open to challenge, but represents a fairly reliable picture of the chain of title for Donnington Castle, itself.  Macnamara acknowledged that the kinship of some members was based on his best interpretations and not necessarily to be trusted.  There are some members of this family who achieved a certain level of Royal favor for whom fairly detailed biographies are available, summarized as follows:

  • Thomas Abburbury, son of Roger: in 1289 in consideration of the gift of one sorrel sparrow-hawk, received from Allan de Coupeland the manor of Donnington with is belongings.  1305 alienated houses and land in Multhorp to the Dean and Chapter of York for the maintenance of a chaplain to say daily mass.  Also made another gift of a house in the Parish of St. Mary Attestrande outside the bar of the New Temple in London to the Bishop of Litchfield and Coventry.  In the year 1296 Thomas went abroad with the Bishop of Litchfield in the service of the King, and acted as Bishop Litchfield’s attorney in 1301, 03 and 05.  Thomas’ services were not always of this peaceful nature, for in the year 1297, when Edward (I) was making a military levy of the whole kingdom for the war against France, Thomas de Abburbury, having land in Berkshire of more than £20 a year, was summoned to London with horse and arms for active service beyond the seas.  Thomas died in the year 1305, and his post mortem inquisition (No. 44 of 35 Ed.) tells us that he held the manor of Dynnynton of the King as of his Honour of Wallingford, land in Migham, and the village and manor of Eneburne in Berkshire, and in Oxfordshire the manors of Sulthorne and Steeple Aston.
  • Thomas’ brother, Walter bought of the King for 100 shillings the Castle of Donnington, from which it would appear that until that time the Castle itself had remained in possession of the Honour of Wallingford.
  • Thomas and Walter had a younger brother named Richard, who had a son named Richard.  This second Richard inherited the de Abburbury estate properties from Walter on his death.  Richard, son of Richard, was a notable man of Court and also in his county which he represented in the Parliament in the 2nd and 3rd years of Edward II.; he was on the Commission of Peace for Oxon and Berks.  In January 1296, he went abroad on the King’s service with John, Bishop of Winchester, and in 1322 made the pilgrimage to the shrine of St. James of Compostella.  This Richard died in the year 1333; his post mortem inquisition (8 Ed. iii., No. 38) shows that at the time of his death he held the manor of Donyngton, land in Thatcham, and manors and lands in Northampton, Oxon and Sussex; his heir was his son John, aged 16 years and more.
  • Richard de Abburbury, presumed son of Thomas, son of Richard, son of Roger, was probably the most long-lived and most interesting of this Abburbury family.  During the reign of Richard II Richard de Abburbury was in the King’s early days a special favourite with him.  He was one of the knights and gentlemen who in the year 1357 accompanied the Black Prince to Gascony to the assistance of Pedro of Castile.  In the year 1373 Richard de Abburbury represented Oxfordshire in Parliament, and about this time he became the first master of the young Prince Richard.  Richard de Abburbury was in attendance on the Prince at Kingston when his grandfather, Edward III, died, and on that occasion Abburbury, with Sir Simon Burley, Lord Latimer, and Sir Michael Bone were sent by the new King with a message to the citizens of London.  The following year Abburbury and Bone were commissioned to make an inventory of the late King’s jewels and other goods.  In 1378 Sir Richard [de Abburbury] was sent as Governor of Brest then threatened by the French, and the King’s ship “the Alice” was placed at his disposal; he was at this time one of the King’s Esquires of his Chamber.  In 1380 Abburbury with other knights went to Ireland on the King’s service, and two years after became one of the knights of the King’s Chamber.  The following year [1382] he was Chamberlain to the Queen (Anne of Bohemia) and received from the King, for services rendered, the manors of Vistele in Oxon, and Carswell in Berks; in 1386 he had license to build anew the crenelate of the Castle of Donnington; the gate house which remains formed part of his work.  Refer to Figure 1-6 for an illustration of the south towers and gatehouse as it appeared in about 1805.  In the year 1386 Abberbury again represented Oxfordshire in Parliament, and the same year he was sent to Spain to treat with the Duke of Lancaster regarding his affairs in that country.  In 1389 Abberbury is acting in a very different capacity, having with the Earls of Kent, Salisbury, and Northumberland a commission to determine the famous and prolonged dispute between Sir Richard Scrope and Sir Robert Grosvenor, as to which had the right to use the arms, “azure a bend d’or.”  And here one may say that Abburbury’s own arms were “or a fess embattled azure.”  In 1392 Sir Richard, who now describes himself as being in his old age, founded at Donnington a Gods-house or hospital for thirteen poor men and endowed it with land in Donnington and with his manor at Vistele.

For a more detailed biography of the last two Richard de Abburburys to occupy Donnington Castle, refer to Appendices B and C.

The village of Adderbury, Oxfordshire has a well-documented history as presented in Appendix D.  This section will present the most salient points regarding that history and its connections to the Abburbury family:

“The ancient parish of Adderbury (fn. 1) covered an area of 6,045 a. and included the townships of Adderbury East (2,058 a.), Adderbury West (1,160 a.), Bodicote (1,291 a.), Barford St. John (726 a.), and Milton (810 a.). (fn. 2) It was reduced in size in 1855 when Bodicote became a separate ecclesiastical and civil parish, and again in 1932 when Barford St. John was joined with Barford St. Michael to form a new civil parish. (fn. 3) The modern civil parish of Adderbury (East and West) with Milton covers 4,028 acres. The ancient parish was largely bounded by rivers: on the east the Cherwell separated it from Northamptonshire, on the south the River Swere was the dividing line with Deddington parish and Wootton hundred, and on the west the Sor Brook, a tributary of the Cherwell, separated it from Bloxham… Despite the parish’s rich soil and plentiful water supply little evidence has been found of pre-historic settlement.  There were Romano-British villa sites at Bodicote and near Adderbury West. (fn. 24)  It is uncertain when the first Anglo-Saxon settlements were made but it is probable that the Upper Cherwell area was overrun in the 6th or early 7th century, possibly by invaders from the east. The double village of Adderbury took its name from an Anglo-Saxon, Eadburga, the earlier form of the place-name being Eadburgesbyrig. (fn. 25)  Since the parish feast used to be on the Saturday before 18 July, the feast day of St. Eadburga of Aylesbury (d. c. 650), who may have been the daughter of Penda, King of Mercia, (fn. 26) it is likely that the place was named after her.”[12]

“The patron saint of the church is Saint Edburg of Bicester.  Sometimes referred to as Edburga, or Eadburh, she was daughter of the great pagan warrior King Penda of Mercia, and was born around 620 AD.  Though little is known about her, for a time she was a nun at Castor in Northamptonshire under her sister, Saint Cuneburga.  However, with another sister, Saint Edith of Aylesbury, she built a small monastery, on land given by her father, at Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire.  Here, the two educated their niece, Saint Osith.  The villages of Adderbury and Edburton near Bicester are said to be named after Saint Edburg.  In 1182, her relics were translated to Bicester Priory, a house of Augustinian Canons, and became a popular attraction with medieval pilgrims.  However, in 1500, Pope Alexander VI ordered her remains to be removed and relocated to Flanders in Belgium, where they are presumed to remain, in an unknown location, to this day.  The base of her shrine can still be seen at Stanton Harcourt.  She died at Aylesbury on 18th July 650 AD, and this was subsequently appointed her feast day.”[13]

“The village was first mentioned in the time of Wynflaed (c. 950) and by the 11th century was one of the centres of a large royal estate. (fn. 28) In the 13th and 14th centuries Adderbury East and West were the largest settlements in the parish… Adderbury Manor is on the site of the manor-house of the Bishops of Winchester, who acquired their Adderbury estate in 1014 or 1015. The existing house, though much altered in later periods, probably dates in the main from the 16th century, but incorporates medieval walling. The house was occupied successively in the late Middle Ages by the families of Adderbury, Councer, and Bustard, the lessees of the bishop. In 1014 or 1015 Athelstan (d. 1016), son of Ethelred II, granted to the Bishop of Winchester land at Adderbury that he had bought from his father for 200 mancuses of gold and 5 pounds of silver. (fn. 182) Between 1038 and 1044 Bishop Aelfwine leased the estate to Osgod for life, (fn. 183) but in 1086 it was again in the hands of the Bishop of Winchester; at this time it was reckoned as 14½ hides. (fn. 184) From 1405 onwards the demesne lands were leased at rents which rose from £15 16s. to £23 13s. 4d. in 1478.  Among 15th-century lessees were John Adderbury in 1405, John Mason in 1436…”

Given the above described origins of the name of Adderbury for the village and parish of that name in northern Oxfordshire, and given the likelihood that Adderbury was the antecedent of the surname of Atterbury/Arthurbury, it seems likely that our surname did not originate from a Saxon preposition, but rather from the 7th Century Saxon princess, Saint Edburga, daughter of King Penda of Mercia.  It is likely that the name of this locale prior to the Norman Invasion was Eadburgesbyrig, a Saxon name meaning “the settlement or fortification of Eadburge [Edburga].”  How the Saxon female appellation of “Eadburge” or “Edburga” came to be translated into “Abbur” or “Adder” is beyond the ken of the author, but a corruption that probably occurred in the 12th Century.  One hint of this corruption in action may be found in the record of Thomas de Adberbury on 20Jan1303 when he and William de Brikhull were appointed attorneys for the Bishop of Litchfield for two years when the Bishop travelled to the court of Rome on royal business.[14]  It seems probable that the first part of Thomas’ surname “Adber” reflects a transition from “Edbur” or “Eadbur”.  In this context it is possible to observe how “Adber” may have further transitioned into “Abber”, Abbur” or “Adder”, and later into “Atter”.

The probability of one or more families residing in the vicinity of Eadburgebyrig (Adderbury) adopting this local name as its surname seems virtually indisputable.  Just which of those families may have been the source of the Atterbury/Arthurbury surname is virtually impossible to know with any certainty.  Similarly, it is virtually impossible to know whether there was more than one bloodline that adopted the Abburbury/Adderbury surname.

The author has presented considerable detail about one particular bloodline whose history commenced with Roger de Abburbury in the early-13th Century.  It seems possible to the author that that bloodline may have been the source of the Atterbury/Arthurbury surname.  Some researchers have suggested that there was at least one other strand of Adderburys living in Adderbury Parish in the 14th century.  References are found to a John Adderbury, son of Walter ate Halle.  Some researchers claim that there was no kinship between this John Adderbury and the Abburbury family who owned Donnington Castle.  Other researchers suggest that John Adderbury’s father, Walter atte Halle was descended from Walter de Abburbury.  The actual ancestry of this John Adderbury aside, there seems to be clear evidence of multiple families bearing the name of either Abburbury or Adderbury in Oxfordshire in the 14th century, who were not successors to the Donnington estate.

If as hypothesized by the author the Atterbury surname was a corruption of the Abburbury or Adderbury surname, then where is the evidence or proof that connects these names?  The similarities of these surname spellings aside, the author believes the answer is to be found in geographic comparisons.  First it should be recognized that records of commoners are virtually non-existent prior to the 16th century.  In fact, if it were not for their extensive estates, rank and high offices, we probably would know very little of the Abburburys of Donnington Castle.  Any members of this family not in direct line of succession would very likely never appear in records before the 16th century.

At the dawn of the 16th Century the surnames of Abburbury and Adderbury had almost disappeared from records.  Beginning as early as about 1550 the names of Atterbury and Arthurbury began to appear in baptism, christening, birth, marriage and death records in Britain, mainly in Northamptonshire, Buckinghamshire, Bedford, Surrey and Middlesex counties.  Using primarily the databases for births, marriages and burials in England the author has compiled a spreadsheet containing all events involving anyone with the surnames of Adderbury, Arthurbury, Arterbury and Atterbury or near facsimiles between 1540 and 1740.  The main Ancestry databases from which this compilation was derived are listed as follows:

  • England, Select Births and Christenings, 1538-1975 – containing 192,725,313 records
  • England, Select Marriages, 1538–1973 – containing 38,710,192 records
  • England, Select Deaths and Burials, 1538-1991 – containing 19,695,783 records, and
  • London, England, Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1538-1812 – containing 8,844,994 records

The primary purpose for compiling this database was to establish the general location of the greatest concentrations of these 16th and 17th century Atterburys, and to establish the earliest dates at which these surnames were recorded.  A secondary purpose was to determine whether any correlation between the various spellings of our surname could be established.  The content of this database has been included for the reader’s benefit and perusal in Appendix E.  Having placed this data in an Excel spreadsheet it was possible to sort the records several different ways.  Appendix E contains only a chronological sort by year, however sorts by County and then by year, and by Surname, by County and then by Year were also performed.

In evaluating the results of this data compilation it should be remembered that the author’s sources were limited and therefore not comprehensive, but represents a substantial portion of available records from the study time period.  As a further caution it should be acknowledged that there are many records for an Atterbury family living in Northants during this time period which were not found in the records.  The existence of these records of the Northants Atterbury family is known to the author from their having been published in the introductory part of a work by Louis Effingham de Forest and Anne Lawrence de Forest entitled The Descendants of Job Atterbury published in 1933.  The author cannot vouch for the accuracy of the information published by the de Forests on this early Atterbury family of Northants, but assumes it to be generally reliable.  For information on this Northants Atterbury family the reader is referred to the de Forests’ book, which is readily available in digital form at various sites on the Internet, including LDS Family History.[15]

NOTE: After compiling the foregoing information, it was discovered that had added a database for the Northamptonshire church registers, an analysis of which has been added hereto as Appendix F.

Records from the author’s chronological compilation prior to 1600 are presented in Table 1.  Refer to Appendix E for the records after 1600.  This compiled data will be analyzed hereinafter based on several broad categories listed as follows: Geographic Location, Principal Surnames (Adderbury, Arthurbury/Arterbury and Atterbury), and Population Distribution.

Geographic Location

Throughout the approximately 200 years of records contained in the author’s database, persons with the surnames of Adderbury, Arthurbury and Atterbury appear to have been concentrated in five main counties: Northants, Bucks, Bedford, Surrey and Middlesex.  There were a few extraneous records found in other counties including Kent, Essex, Sussex, Warwick, Oxford and Hertford, but the author does not believe those records necessarily reflect long-term residence.  In fact most of these extraneous records were for either a marriage or burial, suggesting that these Atterburys probably had travelled briefly outside their County of origin possibly for the express purpose of marriage, or were travelling or working away from their home when they died and thusly were buried abroad.

Moreover, it is important to note that most of the records from Northants, Bucks and Bedford were concentrated in a relatively small geographic area having a radius of about 25 miles as illustrated by the red circle in Figure 1-7.  Such a high concentration of Atterburys in such a relatively small geographic area provides strong evidence suggesting that these Atterburys had originated from the nearby region within the past half millennium.  It cannot be mere coincidence that the village and parish of Adderbury are situated just 35 miles to the west of Newport Pagnell, Milton Keynes, Soulsbury and Great Houghton.  Any rational and well-judged assessment of this geographic concentration of Atterburys in Northants, Bucks and Bedford in the 16th and 17th centuries juxtaposed with the nearby locality of Adderbury in Oxon, would almost certainly conclude that these Atterburys must have originated and derived their surname from the ancient Saxon settlement of Eadburgesbyrig [aka Adderbury].  It would also be reasonable to conclude that these Atterburys shared a genetic and ancestral connection to the ancient Saxon family of Abburburys dating to well before the Norman Conquest.  It is the author’s considered opinion that this is exactly the birthplace and source of our family surname and ancestral heritage from before 1000 A.D.

Now, as to the presence of Atterburys in Middlesex and Surrey counties during this same time period, it is reasonable to conclude that these Atterburys also originated from the same source as those found nearby to Adderbury, Oxon.  From the earliest beginning of extant church records in the mid-16th century we find that there were Atterburys already present in these two counties.  In fact, the earliest records found for an Atterbury anywhere were those of the christenings of Annis and Thomas Adderbury in All Saints, Laleham, Surrey in the 1540’s, and the marriage of Lloyd Atterbury and the burial of Richard Atterbury in St. Saviour, Southwark, Surrey in 1553 and 1555, respectively.  Laleham is situated along the banks of the upper Thames River approximately 45 miles east of Donnington Castle, Berkshire and 20 miles west of St. Saviour Parish, Southwark, Surrey.  Given the relatively close proximity of Laleham to the seat of the Abburbury family at Donnington, it is easy to visualize how members of that family may have found their way into Surrey County by the mid-16th Century, possibly drawn by the environs and attractions of London.

By the 1560’s we begin to see records of Atterburys in Chicheley and Newport Pagnell in Bucks and Houghton Conquest in Bedford.  In 1576 we find the earliest Middlesex record when William Adderbury married Dhye Lyon.  In the 1580’s are recorded the births of three children to Lewis Arthurbury at Lowick, Northants.

Do these earliest of Atterbury records mark the earliest presence of that surname in those counties?  This hardly seems likely.  It seems more probable that these early records are reflective of the spotty nature of the records themselves.  Imagine the ravages of time that must have been wreaked on these parochial records from the 16th century and beyond.  The fact that any records survived prior the 1700’s seems somewhat of a miracle, given the destructive influences of nature and mankind.  So, what we have today are only fragments of church records from the 16th and 17th centuries, and virtually nothing prior to the middle of the 16th century.  Given this backdrop to the irregular and fragmentary nature of our knowledge of people from this early period, it seems reasonable to conclude that there must have been Atterburys and/or Adderburys present in all of these counties for one or more centuries prior to 1550.

Principal Surnames


What can we learn about the principal surnames of Adderbury, Atterbury and Arthurbury from these early records?  First, it should be noted that the earliest, but rarest of these surnames was that of Adderbury.  Thomas and Annis Adderbury were christened as the children of John Adderbury of Laleham, Surrey in the 1540’s, followed by the marriage of William Adderbury to Dhye Lyon at St. Andrew, Hubbard, Middlesex in 1576, and lastly the christening of Thomas Adderbury, son of William Adderbury at St. Giles, Cripplegate, Middlesex in 1605.  No further records were found of anyone named Adderbury between 1605 and 1740.  The fact that there were at least these four records of persons named Adderbury in the 65 years prior to 1605 is a clear indication that this surname had survived beyond the 15th century. 

Within one of these Adderbury records is a hint that the surname was in transition to Atterbury.  The record of the christening of Thomas Adderbury in 1605 at St. Giles Cripplegate is suggestive of such transition.  In addition to this record of Thomas Adderbury, there were other records around this same date relating to a William Atterbury of St. Giles Cripplegate, including the birth and burial of a daughter named Dorothy, burial of a son named Joshua and the burial of an unnamed son.  William was the only Adderbury/Atterbury recorded at St. Giles Cripplegate during this time period, so it seems probable that they were all for the same person.  If these were all records of the same person, how is the difference in the surnames of Adderbury and Atterbury to be explained?  It is possible that the record of Thomas Adderbury was transcribed in error.  It is also possible that the recorder made an error based on the phonetic similarity of the two surnames.  Regardless of how these differences occurred, the case of this William seems to capture an instance of surname corruption in action.  This probability is supported by the earlier marriage of a William Adderbury to Dhye Lyon at St. Andrew, Hubbard in 1576.  Although St. Andrew Hubbard was located off the northeast end of London Bridge, it seems probable that this Adderbury couple could have been the parents of the William Adderbury/Atterbury of St. Giles Cripplegate about 25 years after their marriage.

The intermixing of these rare instances of the Adderbury surname in close geographic proximity to the ever increasing and predominant population of Atterburys suggests that the corruption from Adderbury to Atterbury had been in progress for several generations.  Just when this corruption transition began to occur is uncertain, but it almost certainly commenced sometime after about 1400.  Although the records are scant during the 13th thru the 15th centuries, there are numerous instances of the usage of Abburbury and Adderbury as a surname in Oxfordshire and Berkshire.  During this same time period there are no records found of the usage of Atterbury.  From these facts it seems logical to assume that sometime in the 15th or early 16th centuries Abburbury and Adderbury began a relatively rapid transformation into Atterbury.

Atterbury vs Arthurbury

Do these records compiled by the author suggest anything about a correlation between the surnames of Atterbury and Arthurbury?  First, it should be recognized that the occurrence of the surname of Arthurbury was relatively infrequent and almost always occurred intermixed geographically and contemporaneously with persons surnamed Atterbury.  Given the similarities of spelling and phonetics it seems probable that Arthurbury was a corruption of Atterbury, which the author believes to have been a corruption of Adderbury.  It seems probable that the origin of the Arthurbury corruption has its roots in phonetics and regional dialects.  Let it also be said that the author is of the opinion that Arterbury was merely a corruption of Arthurbury and that they are virtual synonyms one of the other.

Tables 2 and 3 contain a listing of all occurrences of Arterburys (26 each) and Arthurburys (18 each), respectively. 

The first occurrence of either Arterbury or Arthurbury was the birth of Paul Arthurburye, son of Thomas, on 12May1573 at Houghton Conquest, Bedford.  It would appear that Paul Arthurbury lived to adulthood in Bedford County as there are records of the births of four children to Paul at Woburn, Bedford between 1607 and 1613.  Woburn is situated about 10 miles southwest of Houghton Conquest near the border with Bucks County and about 7 miles from Bletchley, Woughton on the Green, Milton Keynes and Newport Pagnell.  One curious fact about these birth records for Paul’s children is that the earliest record shows his name as Atterbere, the next record as Arterbery, followed by Artherbery and finally as Arterberye.  So, Paul of Bedford County was born Arthurburye, but his children were recorded as Atterbere, Arterbery and Artherbery.  Given that he was christened Arthurbury, it is reasonable to assume Arthurbury was his inherited surname.  Additionally, there is a burial record for a Thomas Atherburie on 10Apr1628 at Ampthill, Bedford.  Ampthill is situated just 3 miles south of Houghton Conquest. 

Given the close geographic proximity, name and date, it seems highly probable that this Thomas Atherburie was the father of Paul Arthurburie.  How are these different surname spellings accorded to members of this one family to be explained?  Given the preponderant reporting as either Arthurbury or Arterbury, it seems likely that the family name was actually spelled Arthurbury and that the instances of Arterbury were merely corruptions resulting from phonetic misinterpretation.  The single instance of the daughter named Anne Atterbere [Atterbury] might be attributed to the fact that there were several families of Atterburys within the region, and reflective of the scribes awareness of those families.  Since the birth records all occurred in a single church parish and within six years of one another, it hardly seems likely that the variances in the surname spelling would be attributed to anything other than either transcription error or phonetic interpretation.

Let’s indulge a brief sojourn to consider the difficulties surrounding 20th century transcription of 16th century records.  As a case in point the reader is presented with a single instance of an original record image of a church register from St. Saviour, Surrey in 1555.  Figure 1-8 shows an enlarged image of an entry of a marriage.  The transcriber interpreted this entry to be for the marriage of Lloyd Atherbery to a woman named Sysbys.  This seems a worthy effort by the transcriber, but surely the reader can see that the “th” in the surname “Atherbery” might also have been interpreted as a “tt”.  Writing with a quill pen required frequent interruptions in the flow from one letter to the next while the pen was reloaded with ink.  Such hesitating style of writing, necessitated by the quill pen, caused the scribe to be creative in the jointure between letters in a single word, not to mention the obligatory crossing of the letter “t” and the dotting of the letters “i” and “j”.  Such creativity does not appear to adhere to any particular universal form, but rather individualized and distinctive to a specific writer.  Consequently, misinterpretation of letter sequences by a transcriber is easily understood. 

Forget about the complex and dubious deciphering the bride’s name as “Sysbys”.  Not to mention the fact that the given name of Lloyd was virtually non-existent in England prior to the 17th century and occurred mostly in the Welsh borderlands around Shropshire, as usage of the double “l” was mainly associated with Welsh Gaelic.  Considering the dilapidated condition of most church registers from the 16th and 17th centuries, the peculiar writing quirks induced by use of the quill and ink writing instruments, and the limited training and skill of the volunteer transcribers, it is understandable how variations (corruptions) such as those observed with the Paul Arthurbury family may have arisen.

The next occurrence of Arthurbury/Arterbury was in the marriage record of Stephen Arterbury to Elizabeth Wederbey on 1Nov1580 at Leybourne, Kent.  The church at Leybourne commenced record keeping in the early 16th century.  Leybourne was a very small rural community with a relatively small number of parishioners.  This was the only record found in that parish for anyone named either Arterbury or Wederbey, so it must be presumed that their presence there was of short duration.  It should be noted that the given name of Stephen was uncommon within the Atterbury clan at-large and mainly occurred within the Northants and Bucks families.

The next earliest records were those of three children born to Lewis Arthurbury at Lowick, Northants in the 1580’s listed as follows: Ursula Arthurbery to Lewis Arthurbery at Lowick, Northants on 27Sep1580, George Arterbery on 14Jan1582 and Richard Arthurburie on 17May1585.  So, in the 1580’s there was the Lewis Arthurbury family living at Lowick, Northants, about 25 miles up the River Nene from Great Houghton, the purported seat of the Atterbury family described by the de Forests.  Note that Lewis, Stephen and Lawrence were frequent given names within the Great Houghton Atterbury family, the given name of Lewis being most frequent.  There occurred a male offspring named Lewis in virtually every branch of this family spanning eight generations, usually either 1st or 2nd born sons.  Clearly the name Lewis held a high level of importance within this strand of Atterburys.  What is the likelihood that Lewis Arthurbury of Lowick was descended from the Atterburys of Great Houghton?  Given the close geographic proximity between Lowick and Great Houghton, the overlapping dates and the unique nature of the given name of Lewis, it seems almost an absolute certainty.

If Lewis Arthurbury of Lowick was descended from the Great Houghton Atterburys, how is the difference in the spelling of their surnames to be explained?  The author cannot explain this difference in surnames, except that the existence of this difference within seemingly the same family implies these surname spellings may have been used interchangeably or were in transition.  One thing to keep in mind is that the genealogy compiled by the de Forests of the Great Houghton Atterbury family spanned eight generations and consistently used the spelling of Atterbury.  That fact in itself is suspicious.  Given the variations of spellings of the Atterbury surname found in the author’s compilation in Appendix E, it is illogical to believe that such constancy in surname spelling was found by the de Forests in the archives of Northants.  It must be concluded that the de Forests did not report names exactly as found in situ, but rather resorted to a contrivance of convenience by reporting a uniform surname spelling.  Following is a description of the source used by the de Forests for their reported genealogy of their English Atterburys:

“Extended researches for this work were consequently carried on in county Northampton by an antiquary expert in that field, the Reverend H. Isham Longden, M.A., H.C.F., F.S.A., F.S.G., of Northampton. As a result of the various investigations a history for eight generations of the English Atterburys is presented. The dates and places given in the earlier generations are largely taken from the reports of Mr. Longden.”[16]

Regrettably, since the de Forests provided no source references for their English Atterbury genealogy, the contemporary reader is left with an uncontestable and distorted picture of our surname origins within that family branch.  It seems highly likely to the author that some of the early Northamptonshire records researched by the de Forests and Dr. Longden probably showed other spellings of the surname, including instances of Arthurbury and/or Arterbury.  The foregoing example of the Lewis Arthurbury family of Lowick provides an apt illustration of the interchangeability of the surname spellings of Atterbury, Arterbury and Arthurbury.

One final example of this seeming interchangeability of these surnames is that of the author’s own ancestral lineage.  Although this case has already been given earlier reference in this work, it bears a more detailed discussion at this juncture.  The author believes the earliest known record of an ancestor of William Atterbury, the American immigrant, to have been that of William Atterbury/Arthurbury of Mortlake, Surrey at the beginning of the 17th century.  There are six christening records for children born to this William Atterbury of Mortlake.  The last born child, Jane, was christened as Jane Arthurburie on 4Sep1631, whereas the other five children were christened with the surname of Atterbury.  Then there are records for the family of another William Arthurbury found in the register at Morden, Surrey commencing in 1650.  Morden Parish is situated just 7 miles south of Mortlake.  Given the names, dates and geographic proximity, the author believes it highly probable that the Morden Parish Arthurbury family was descended from William Atterbury/Arthurbury of Mortlake.

The Morden Arthurbury family was recorded through two generations in the parish church register.  In the records associated with these Arthurburys of Morden the surname spelling is seen to transition from Arthurbury to Arterbury and then to Atterbury.  Even the head of this family, William, was recorded as Arthurbury at the births of his children, and then as Atterbury upon his burial in 1696.  Anne, the wife of William, was recorded as Arterbury upon her burial in 1682.  Third generation members of this family were shown in various records in Surrey and Middlesex counties bearing all three surnames: Arthurbury, Arterbury and Atterbury.  Fifth generation members of this family in Camden District, South Carolina are also shown in various records bearing all three surnames: Arthurbury, Arterbury and Atterbury. 

From the foregoing examples it appears to the author that the surnames of Arthurbury, Arterbury and Atterbury have a long history of being used interchangeably, a practice which was carried forward into the American colonies.  In the 1940 U. S. Census there were listed about 3,500 Atterburys compared to about 450 Arterburys, and no listings for Arthurbury.  The cause of such interchangeability is not clear to the author, but it is clear that it did occur.

Geographic Distribution

Thus far in this analysis the author has frequently observed the limited distribution of the family surname in England during the 16th through the 18th centuries.  A reasonable question might be why is geographic distribution an important factor in deducing the origins of a family surname?  First, it should be remembered that a large percentage of surnames were derived from a local name.  If the Atterbury surname derived from a local place name as has been hypothesized by Bardsley and others, then it might be possible to trace the origins of the Atterbury surname to a specific geographic region.  Acting upon that line of reasoning the author went in search of any place name, past or present, in England that might have been the source of the Atterbury surname.  One primary resource for English place names is The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place Names, by Eilert Ekwall, first published in 1936 with four subsequent editions.  A thorough review of the more than 10,000 place names listed by Mr. Ekwall reveals only a single possible candidate for either Atterbury or Arthurbury, that being the place name of Adderbury.

Being aware of the concentrations of the Atterbury surname in Northants, Bucks and Beds, the author soon located the villages and parish named Adderbury in nearby Oxon.  Having discovered the parish of Adderbury in northeast Oxon, the author then discovered the records and history of the Abburbury/Adderbury family that originated from Adderbury parish in the 13th century.  For all the same reasons already cited by the author it was concluded that there was a very high level of probability that Atterbury and Arthurbury were corruptions of Adderbury and that our family surname probably originated from the immediate vicinity of Adderbury Parish in Oxon, perhaps as early as the 11th century. 

In the 16th thru the 18th centuries persons bearing the Atterbury surname were concentrated in two main areas: (1) a small pocket of about a 25 mile radius overlapping the counties of Northants, Bucks and Bedfordshire, and (2) another pocket situated in London and northern Surrey County.  Given that England covers about 10,400 square miles of area, the Northants/ Bucks/Beds Atterburys were spread over an area covering only about 3-4% of the entire Country.  If this distribution were further confined to only those parishes in which Atterburys were recorded, they would have had a presence in less than 1% of the whole of England.  Confinement to such a relatively small geographic area spanning a period of almost 200 years between 1540 and 1740 provides powerful evidence that this area was the birth place of the Atterbury surname.

Using the records compiled by the author sorted by County, persons bearing the Atterbury surname were found to be distributed as follows: Bedfordshire – 39, Bucks – 94, Middlesex – 346, Surrey – 44, all others – 32.  Although the de Forests assert that their English Atterbury ancestors originated from Northants, the author was able to find only five records of Atterburys in Northants.  It must be assumed that the de Forests or their fellow researcher, Dr. Longden, located church records in Northants that have yet to be added to the databases.  The Northants records aside, the author’s compilation clearly shows that Atterburys were concentrated in Bedford, Bucks, Middlesex and Surrey.  Given that the Atterburys of Bucks and Beds were situated within 45 miles of Adderbury it seems highly probable that the Atterburys originated and were descended from the Adderburys who lived at Adderbury, Oxon in the 12th century.  One clue found in the author’s research into the Abburbury family of Donnington Castle was that the estate inquisition of Richard de Abburbury in 1333 showed ownership of manors in Northants.  It seems probable that it was heirs of this Richard de Abburbury who first settled in Northants and then spread into the nearby region of Bucks and Beds from which later generations of Atterburys sprung.


This concludes the investigation and analysis into the probable origins of the surname of Atterbury/Arthurbury.  From this study several key conclusions were reached by the author:

  1. The surnames of Atterbury, Arthurbury and Arterbury all share a common root.
  2. Arthurbury was very likely a corruption of the surname of Atterbury, and Arterbury was very likely a corruption of Arthurbury.
  3. Usage of Arthurbury and Arterbury had virtually vanished from England by the start of the 20th century.
  4. The family name of William Atterbury, American immigrant, started as Arthurbury at the beginning of the 17th century, but transitioned to Arterbury and then Atterbury in America.
  5. Approximately 10% of the descendants of William Atterbury continue to use the surname of Arterbury in America into the 20th century.
  6. The Atterburys, Arthurburys and Arterburys are believed to have derived their surnames from the villages and parish of Adderbury situated in the northeast corner of Oxfordshire nearby to Banbury.
  7. Adderbury is believed to have been a corruption of a Saxon locality known as Eadburggebyrig which in the 10th century referred to the area around the villages and parish of Adderbury.
  8. Eadburggebyrig is believed to have derived its name from St. Edburga, daughter of Saxon King Penda from the 7th century A.D.

If as surmised by the author, the Atterburys originate from the nearby vicinity of Adderbury, then those who began appearing in Middlesex and Surrey counties must have been attracted by the industry, wealth and power embodied in London and its immediate environs.

Appendix A – Donnington Castle and its Ancient Lords

“The next possessors of Donnington were the Abburburys, who held it for 127 years and derived their name from Adderbury, anciently Eadburbury, a village three miles south of Banbury.  The name of both the village and the family was variously spelt, but in the 13th century that in common use was Eadburbury, we find, too, Abbresbury, Apperbury, Alburbury, Adburbury, in ancient records as variations in the name of a place which was originally Eade’s burgh or borough.  The first of the family of whom I find record is a certain Nigel of Edberbury, who between the years 1267 and 1270 granted a house in Culworth, a village about eight miles from Adderbury, to Adam Roce (Ancient Deeds, P.R.O., vol. I, B 1065).  Another member of the family was Thomas, son of Roger de Abberbury, who sometime prior to the passing of the Act of Mortmain in 1279 gave land in Adderbury for the use of the Parish Church.  And it can be little doubt that it was this Thomas who in 1289, in consideration of the gift of a sorrel sparrow-hawk, received from Allan de Coupeland the manor of Donnington with its belongings.  The sparrow-hawk was possibly a very fine bird, and just as one lately read of £25,000 as the price paid for a race-horse, so this bird may have been of such supreme excellence as to be valued at the price of a manor.  But, on the other hand, a hawk, a rose, a pair of gloves, a horse, were commonly at that period gifts from friend to friend, or from a bride groom to a father-in-law, on the transference of land as dowry or otherwise, and possibly Thomas may have married Alan’s daughter while Alan himself returned to the north country, for we hear nothing further of the de Coupelands in Berkshire.  Thomas de Abburbury had himself property in the north, for in May, 1305, he obtained license to alienate, to the Dean and Chapter of York, houses and land in Multhorp, York, for the maintenance of a chaplain to say mass daily for his soul and for the souls of his ancestors and for the souls of all the faithful dead.  And another gift probably of the same nature made by Thomas was a house in the parish of St. Mary Attestrande, outside the bar of the new Temple, to the Bishop of Litchfield and Coventry.  With this Bishop the name of Thomas de Abburbury is frequently coupled in records of the period, for he went abroad with him in the King’s service in the year 1296, and acted as his attorney during the Bishop’s absence in the year 1301, 1303 and 1305.  Thomas’ services were not always of this peaceful nature, for in the year 1297, when Edward (I) was making a military levy of the whole kingdom for the war against France, Thomas de Abburbury, having land in Berkshire of more than £20 a year, was summoned to London with horse and arms for active service beyond the seas.  Thomas died in the year 1305, and his post mortem inquisition (No. 44 of 35 Ed.) tells us that he held the manor of Dynnynton of the King as of his Honour of Wallingford, land in Migham, and the village and manor of Eneburne in Berkshire, and in Oxfordshire the manors of Sulthorne and Steeple Aston.  Walter, his brother, aged thirty and more was his heir.  The earliest notice that I have of this Walter is of the year 1285, when he acted as the attorney for his brother Thomas going abroad.  Other notice I have of him in connection with Berkshire property, and in the time of Edward II, he bought of the King for 100 shillings the Castle of Donnington, from which it would appear that till the time the Castle itself had remained in possession of the of the Honour of Wallingford.  We have no record of Walter’s death; he appears to have had a younger brother Richard whose son Richard followed Walter in possession of the family estates in Donnington and elsewhere, — this we conclude from the fact that the latter Richard had a brother Thomas and that this Thomas is mentioned in a Berkshire fine as son of Richard.  This is supported by pedigrees recorded in Vincent’s collections as the College of Arms, vol. 79, pp. 8 and 30, and in vol. 10, p. i.  Further, according to these pedigrees Richard and Thomas had a sister Agnes, who married (Richard?) Dominus de Coleshull, while one of the Richards just mentioned married Agnes’ daughter and heiress of William de Shareshull, and by her had a daughter, Elizabeth, who married John Beaufoy of Burford.

Richard, son of Richard, was a notable man of Court and also in his county which he represented in the Parliament in the 2nd and 3rd years of Edward II.; he was on the Commission of Peace for Oxon and Berks.  In January 1296, he went abroad on the King’s service with John, Bishop of Winchester, and in 1322 made the pilgrimage to the shire of St. James of Compostella [in Galicia].  In 1316, he was lord of Donnington in Berks and Steeple Aston in Oxon, and in the Lay Subsidy Roll of Edward III, heads the list in Donnington.  This Richard died in the year 1333; his post mortem inquisition (8 Ed. iii., No. 38) shows that at the time of his death he held the manor of Donyngton, land in Thatcham, and manors and lands in Northampton, Oxon and Sussex; his heir was his son John, aged 16 years and more.  John died young and his inquisition (No. 28 of 20Ed. 33) taken in 1346, the year after his death, shows that he held at the time nearly the same possessions as his father; his heir was his uncle Thomas, aged 40 and more.  Thomas the uncle was one of the lords of Dernford and Ledwell in Oxon, in 1316 (Parliamentary Writs), and in Berks fine no. 12 of 18 Ed. 2, he, Thomas de Abburbury, son of Richard, buys land in East Henreath.  We have no notice of his death, but Richard de Abburbury, whom we next find in possession of the family estate, was in all probability his son.

This Richard de Abburbury is the most interesting member of the family and he is constantly mentioned in the records of the time in connection with one or the other event during the reign of Richard II, for he was in the King’s early days a special favourite with him, and he was one of those men, selected for their capacity rather than for noble birth, with whom Richard filled his Court.  He was one of the knights and gentlemen who in the year 1357 accompanied the Black Prince to Gascony to the assistance of Pedro of Castile.  In the year 1373 Richard de Abburbury represented Oxfordshire in Parliament, and about this time he became the first master of the young Prince Richard, and as such two manors and £40 annually from the Lordship of Chester, were granted to him (Patent Roll of 1378).  He was in attendance on the Prince at Kingston when his grandfather, Edward iii, died, and on that occasion Abburbury, with Sir Simon Burley, Lord Latimer, and Sir Michael Bone were sent by the new King with a message to the citizens of London.  The following year Abburbury and Bone were commissioned to make an inventory of the late King’s jewels and other goods.

Let it be remembered that King Richard on his accession was but eleven years of age and that three parties quickly developed at Court – the King’s, the party of the King’s uncle, John of Gaunt Duke of Lancaster and titular King of Castile, and a third party that of Lancaster’s brother the Dule of Goucester supported generally by another brother the Duke of York.  Amongst the members of the King’s party was Richard de Abburbury, who however subsequently came to be associated with that of the Duke of Lancaster.  In 1378 Sir Richard [de Abburbury] was sent as Governor of Brest then threatened by the French, and the King’s ship “the Alice” was placed at his disposal; he was at this time one of the King’s Esquires of his Chamber.  In 1380 Abburbury with other knights went to Ireland on the King’s service, and two years after became one of the knights of the King’s Chamber.  The following year [1382] he was Chamberlain to the Queen (Anne of Bohemia) and received from the King, for services rendered, the manors of Vistele in Oxon, and Carswell in Berks; in 1386 he had license to build anew the crenelate of the Castle of Donnington; the gate house which remains formed part of his work.  In the year 1386 Abberbury again represented Oxfordshire in Parliament, and the same year he was sent to Spain to treat with the Duke of Lancaster regarding his affairs in that country; that he then belonged to the Duke’s party is evident from his acting as his Chamberlain in the year 1388 (Rymer’s Faedera).  On the departure of the Duke from England his place in the Government had been taken by his brother the Duke of Gloucester, who was wholly antagonistic to the King’s party and followers, and under his influence the merciless Parliament of this year impeached the King’s ministers and favorites, some of whom fled and others, including Simon Burley, were executed.  Sir Richard Abberbury, Lord Zouche, and others were treated more mercifully, being simply expelled the Court (Hollingshed’s Chronicle, vol. 3, p. 463).  However, Abburbury’s exclusion was not for long, as in the spring of the next year the King took the reins of Government into his own hands, and the following September we find the King holding a council at Clarendon, at which the Duke of York, the Bishop of Winchester, the Earls of Kent and Northumberland, Richard Abberbury and others were present, so that Abberbury had now again become a trusted councilor of the King.

In 1389 Abberbury is acting in a very different capacity, having with the Earls of Kent, Salisbury, and Northumberland a commission to determine the famous and prolonged dispute between Sir Richard Scrope and Sir Robert Grosvenor, as to which had the right to use the arms, “azure a bend d’or.”  And here one may say that Abburbury’s own arms were “or a fess embattled azure.”

In 1392 Sir Richard, who now describes himself as being in his old age, founded at Donnington a Gods-house or hospital for thirteen poor men and endowed it with land in Donnington and with his manor at Vistele.  He orders that one of the inmates be placed over the others with the title of minister, and that all attend daily mass at the Chappel of the adjacent Priory.  At the dissolution the estates of the Hospital were seized by the Crown, but were restored about the year 1570 upon the petition of Howard Earl of Nottingham.  The Hospital still stands by the side of the road on the south bank of the Lambourne river; but the present building is probably that erected by the Earl of Nottingham towards the end of the 16th or the beginning of the 17th century.

Sir Richard was also the founder of the Donnington Priory, which formerly stood on the other side of the Newbury Road opposite to the Hospital; in the year 1365 he paid four pounds for license to give land in Newbury, Donnington and East Henreth to endow two chaplains to say mass every day for ever, in a certain Chappel in Donnington which he rebuilt, and again, thirty years after, he had license to convey to the minister and brethren of Donnington certain land and rents in Throp, Cudelynton and Soulthorne, which formerly belonged to Thomas Abberbury, and were left by him to Richard with reversion to the Donnyngton brethren.  The Priory was one of Trinitarian or crutched Friars, and was dissolved in the year 1538.  Little of the building remains and that is incorporated in the fabric of the Priory house which now marks the site.

I find frequent mention of Sir Richard in the Hastings Rolls of the City of London between the years 1373 and 1394.  Abburbury had the right of presentation to the Church of Bletchesdon alternately with Queen’s College, Oxford; in the year 1395 he presented, but in the year 1409, the Bishop of Winchester, the Earl of Somerset, and Thomas Chaucer, “as esquire of the feoffees (trustees?) of Sir Richard Abburbury” exercised the right whence it may be inferred that Richard was dead.

Richard was followed at Donnington by his son Sir Richard Abburbury Jr., who about the year 1382 married Alice, widow of Edward Danvers, of Chilton, daughter and heiress of John, son of Richard Cleet, south of Denchworth.  In the year 1387 Richard Abburbury Jr., and his wife sold a house at Longcotes (Berks fines 1 of 11 Ric. 2).  Richard represented Berkshire in the Parliaments of 1393-4 and 1396-7, and was Sheriff of Oxon and Berks in the year 1397.  In the year 1415 he and his wife Alice sold to John Hyde all the land in South Denchworth which formerly belonged to John Cleet, father of Alice.  At the time they appear to be living at Donnington, for Thomas Danvers, son of Alice, about the same time signed, at Donnington, a release to Hyde of all his rights in South Denchworth.  Finally, in February 1415, Richard and his wife sold to Thomas Chaucer, for 1000 marks, the castle and manor of Donnington, the manor and advowson of the Church of Pesemore, the manors of Winterbourne Danvers and Winterbourne Mayne, and houses and lands in Donnington, Pesemore, Winterbourne, Crookham and Thatcham.  Of Richard Abburbury and his wife we know but little more; in 1427 he had a knight’s fief in Weston in the hundred of Faircross, and it is probably he who in the year 1433 appears amongst the gentry of Berks in a list which is printed in W. N. Clarke’s “Hundred of Wanting.”  In the year 1447 Thomas de Abburbury “censanguineus et heres” grandson or perhaps nephew of Richard released his rights in Newbury, Donnington, East Henreth, and elsewhere to the Duke of Suffolk (Pat. Roll, and 2nd pt., of 26Henry 4., M. 19), while in 1472 a Richard de Abburbury was employed in the matter of a treaty with the King of Portugal, but as a county family the Abburburys disappeared before the end of the 15th century.

The Thomas Chaucer who bought the Donnington and other estates was a gentleman of great influence and note in Berks and Oxon during the first half of the 15th century, and it is believed that he was the eldest son of the poet Geoffery Chaucer.[17]

Appendix B – Biography of Sir Richard de Abburbury

Family and Education

b.c.1331,1 prob. s. of Thomas Adderbury of Donnington and Steeple Aston. m. perhaps c.1353, Agnes, 3rd da. of Sir William Shareshull, c.j.KB (d.1370), of Barton, Oxon. by his 1st w. Denise, da. of Otwell Purcell, 2s. inc. Sir Richard II*, 2da. Kntd. by Feb. 1356.

Offices Held

J.p. Berks. 8 Mar. 1364-June 1365, 24 Nov. 1383-July 1389, 24 Dec. 1390-d., Oxon. 1 July 1375-7, 8 July-Dec. 1382, 24 Nov. 1383-July 1389, 24 Dec. 1390-d., Wilts. 4 July 1391-4.

Commr. of arrest, Oxon. Oct. 1375; to make inventories of jewellery of Edw. III Dec. 1377, Feb. 1378; of array, Oxon. Mar. 1380, Apr. 1385, Berks. Mar. 1392; inquiry, Oxon. Feb. 1381 (homicide), Wilts. June 1382 (condition of Marlborough castle), Oxon. Aug. 1382 (disturbances); to put down rebellion, Oxon., Berks. Mar., Dec. 1382; of oyer and terminer, Worcs. Aug. 1382, Oxon. Oct. 1382, Berks. Feb. 1383, general Apr. 1383, Worcs. May 1384, Oxon. July 1384, Dorset Nov. 1389, Feb. 1390 (Queen Anne’s estates); to audit the accounts of the keeper of the King’s jewels June 1383; hold assizes, Berks. May 1389, Glos. Dec. 1390; determine appeals from the constable’s ct. May 1389, Mar. 1394, from the admiral’s ct. May 1391; of gaol delivery, Reading Nov. 1393; to audit accounts of Queen Anne’s treasurer and receiver-general Feb. 1396, Oct. 1397, Apr. 1399; determine dispute between Sir William Bagot* and Coventry May 1396; of weirs, Berks., Oxon. June 1398.

 ‘Master’ of Richard, prince of Wales c. Oct 1376-c. May 1377.

Jt. capt. of Brest castle, Brittany 18 Feb. 1378-20 May 1379.

On embassies to Brittany 14 July-20 Sept. 1379, Bruges and Germany 26 Dec. 1380-17 Mar. 1381; to treat with the French and Flemings Apr. 1390.

Tax surveyor, Oxon. Aug. 1379.

Chamberlain to Queen Anne by May 1382-aft. May 1386.

Receiver of the King’s chamber 11 Sept.-15 Nov. 1382.2

Member of the King’s Council by Aug. 1389-aft. Aug. 1390.


Richard Adderbury’s presumed father, Thomas, inherited the family’s substantial estates in Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Northamptonshire and Sussex in 1346, on the death of his nephew, Sir John Adderbury, only for them to pass to Richard himself within seven years. Richard took possession of the Adderbury property at Donnington before July 1353, for he then obtained a royal commission of oyer and terminer to investigate his complaint about a forced entry there.3 Heading the commissioners was Chief Justice Shareshull, later to become, if he was not already, Adderbury’s father-in-law. Although the marriage was one fully in keeping with his social standing and position as a landowner of consequence, it did not lead to any appreciable increase in his landed holdings, for Agnes Shareshull, as the judge’s youngest child, was to be given only the final remainder in the Shareshull estates under the terms of the entail arranged by her father in 1367. However, it would seem that a settlement was drawn up in her favour on another occasion, for in 1384 her nephew (Sir) William Shareshull*, was to make a quitclaim to Adderbury of the family manor of Barton ‘Cede’ and lands in Steeple Barton, Oxfordshire, enabling Adderbury to retain them for the rest of his life.4

The direction taken by Adderbury’s career was largely determined by the fact that he held his manors of Old Shoreham, Sussex, and Donnington, Berkshire, of Edward, prince of Wales, for this feudal tie soon developed into a personal one. In February 1359, already a knight, Adderbury took out royal letters of protection as about to depart for Gascony in the prince’s retinue, and he was to campaign with the prince there again in the spring of 1366. Edward’s satisfaction with his performance was expressed in November 1367 with the grant of a life-annuity of £40, paid out of the prince’s revenues at Chester, in return for Adderbury’s undertaking to provide military support in time of war. Accordingly, Sir Richard was mustered with others of the prince’s retinue at Northampton in 1368 (accompanied by his own contingent of four esquires and ten archers), and in the following year he served in Gascony as one of Edward’s officers. Indeed, he stayed on as seneschal of the Limousin after his lord’s return to England in 1371.5 His experience of warfare was subsequently put to good use by the Crown: he spent from March to July 1374 at sea with a force of 39 men-at-arms and 40 archers, a voyage which cost the government over £500. Following the death of the Black Prince in June 1376, Adderbury remained close to his widow, Joan of Kent, and young heir, Richard of Bordeaux; in fact, he was in attendance at the assignment of dower to the princess of Wales in October, as a representative of the interests of Prince Richard, and such was his concern for the latter’s welfare that a month later he sold his own manors of Old Shoreham and Todham, Sussex, to John, Lord Arundel, in order to raise money to help support the boy’s estate. (Tardily, eight years after he became King, Richard was to recompense him for his loss.) In all probability, Adderbury was at that time the prince’s ‘master’— that is, the person of quality made responsible for his safety and general upbringing— and for a while he also acted as steward of Richard’s estates. Expressly as a reward for having been the prince’s ‘first master’, in May 1377 he received a grant for life of his manors of Helston in Trigg, Cornwall, and South Town, Devon.6

Richard’s accession to the throne made no immediate difference to Adderbury’s position, staying as the latter did in close attendance on the King. In June 1377 he was among those sent to the citizens of London, either by the King or, more likely, his mother, to negotiate a reconciliation between them and the King’s uncle, John of Gaunt, and it was as ‘King’s knight’ that three months later he was granted custody of Dartmoor forest for life, entirely rent free. (A royal commission afterwards found that he was even entitled to certain lucrative perquisites from the bailiwick of the forest.) That December he was deputed to help make an inventory of the jewels and other valuables belonging to the late King Edward III, to ensure that these were removed from whoever had them (doubtless such persons included Alice Perrers, condemned to forfeiture by the Parliament then in session), and to deliver them to the keeper of the great wardrobe. Royal confirmation of Adderbury’s annuity from the Black Prince was provided in March 1378, at about the same time as the Exchequer paid him £10 for riding to Ludlow with personal messages from the King to Edmund, earl of March.7 Another, more hazardous, journey was in store for him. He and Sir John Golafre had recently contracted to serve as captains of Brest castle in Brittany, and in May they embarked from Southampton with a company some 140 strong, sailing in La Alice, a ship which the King had given to Adderbury. Sir Robert Knolles (whose retinue’s wages of 1,000 marks they had taken with them) handed over custody of the castle on 10 June, and they then remained at Brest until May 1379. Their year’s service cost the Crown well over £6,500. On his return home, Adderbury resumed his place at Court as a knight of the King’s chamber, although almost immediately (in July) he sailed back to Brittany in the company of the duke, John de Montfort, to negotiate with him the terms of an Anglo-Breton alliance, and also to determine the respective claims to prisoners-of-war made by King Charles (‘the Bad’) of Navarre and John, Lord Arundel, marshal of England. He took passage back to Cornwall in September.8

Adderbury was to continue to wear royal livery as a chamber knight for at least six years more, and clearly enjoyed a position of influence with the young King. Richard placed such confidence in his former tutor as to dispatch him in December 1380 on embassy to Bruges for negotiations with the envoys of the King of the Romans, Wenzel IV, about his marriage to the latter’s sister, Anne of Bohemia. He left Richard at Woodstock at Christmas and returned to London in March 1381, having while overseas also accompanied Sir Simon Burley on a journey to Germany for a personal audience with Wenzel. This participation in the arrangements for the King’s marriage laid a foundation for Adderbury’s attachment to the new queen, to whose service he was to be devoted until Anne’s death in 1394. Within a few weeks of Anne’s coronation in January 1382 Adderbury was acting as her chamberlain, an office he was to occupy for at least four years. That spring he served as her attorney and representative in transactions concerning the estates which had recently reverted to the Crown on the death of William de Ufford, earl of Suffolk; and in the summer he paid a London goldsmith 100 marks out of the Exchequer for making jewellery for her. For a few weeks in the autumn he simultaneously acted as receiver of the King’s chamber, although this was a temporary appointment, and on 15 Nov. he secured a formal acquittance of all money, gold plate and jewels belonging to the monarch.9 Queen Anne showed her appreciation of Adderbury’s services in May 1383 with a grant for his lifetime of the manors of Iffley, Oxfordshire, and Carswell, Berkshire, worth £40 a year. (These the King was to present to him outright two years later, as compensation for the losses he had sustained on his behalf in selling part of his own inheritance in 1376.) Adderbury’s position as an intimate member of the Court circle is further indicated not only by his being asked in July 1385 to act as a trustee of estates belonging to the King’s half-brother, Sir John Holand (then in deep disgrace for having murdered the earl of Stafford’s heir), but also by his nomination in the following month as an executor of the will of the King’s mother, Princess Joan. Evidently, the royal family regarded him as entirely trustworthy. Marks of favour shown him by the King in 1386 included (in March) a grant entitling his son, Sir Thomas Adderbury, to whom Sir Richard had given his life-interest in Helston, to retain this manor for the duration of his own lifetime, and (in June) a licence to build himself a castle at Donnington.10

While attending his second Parliament, at Westminster in October 1386, Adderbury gave evidence in the court of chivalry in favour of Richard, Lord Scrope, in the latter’s controversy with Sir Robert Grosvenor over the right to bear identical heraldic arms. Although nothing is known of his personal reaction to the political events of the Parliament itself, culminating in the impeachment of the former chancellor, there can be no doubt that he was identified with the court party, for in January 1388 he was to be among those expelled from the King’s presence by the Lords Appellant. By good fortune he escaped imprisonment and possible execution at their hands, and when Richard II took back control of the government in the spring of 1389 he returned to the King’s side. Richard welcomed him with a grant of a charter of free warren in his demesne lands. More significantly, Adderbury now began to make regular appearances as a member of the King’s Council. As such, he served on the committee set up in August that year to supervise the sale of certain of the estates forfeited to the Crown by judgement of the two Parliaments of 1388. Matters of diplomatic importance followed: in the spring of 1390 he was sent on an embassy to treat with the French for a permanent peace, as well as with the Flemings for a truce; at Westminster palace in May he set his seal to the King’s letter to Pope Boniface IX stating royal policy as expressed in the second Statute of Provisors; and he was sent a summons to attend the Council in August for discussions regarding breaches of the truce in Aquitaine. Precisely how long Adderbury remained a royal councillor is uncertain, although his inclusion on commissions to determine appeals from the courts of chivalry, and on another to arbitrate in the dispute between that prominent councillor, Sir William Bagot, and the civic authorities of Coventry, point to his continued participation in government at the centre at least until 1396. Rewards for his ‘long, good service’ included a tun of wine a year from the prisage of Bristol, and, in June 1393, the grant of a royal wardship.11

Although no longer chamberlain to Queen Anne, Sir Richard continued in the early 1390s to act as a member of her council, too; and for his assistance the queen gave him for life a tun of wine a year, as well as a supply of wood, charcoal and venison from Wychwood forest. The winter following the queen’s death in 1394 he spent in Ireland with the King’s forces, and after his return he shared with Sir Philip de la Vache* in June 1395 the wardship of John Fitzellis’s heir, together with the young man’s marriage, for which latter they paid £100. Twice in 1390 Adderbury had obtained royal letters patent granting exemption from holding local office against his will, but it was only now, when in his sixties, that his workload in Oxfordshire and Berkshire underwent reduction. Even so, he served on the benches of both counties right up to his death, all the while continuing to share responsibility for the audit of the accounts of the late Queen Anne’s treasurer and receiver-general.12

Adderbury’s connexions were naturally many, especially among those familiar with the royal court. John, Lord Lovell, had employed him as an attorney and feoffee-to-uses in the 1380s; Sir Philip de le Vache had entrusted him with the estates he held as custodian during the minority of (Sir) John Beauchamp* of Holt; and Sir John Golafre, a favoured knight of the King’s chamber, named him as overseer of his will in 1394. During the 1390s Adderbury also acted as a feoffee and surety for William Wilcotes*, the chief steward of Queen Anne’s estates, and he asked Wilcotes’s kinsman, John Wilcotes*, to be his executor, along with William Mackney*, another Oxfordshire man and royal esquire.13

Over the years Adderbury had augmented the estates he had inherited in Oxfordshire and Berkshire by acquiring the manor of Peasemore (in 1378), an interest for life in the Golafre estate at Langley, together with the bailiwick of Wychwood forest (in 1380) and the reversion of the manor of Kidlington (held by de la Vache and his wife in survivorship). In addition, he leased a house in the City of London, in Distaff Lane. Over the same period, however, he was disposing of other properties: he sold Carswell, which the queen had given him;14 and throughout his career he was engaged in a generous endowment of religious and charitable foundations. As early as 1362 he had alienated the advowson of Steeple Aston to the Augustinian canons at Cold Norton. Four years afterwards he obtained a royal licence to found a chantry chapel of two priests at Donnington, altering his plans in 1376 in order that part of the endowment might be made to the house of Crutched friars near the Tower of London, in return for the friars’ undertaking to supply two of their number to serve in the chapel. Subsequently, a small dependent friary, known as the priory of Holy Cross, was built next to this chapel, maintained by revenues from land donated by Adderbury in 1394 and 1399; and in the meantime, in 1393, he had also founded a hospital there, which he endowed with the manor of Iffley (given him by the King) as well as with property in Berkshire. Nor was this all, for in 1381 and 1392 he made grants of land to the Cistercian abbey at Bruern. That Adderbury was naturally a devout man is further suggested by his admission in September 1394, on the eve of embarkation for Ireland, to the confraternity of Llanthony priory by Gloucester.15

A lifetime of service dedicated to the Black Prince and his son Richard II ended with Adderbury’s death early in April 1399.16 His will has not survived. He was succeeded by his son, Sir Richard Adderbury II.

Appendix C – Sir Richard de Abburbury II

Family and Education

s. and h. of Sir Richard Adderbury I*. m. bef. Feb. 1388, Alice (d.1416), da. and h. of John Cleet of South Denchworth, Berks., wid. of Edmund Danvers (d.1381) of Winterbourne Danvers, s.p. Kntd. by May 1381.

Offices Held

On embassies to Portugal Apr.-May 1386, France 1393, Bavaria 6 Oct. 1394-21 Jan. 1395, 8 Aug.-7 Oct. 1395, Aachen 1396.

Chamberlain to John, duke of Lancaster, by July 1388-bef. Mich. 1392.2

Commr. of array, Berks. Dec. 1399.


Before the death of his father in 1399, the younger Sir Richard Adderbury held only those estates in Berkshire which his marriage had brought him. These comprised his wife’s paternal inheritance — including the manors of Stainswick and ‘Cleets’ in Denchworth as well as a number of properties at Lambourn — together with her interest for life in a substantial part of the Danvers estates, due to pass eventually to her son, William Danvers*. The marriage had taken place by 1388, when Adderbury and his wife sold some land in Longcot.3  [Longcot is a small settlement on the River Ock situated about 10 miles west of Denchworth.  This land may have been part of the Danvers estate lands inherited by Alice Cleet Danvers on the death of her husband, Winterbourne.]

By that time Adderbury’s career was already well begun. While his father was devoting his energies to serving the Black Prince in Aquitaine, he attached himself to the prince’s brother, John of Gaunt, whom he followed on campaign in 1370. By 1372 he was in receipt of a retaining fee payable by the receiver-general of the duchy of Lancaster, and within a few years he had been made a knight of the duke’s chamber. In May 1381 he took out royal letters of protection as about to sail for Portugal, most likely for service in the army led by the earl of Cambridge, intending to prosecute Gaunt’s claim to the throne of Castile. When, in the summer of 1385, Adderbury rode north to Scotland as a member of the army led by Richard II in person, it was no doubt as one of Gaunt’s contingent, for by Michaelmas that year his annuity from the duchy estates had risen to £20. The following spring (1386) saw him once more in Portugal, this time accompanying two other English negotiators sent to promote a treaty crucial for Lancaster’s plans to invade Galicia. The resulting alliance, concluded on 9 May and afterwards known as the treaty of Windsor, was to have long-term importance in Anglo-Portuguese relations. No sooner back in England, Adderbury made preparations to return to the Iberian Peninsula, this time with the army raised by his lord. It was while awaiting embarkation at Plymouth in June that he made his deposition to the constable’s court, in favour of Richard, Lord Scrope, in the latter’s celebrated dispute with Sir Robert Grosvenor. (His father was to do likewise at Westminster a few months later.) Adderbury remained in Spain with Lancaster throughout the following year, and at some unknown date before July 1388 he was made the duke’s chamberlain. In this capacity he travelled to Paris in the autumn of 1389 in order to procure safe-conducts from Charles VI for Gaunt’s return home overland from Bayonne.4

John of Gaunt lent his bachelor [Knights Bachelor] Adderbury £200 in order to allow him to accompany Henry of Bolingbroke to Prussia on the latter’s first expedition there. By now an experienced diplomat, Adderbury was to be employed during the 1390s on a number of missions on behalf of Richard II and his uncle Gaunt, although since only two of these journeys were accorded the status of formal embassies, documentation about them is generally meagre. It is known, for instance, that he took out royal letters of exchange before travelling overseas in May 139I, but his destination is not recorded. More important, he received 100 marks at the Exchequer in December 1393 for his expenses and reward in accomplishing a mission to France on secret business of the King, connected with the long drawn-out negotiations with Charles VI towards a permanent peace (negotiations in which Lancaster had taken a prominent part). The secret treaty concluded earlier was to be submitted to Parliament for its approval in January following, and it seems quite likely that Adderbury’s election to this same Parliament took place because he was known to be conversant with these weighty affairs and enjoyed personal access to the King. Indeed, it was expressly because he was in Richard’s confidence that in August following he and a fellow knight of the King’s chamber were sent to treat with the duke of Bavaria for an alliance. Accordingly, he was absent overseas from that October until January 1395, when he reported to the King at Dublin before returning home. He received £1 a day for his expenses, as well as just over £10 for his crossings from Calais to Dover and from Chester to Ireland. No more than seven months elapsed before he was back in southern Germany, having received a fresh commission on a similar diplomatic purpose, but with extended powers; and the following year (1396) saw him travelling to Aachen to negotiate for a settlement of claims made by certain English merchants.5 During his second appearance in the House of Commons, in 1397, Adderbury was no doubt able to contribute to the discussions lessons learned as a royal envoy to foreign courts.

Throughout the 1390s, although often busy on missions overseas, Adderbury remained in close contact with the duke of Lancaster and members of his entourage. For instance, in 1397 he assisted Sir John Dabrichecourt*, a fellow Lancastrian retainer, to raise £600 as purchase-price for the marriage of the son and heir of Philip, Lord Darcy. In August that same year John of Gaunt entrusted an important letter to the King to ‘mon tresbien ame bachiler, monsire Richard Abberbury le fitz’, and in his will drawn up in the following February the duke made Adderbury a bequest of 50 marks. Moreover, Adderbury’s subsequent tenure of the duchy of Lancaster manor of East Garston, Berkshire, worth as much as £50 a year, was almost certainly owed to Gaunt’s patronage.6

Strange to relate, the accession to the throne of John of Gaunt’s son, Henry of Bolingbroke, was not a signal for Adderbury’s further advancement. On the contrary, after 1399 Sir Richard ceased to have contact with the royal court and, following his appointment to a single commission of array, he took no further part in local administration, either. Perhaps the life-long devotion of his father to Richard of Bordeaux, and his own personal contacts with that monarch made the change of ruler regrettable to him. There is no evidence that any of the many journeys overseas which he took during Henry IV’s reign were on business of state; indeed, their purpose may well have been private, and on one occasion at least a pilgrimage was intended. He took out royal letters of attorney before going abroad in 1401, 1410 and 1411, and in the meantime, in 1407 and 1409, he obtained authorization to exchange sums of 100 marks and £120, respectively, into Italian currency. No doubt these journeys were expensive ventures, and Adderbury is known to have sometimes run up debts, as in 1400 when he was sued by a London merchant for £31, or another time when he owed the earl of Salisbury 20 marks.7

It was at the very end of this obscure, final phase of his career that Adderbury took the extraordinary step of selling off the very substantial estates he had inherited from his father in 1399. True, by this time he was growing old, and there was little hope that his marriage of nearly 30 years’ duration would produce heirs: as a petitioner later put it, Sir Richard ‘havyng non issue and beyng of right grete age prefered … to sell’. Even so, such a large scale disposal of ancestral estates was an unusual event in the 15th century. By a series of transactions completed early in 1415 Adderbury first made arrangements regarding his wife Alice’s lands in South Denchworth and her rents from 30 messuages in Lambourn (ensuring, however, that after the deaths of the donees his wife or her heirs would once more receive an income from these properties); then in a much more drastic move he sold outright to Thomas Chaucer* the castle and manor of Donnington and five other manors, together with the reversionary interest after his own and his wife’s deaths in three more (Kidlington, Hanwell and Thatcham). At the same time he made a settlement on Sir Richard Arches*, the son of his sister Lucy, of a substantial part of his inheritance in Oxfordshire, consisting of the manors of Steeple Aston, Glympton, Ludwell, Duns Tew and Souldern. It remains a mystery as to what happened to the money raised by these transactions; perhaps it had already been spent overseas. Certainly, the name of the younger Sir Richard Adderbury, unlike that of his father, is not remembered in connexion with the endowment of religious institutions.8

Neither Sir Richard nor his wife lived long after disposing of the Adderbury estates. They are last recorded in the Hilary term of 1416 as still in possession of the manor of Hanwell — which was due to revert to Thomas Chaucer on their deaths — and Alice, who outlived her husband, was dead by September following. Many years later, in 1448, Richard Adderbury of Newbury (most likely this Sir Richard’s nephew) took advantage of the Crutched friars’ failure to respect the provisions of Sir Richard Adderbury I’s foundation at Donnington priory to seize their land at Souldern and sell it to the duke of Suffolk. Thus, all the ancestral estates of the Adderburys were finally dispersed.9

Appendix D – Adderbury Village and Parish History

The ancient parish of Adderbury (fn. 1) covered an area of 6,045 a. and included the townships of Adderbury East (2,058 a.), Adderbury West (1,160 a.), Bodicote (1,291 a.), Barford St. John (726 a.), and Milton (810 a.). (fn. 2) It was reduced in size in 1855 when Bodicote became a separate ecclesiastical and civil parish, and again in 1932 when Barford St. John was joined with Barford St. Michael to form a new civil parish. (fn. 3) The modern civil parish of Adderbury (East and West) with Milton covers 4,028 acres.

The ancient parish was largely bounded by rivers: on the east the Cherwell separated it from Northamptonshire, on the south the River Swere was the dividing line with Deddington parish and Wootton hundred, and on the west the Sor Brook, a tributary of the Cherwell, separated it from Bloxham. (fn. 4) The Middle Lias limestone underlies the whole of this area and there is an outcrop of Marlstone over a large part of it. (fn. 5) The soil is fertile and its characteristic reddish colour distinguishes the landscape, while the local quarries have provided good building material. There are many disused quarries for both building stone and ironstone. (fn. 6) The land lies mostly between the 300 and 400 ft. contours and the landscape is one of undulating hill and river valley. Generations of landowners and tenants have left their mark: it was common practice to stipulate in leases that tenants should plant trees, usually oaks or elms, (fn. 7) and well-timbered hedges diversify the natural bareness of the uplands. Resident gentry have created parks and gardens such as those around Adderbury House, and Bodicote and Cotefield Houses; and the needs of fox-hunters have led to the planting of coverts. (fn. 8)

Through the centre of the parish runs the main road from the Midlands by Banbury to Oxford (turnpiked in 1755), (fn. 9) and the Banbury–Buckingham road branches off it. The course of both these roads was altered by the inclosure award of 1768; their previous course can be seen on Ogilby’s map of 1675, where it is noted that there was then ‘an indifferent way’ from Adderbury to Deddington. (fn. 10) Before the award the Buckingham road branched off the Banbury–Oxford road at Weeping Cross east of Bodicote, and ran south-eastwards to Nell Bridge, a line which followed that of the ancient Saltway. (fn. 11) After 1768 a minor road, branching off just to the north of Adderbury village, became the main Banbury–Buckingham road. Weeping Cross probably dated from the 15th century; it was repaired and embellished in 1730 and removed in 1803. (fn. 12) It might possibly have been a halting place for coffins on their way to the mother church at Adderbury, for Bodicote had no separate burial ground until 1754. (fn. 13)

Many of the parish bridges date from the Middle Ages: Aynho or Nell Bridge (fn. 14) was kept up by the Bishop of Winchester or his lessees; West Bridge or St. Mary’s Bridge (i.e. the bridge over the Sor Brook between the two Adderburys) was the responsibility of New College, Oxford, or its lessees. (fn. 15) A bridge called ‘Whytesbridge’ was built in 1387, and ‘Middle Bridge or Grylysbridge’ was repaired with stone in the reign of Henry IV. (fn. 16) A report on Oxfordshire bridges in 1878 stated that the one wide arch of Adderbury Bridge (i.e. West Bridge) was mainly built of large squared stones dug near Adderbury and was finished with Hornton stone. (fn. 17) Ham (or Bloxham) Bridge was rebuilt in 1859 and carries the Milton–Deddington road over the River Swere, here little more than a brook. The repair of this bridge was shared by Adderbury and Deddington. Another bridge across the Swere, carrying the main Adderbury–Deddington road, lies c. 1⅓ mile below Ham Bridge.

Communications were greatly improved by the construction of the Banbury–Oxford section of the Coventry–Oxford canal between 1778 and 1790. Tarver’s and Nell Bridge Locks, and Twyford, Adderbury, and Nell Bridge Wharfs were built on its course through the parish. (fn. 18) In 1887 there followed the construction of the Banbury, Chipping Norton and Cheltenham branch of the G.W.R. (fn. 19) It ran through Milton and Adderbury to meet the Oxford and Birmingham line at King’s Sutton Junction. There was a halt at Milton and a station at West Adderbury. These were closed to passenger traffic in 1950 and the line was finally closed in 1964. (fn. 20)

Apart from the unusually large and scattered parish of Cropredy, Adderbury was the largest parish in north Oxfordshire and was more thickly populated than any other. In 1642 342 of its men took the Protestation Oath compared with 257 in Bloxham parish, (fn. 21) and in 1676 871 adults, almost certainly an under-estimate, were recorded in the Compton Census. (fn. 22) In the early 19th century population increased very rapidly, rising from 1,775 in 1811 to 2,525 in 1841. Thereafter it steadily declined, but changes in the boundary of the ancient parish invalidate any comparison between 20thcentury and earlier totals. (fn. 23)

Despite the parish’s rich soil and plentiful water supply little evidence has been found of pre-historic settlement.  There were Romano-British villa sites at Bodicote and near Adderbury West. (fn. 24)  It is uncertain when the first Anglo-Saxon settlements were made but it is probable that the Upper Cherwell area was overrun in the 6th or early 7th century, possibly by invaders from the east. The double village of Adderbury took its name from an Anglo-Saxon, Eadburga, the earlier form of the place-name being Eadburgesbyrig. (fn. 25)  Since the parish feast used to be on the Saturday before 18 July, the feast day of St. Eadburga of Aylesbury (d. c. 650), who may have been the daughter of Penda, King of Mercia, (fn. 26) it is likely that the place was named after her. (fn. 27) Adderbury’s position on the route through Banbury to the Midlands probably encouraged its development. The village was first mentioned in the time of Wynflaed (c. 950) and by the 11th century was one of the centres of a large royal estate. (fn. 28) In the 13th and 14th centuries Adderbury East and West were the largest settlements in the parish. They lay on opposite slopes of the Sor Brook valley and were together nearly as large and prosperous as the two parts of Bloxham, which were similarly sited on either side of a valley. (fn. 29) For the poll tax of 1377 there were 300 contributors. (fn. 30) In 1642 114 men from Adderbury East and 61 from Adderbury West took the Protestation Oath compared with 213 at Bloxham. (fn. 31) Growth certainly continued in the 18th century, though as incumbents always included Milton in their returns for Adderbury this can only be estimated roughly. In 1768 it was reported that there were 224 families in the three villages and in 1778 300 houses. (fn. 32) In 1801 there were 1,144 inhabitants in the two Adderburys, Adderbury East being far the larger; the peak figure was reached in both villages in 1841 when the figures recorded were 1,060 and 442 for Adderbury East and West respectively; in 1961 the figures were 1,312 and 534. (fn. 33)

Although the growing population and prosperity of the Adderburys has led to much new building on the outskirts, the villages still retain their regional character. A high proportion of houses and cottages in both date from the prosperous period of the 16th and 17th centuries, and many from the 18th century. Consistent use of local stone and careful restoration and rebuilding in the 19th and 20th centuries in traditional styles of architecture have given the villages a pronounced architectural harmony. Grass verges and low garden walls in front of the cottage rows are a common feature. (fn. 34)

The older part of Adderbury East lies partly on the main Oxford–Banbury road, but mainly on both sides of a sinuous branch road which runs westwards down the hill to the Sor Brook. The splendid medieval church, the two manor-houses on either side, the tithe barn, and the Old Vicarage are grouped at the lower end of the village street. It is likely that in the Middle Ages the peasants’ houses were mainly around the green at the upper end of the village. The green, notable for its ancient elms and chestnuts, was probably at one time more extensive: in the late 14th century it was prominent enough for the place to be called Adderbury-on-theGreen. (fn. 35) The site of the village cross, which once stood there, is known. (fn. 36) It was at this end of the village that in the Tudor and Stuart periods the houses of the rising gentry were built — the mansions of the Wilmots, the Cobbs, and perhaps of the Danvers family, and also many farm-houses.

Local Government.

In the 13th century, besides ordinary manorial jurisdiction, the Bishop of Winchester had gallows and view of frankpledge in his manor. The lord of the St. Amand’s manor probably also had these rights over his Adderbury tenants. (fn. 451) New College, Oxford, later acquired the right to hold the view in its rectory manor. Regular manorial courts were also held by Cirencester Abbey, by Oseney Abbey, and by the lords of Brown’s manor. (fn. 452) Courts for the Winchester and New College manors were held until the 19th century. The last court leet was held in 1895 and the last court baron in 1898, apart from a special court baron held in 1909. (fn. 453)

The courts concerned themselves with the usual business of admissions and surrenders, the exaction of heriots, and the regulation of the open fields. At the view of frankpledge assaults, including those in which blood was shed, and a variety of misdemeanours were dealt with. In the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I presentments included such offences as keeping open a saw pit on the green, charging excessive toll, using false weights or selling beer in unsealed measures, allowing the kiln-house to be ruinous, having defective butts, pillory, or ducking stool, playing unlawful games, and fishing without licence or using a fishing net for trolling the river. Penalties were imposed on those who neglected to attend the court and in one case a tenant forfeited his tenement for prosecuting the lord’s tenants out of the lord’s court, that is in the hundred and in the county court. As late as the end of the 17th century the homage was often called upon to carry out administrative duties, such as surveying the manor and defining its boundaries, as well as regulating the actual conduct of open-field farming. (fn. 454)

The officers of the courts were the usual ones. On the Winchester manor, for example, there were aletasters, affeerors, constables and haywards. (fn. 455) Among the recorded customs which were enforced in this court were the following: a tenant was succeeded by his eldest son or eldest daughter; a widow held her husband’s land while sole and chaste; a man who married an heiress paid half the entry fine and had a life tenancy of the land; and heriots were due at death, on exchange, surrender to use, and even for mortgages. (fn. 456)


In 1086 2 mills, each worth 30s. a year, were attached to the Winchester manor. (fn. 586) These were probably in Adderbury East and in Bodicote. By the 13th century their tenants held them by payment of an entry fine and not on an annual lease. (fn. 587) The fine for the Adderbury mill between 1305 and 1474 was £6 13s. 4d. and thereafter £5. (fn. 588) In the 16th century this mill was held by Anthony Bustard and then by his son John. (fn. 589) Between 1558 and 1579 3 Adderbury men brought an action in Chancery, alleging that Anthony Bowlestred (Bustard?) had purchased land from the Bishop of Winchester and built a mill on it which he called Lord’s Mill; he now demanded suit of mill from the Winchester tenants who ‘always did maulte at home’. (fn. 590)

The Bodicote mill was held at the beginning of the 14th century by Hugh the miller, who was among the highest contributors to the tax of 1327. (fn. 591) Bodicote’s miller died in the Black Death and was not replaced until 1353. (fn. 592) In the 16th century the mill was held for a time by Edward Councer of Bloxham, who owned nearby Grove mill in Bloxham, then by William Dauntesey of London. (fn. 593)

The king had 6 water-mills on his estate in Adderbury and Bloxham in 1086; one of these was probably the mill belonging to the St. Amand manor, originally a royal manor, which was worth 13s. 4d. in 1294 and 30s. in 1330 when it was let to John of Leicester. (fn. 594) In 1616 Robert Doyley sold 2 watermills, one from the St. Amand’s manor and one from Brown’s manor, also originally a royal manor, to William Westley, who sold them in 1629–30. (fn. 595)

About 1250 the Abbot of Cirencester granted his share of a mill with the multure of all his tenants in Adderbury and Milton to the brothers John and Simon de Briddesthorne who were to pay 8s. rent and each of their heirs 6s. 8d. relief. (fn. 596) This too may once have been one of the king’s mills.


The likelihood is that Adderbury church was founded before the Conquest: the village was named after St. Eadburga (fn. 606) and in 1270 the Bishop of Winchester claimed that Athelstan had given the church to his see in 1014 or 1015. (fn. 607) Moreover, Adderbury in the Middle Ages was the mother church of a wide area, including the chapelries of Milton, Bodicote, and Barford St. John. Milton chapel probably did not survive the Reformation, Bodicote became a separate parish in 1855, and Barford St. John was amalgamated with Barford St. Michael in 1890. (fn. 608)

The descent of the advowson is complicated, (fn. 609) partly perhaps because of the wealth of the living. The Bishop of Winchester’s ancient right was not disputed, but in 1257 the king successfully claimed his right to present during a vacancy in the see. (fn. 610) The first papal provision was made in 1297 at the request of the Bishop of Winchester when Adderbury’s rector, Edmund of Maidstone, died on a visit to Boniface VIII; the Pope provided Robert of Maidstone. (fn. 611) In 1330, on the death of one of the king’s presentees, (fn. 612) the advowson appears to have reverted to the Pope; Itherius de Concoreto, papal nuncio, seems to have been the next rector and on his resignation or marriage the Bishop of Winchester presented in 1344 his own nephew, Master Thomas de Trillek. (fn. 613) This led to a papal protest that the benefice was reserved to the papacy and at the bishop’s request the Pope provided Trillek and remitted the fruits received. (fn. 614) The king ratified this papal provision in the same year. (fn. 615) When Trillek became Bishop elect of Chichester in 1363, the Pope presented John, Cardinal of St. Mark’s. (fn. 616) Whenever a vacancy occurred in the See of Winchester, however, the king claimed his right: (fn. 617) in 1365 he was successful in a suit with the Cardinal of St. Mark’s over this but ratified the cardinal’s estate in Adderbury in the following year. (fn. 618) In 1371 the king again presented and Cardinal John, ‘unjustly incumbent’ of Adderbury, was summoned to Westminster and so also in 1373 was William of Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester. (fn. 619) In 1374 the king made a presentation but revoked it immediately on the grounds that it had been made in the belief that Cardinal John was dead. (fn. 620) The cardinal died between 1377 and 1379, (fn. 621) when William of Wykeham presented. The king confirmed the presentation in 1380, notwithstanding the judgment whereby Edward III had recovered his right of presentation against the then Bishop of Winchester on the grounds that the temporalities of the see were in his hands. (fn. 622) In 1381, when the living again became vacant, the controversy was ended by Bishop Wykeham’s grant of the advowson to New College, Oxford. (fn. 623)

Papal licence for the appropriation of the church had been obtained in 1379 and royal licence was granted in 1381. (fn. 624) Thereafter New College regularly presented to the newly created vicarage Fellows or members of the college.

Valuations of the rectory in 1254, 1291, 1341, and 1535 give the following figures: £41 4s., £46 13s. 4d., £48 15s. 8d. with portions, and £56 5s. 2d. Of the last sum £1 5s. 2d. came from the rent of customary tenants and the rest from tithes. (fn. 625) Allowing for several small expenses the net income was £52 18s. 5d. in 1535. (fn. 626) In 1794 the rectory was worth £1,327, by 1810 the net annual value was £10 more, and in 1827 it was valued at £1,250. (fn. 627)

In 1381, when the rectory was granted to New College, it consisted of land and tithes. (fn. 628) The tithes included most of the great tithes from the Adderburys and Bodicote, and the lesser tithes from the demesne of the Winchester manor and of the New College rectory manor. The great tithes of Barford St. John and Milton were excluded. (fn. 629) Various deductions from the tithes had to be made: Oseney Abbey had a claim to tithes worth 13s. 4d. and the owners of the former Oseney manor were still claiming tithes in 1700. (fn. 630) Eynsham Abbey claimed tithes worth 6s. in 1291 and 26s. 8d. in 1535. (fn. 631) After the Dissolution the Eynsham tithes were leased for 21 years; but the freehold evidently went to Lord Saye and Sele, who already held land in Bodicote, and later to Robert Barber. (fn. 632) Another claimant to the share of the rectory tithes was the Rector of Barford St. Michael. His share was valued at 5s. in 1291, (fn. 633) but payment later appears to have lapsed. The origin of this charge is not known, but it is possible that certain lands or common rights in the township of Barford St. John once belonged to the founder of the church of Barford St. Michael. As late as the 18th century tenants of certain lands in Barford St. John claimed right of burial in the churchyard of Barford St. Michael without paying special fees and the inhabitants of Barford St. Michael claimed a right of common in the same lands. (fn. 634) At inclosure in 1768 New College received 456 a. in lieu of rectory tithes of open-field land, 33 a. for tithes of old inclosures, and 55 a. in lieu of open-field glebe. (fn. 635)

The Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Adderbury

Despite his efforts the vicar noted that about half the population, including dissenters, was habitually absent from church. The large number of prescriptive and facultied pews, which left only 136 free sittings, was considered a barrier to church-going among the less privileged. (fn. 700) The principle on which pews had once been granted is expressed in a 17thcentury vicar’s petition to the bishop for an enlarged pew for Mr. Barber, the High Sheriff, stressing ‘his public relation besides his private quality and reputation amongst us’. (fn. 701) In 1830 the occupiers of 36 houses in the parish were granted exclusive use of certain sittings. (fn. 702) In 1885, after a petition by c. 150 inhabitants, (fn. 703) the plans for restoration included provision for at least 170 free sittings. (fn. 704)

The church of ST. MARY THE VIRGIN is a large cruciform building with chancel, north and south transepts, nave, north and south aisles with porches, and a western tower with a spire. (fn. 705) The spire is celebrated, along with Bloxham and King’s Sutton, in a local rhyme. (fn. 706) The earliest work dates from the earlier 13th century when a church with transepts and a nave of 5 bays was apparently built: in the east wall of the north transept are remains of 13th-century lancet windows with wall paintings on the splays and on the north wall there are the remains of an arcade. It is probable that there was once a 5-light lancet window in this wall. Similarly in the south transept there are traces of lancets in the east wall and of arcading on the south wall. Of the original 13th-century nave arcade the capitals alone remain. The piers and arches were reconstructed in the 14th century, only the westernmost bay probably retaining its original proportions.

Extensive alterations were made in the late 13th or early 14th century. The tower and spire were added. The nave arcade was reconstructed: the arches of the eastern bays appear to have been enlarged so that there were 4 arches instead of an original 5 arches. (fn. 707) The aisles were so much widened that they are now broader than the nave.

The similarity between the carving of the capitals of the columns that support the 2 arches separating the aisles from the transepts and that executed in other north Oxfordshire churches suggests that the same mason may have been employed. The capitals are carved with the heads and shoulders of women or knights with arms linked. (fn. 708) At this period Decorated windows, of which the original tracery has since been destroyed, were inserted in the walls of the transepts in place of the former lancets. North and south porches were added, the north one sheltering a fine doorway with elaborate mouldings and carved decorations. Over the entrance is carved a shield charged with the emblems of the Crucifixion. A notable addition was the continuous frieze round the exterior walls of the aisles: the one on the north side depicts a lively series of musicians and their instruments interspersed with grotesque figures. This kind of work is also found in other north Oxfordshire churches. (fn. 709)

Later in the 14th century a clerestory was added to the nave and a new roof was constructed. This roof is remarkable for its original moulded arched braces supporting the tie-beams. (fn. 710) At a later date clerestories were added to the transepts and so the easternmost windows of the nave clerestory were turned into interior windows.

The chancel, with a vestry on the north side, is a notable example of Perpendicular architecture. It was built between 1408 and 1419 at the expense of New College, and the building accounts show that the chief mason was Richard Winchcombe, later to be the builder of the Divinity School at Oxford, and that a carpenter named John was responsible for the timber roof. (fn. 711) Taynton freestone was employed for the dressed stonework. The total cost to the college was c. £400. The wooden chancel screen was also made at this time. It is similar to a screen in Winchester Cathedral and may possibly have been made by Winchester craftsmen. (fn. 712) No major alterations were made before the 19th century, but some repairs were done between 1722 and 1727. (fn. 713) The stone work of the spire was repointed by White of Witney in 1766, but part of it fell in 1777 and in 1815 John Cheshire of Over Whitacre (Warws.) rebuilt 17 ft. of it. (fn. 714) Meanwhile the chancel had fallen into a bad state. In 1770 3 of the chancel windows were taken out and the space walled up; apparently the steward of Sir John Cobb, who, as lesseee of the rectory, was responsible for the upkeep of the chancel, refused to do more after a quarrel with the vicar. (fn. 715) Later the tracery was removed from the other 3 chancel windows and between 1787 and 1789 the churchwardens had all the tracery removed from the windows in the body of the church and replaced by plain stone bars. (fn. 716) A contemporary wrote that the way in which the church had been treated furnished a ‘deplorable instance of the economy which seeks to avoid the expense of repair by the total destruction of its object.’ (fn. 717) Late-18thcentury drawings show the extent of the mutilation: one from the south-east shows a chancel window and all the transept windows in the south and east walls barred, while 2 chancel windows are entirely blocked: one from the north-east shows the northeast window of the chancel blocked and the transept windows without their tracery. (fn. 718)

Appendix E – Entire Atterbury Database

Appendix F – Northamptonshire Addendum

Subsequent to completion of Chapter 1 – What is an Atterbury, the author discovered that had added a new database to their website which contains church records from Northamptonshire entitled Northamptonshire, England, Church of England Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1532-1812.  Since the original research performed by the author did not have access to these Northamptonshire records, an important component of early Atterbury records in England during the 16th and 17th centuries was missing from that analysis.  The purpose of this addendum is to tabulate those missing Northamptonshire records and to integrate them with the analysis of the history of the Atterbury surname.

We begin this update by providing the reader with a quick overview of this recently added (2014) Ancestry database.  This database contains approximately 4,138,400 records transcribed from parish church registers and supplemented by Bishop’s transcripts defined by the Ancestry database webmaster as follows:

“This collection contains images of Church of England parish registers and bishop’s transcripts of baptism, marriage, and burial records during the years 1532–1812 from various parishes in Northamptonshire, England. In addition to keeping parish registers, lists of baptisms, marriages, and burials were required to be sent to the bishop of the diocese. These copies of the parish registers, called bishop’s transcripts, can sometimes fill in gaps where parish registers are missing. They may vary slightly from the parish registers, however. This may be because an error was made as the information was copied, or a correction or additional details may have been inserted as the copy was being recorded for the bishop. For these reasons, if both copies are available, it’s wise to check both of them.”

The webpage does not state exactly how many parish church registers were transcribed in the compilation of this database.  However, the author has compiled a small sampling of 1000 records from a total of 78,096 records for the year 1610 with a tally of the records from each parish church thus captured in that sample being presented in Table 1F-1.  From this sample it can be seen that 168 parish churches had either births, marriages or deaths recorded.  This tally of 168 churches is not intended to represent all of the parish churches in this database, rather to give the reader a general framework within which to compare those parishes in which Atterburys were actually recorded.  In all probability, this database contains records from more than 200 different parish churches scattered around Northants. 

A thorough search of the Northamptonshire database for a 100-year period between 1550 and 1650 for Atterburys (using a*b*r* as the primary search criteria) yielded 200 candidate records from 23 separate parishes.  Within these records were 17 records which appear to have been for the surname of Atterburn or Atterbourn, 16 of which were from Daventry parish.  Even though Daventry parish is situated relatively close to the other parishes within which Atterburys are found (see Figure 1F-1), the author is not inclined to believe there to have been any near-term kinship connection between these Atterburns and Atterburys.  Additionally, there were two other records whose surname spelling was sufficiently different from Atterbury (Athber, and Athbir) as to cast doubt on any near-term ancestral connection. 

Excluding the Atterburn records and the other two doubtful records, we are left with a total of about 181 records that could reliably be identified as connected to the Northamptonshire Atterbury lineages.  Of these 181 decidedly Atterbury records, 154 occurred within only six parishes listed in order as follows: Great Houghton (61), Little Houghton (54), Courteen (12), Grafton Regis (10), Milton Malsor (10), and Northampton All Saints (7).  The remaining 26 records were scattered about in 12 other parish churches in the near vicinity of the town of Northampton. 

All 181 records of decidedly Atterbury events from Northamptonshire within the 100-year study period are contained in Table 1F-2.  As can be seen on the inset map displayed below, 85% of these records occurred within a very limited geographic region between Grafton Regis and Northampton, with almost 65% being in Great Houghton and Little Houghton.  Consequently, it can be reliably stated that the large majority of Atterburys in Northamptonshire during the 100-year period of 1550 to 1650 lived within a very concentrated area covering less than two square miles.

Text Box: Figure 1F-1
Northamptonshire Area Map w/ Inset

Further, these records demonstrate that there were virtually as many corruptions of the Atterbury/ Arthurbury surname within Northamptonshire as occurred elsewhere in England in the 17th and 18th centuries.  Even though the de Forests almost uniformly used the surname spelling of Attebury in their work entitled The Descendants of Job Atterbury, it is clear from the compilation of Atterburys in Table 1F-2 that the de Forests elected to amend the historical record by coalescing all these various corruptions into a single form, namely “Atterbury”. 

A careful perusal of these original church records suggests that most variations in the spelling of the Atterbury surname can be attributed to transcription errors.  One of the most common errors in transcription was the frequent misinterpretation of the letter “t” for the letter “l”.  Other common misinterpretations involved “e” for “o” and “r” for “n”.  These interpretational errors were typical of those found by the author in records from other counties in England, including nearby Bedford and Buckingham, as well as Surrey and Middlesex.

Also similar to other counties was the infrequent, but undeniable occurrence of the corruptions of Arthurbury and Arterbury.  Although few in number (only two instances), there was the clear occurrence of these surname spellings contemporaneously and in relatively close geographic proximity with Atterbury family groupings in Northamptonshire.  The two recognized instances of the Arthurbury/Arterbury spelling corruption in Northamptonshire both occurred in the 1580’s: Lodevir (aka Ledovir) Arterbury/Arthurbury at Lowick, and Lewis Arterbury at Hardingstone.  It must be acknowledged that Lowick was the most remote site for any Atterbury/Arthurbury record found in this study addendum, being roughly 25 miles northeast from Northampton.  It must also be acknowledged that the father’s given name of Lodevir or Ledovir was unique to any other known given name within the Atterbury clan in England.  A search of the Northamptonshire church registers using the “lod*” and “lud*” search criteria returned several variations on the given name “Lodovic” or “Ludovic, several of which occurred in either Lowick or nearby Titchmarsh, but only the two records having the “vir” ending.  Closer inspection of these two records suggests the letter “c” had been misinterpreted as an “r”.  Likewise, a study of the etymology of the given names of Lodovic and Ludovic led the author to conclude that these two records for Lodevir or Ledovir were transcribed in error, and should have been Lodovic, or near variation.

Etymological analysis of given names may be almost as important as surname analysis in making genealogical connections.  In this instance, something very unique about the etymology of the given name of Lodovic or Ludovic led the author to conclude that this person from Lowick in the 1580’s very likely had a close kinship connection to the Atterburys of Northamptonshire.  Following is a brief synopsis of the etymology of the Lodovic (or Lodovicus) given name:


GENDER: Masculine

USAGE: Ancient Germanic (Latinized)

Meaning & History

Latinized form of Chlodovech (see LUDWIG).

OTHER LANGUAGES/CULTURES: Loïc (Breton), Lluís (Catalan), Ludvig (Danish), Lodewijk, Louis, Lowie, Ludo (Dutch), Aloysius, Lewis, Louis, Lou, Louie (English), Loïc, Louis, Ludovic, Clovis, Lou (French), Alois, Ludwig, Lutz (German), Aloisio, Alvise, Lodovico, Ludovico, Luigi, Gino, Luigino, Vico (Italian), Ludvig (Norwegian), Alojzy, Ludwik (Polish), Aloísio, Luís, Luisinho (Portuguese), Luis, Lucho (Spanish), Ludvig, Love, Ludde (Swedish)…”[18]

Embedded within the foregoing description of the origins and usages of the given name of Ludovicus are several variations which closely connect with the Atterbury families of Northamptonshire.  Specifically, it appears that the given name of Lewis within England could be derivative of and synonymous with the given name of Lodovicus.  This fact is important to this investigation of the Atterburys/Arthurburys of Northamptonshire.  The given name of Lewis occurs with considerable frequency within these families starting with the baptism of Lewes Atterbury at Great Houghton on 10Feb1562.

Consequently, it might be inferred that there was something peculiar to this particular region that triggered adoption of such an otherwise peculiar given name.  Namely, that the given names of Lewis and Ludovic were generally accepted synonyms in England, and that Lodevir (aka Ludovic) Arthurbury of Lowick very likely held a close bloodline kinship with the other Lewis Arterbury/Atterburys of Northants.  Consequently, it might also be inferred that the rare occurrence of the surnames of Arthurbury and Arterbury within 16th and 17th century Northants was a mere corruption of Atterbury, and not suggestive of a separate bloodline lineage.

Now it is time to integrate this newly discovered set of Atterbury/Arthurbury records from Northants into their proper context with the other Atterbury/Arthurbury records previously introduced in the original draft of Chapter 1.  The regional map contained in Figure 1F-1 highlights towns in Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire and Bedforshire within which the greatest numbers of Atterbury/Arthurbury records were concentrated during the 16th and 17th centuries.  When taken into context with the entire set of Atterbury/Arthurbury records compiled and analyzed in this surname study, these additional 181 Atterbury records in Northamptonshire further strengthen the author’s conclusion that the Atterbury surname likely originated from the Abburbury/Adderbury family of Adderbury, Oxfordshire in the 14th century.

[1] English Surnames: Their Sources and Significations, Charles Wareing Bardsely, M.A., 1875, p. 14

[2] Author unknown.

[3] Loudoun County Virginia Court Records, p. 134.

[4] A Survey of the History of English Place­names, Dame Cateline de la Mor la souriete (aka Kristine Elliott), 1997,, accessed 28Jul2014.

[5] “Romeo and Juliet”, Act II, William Shakespeare.

[6] Ibid., Bardsley, p. 107.

[7] Ibid, p. 110.

[8] A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames, Charles Wareing Bardsley, 1901, p.p. 66-67.


[10], accessed 5Aug2014.

[11] Wykeham’s Register, William de Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester,  p. 324.

[12], accessed 8Aug2014.

[13], Accessed 7Aug2014.

[14] Calendar of the Patent Rolls Preserved in the Public Record Office: Edward I, 1301-1307, prepared under the superintendence of the Deputy Keeper of the Records, 1898, pp. 108-109.

[15]  Subsequent to the compilation of this research into the history of the Atterbury surname, the author discovered a relatively new database posted on in 2014 for church records from Northamptonshire County, which are believed to contain many of the records referenced in the DeForest’s research.  Consequently, the author has compiled an addendum to this chapter, which is attached hereto as Appendix F.

[16] The Descendants of Job Atterbury, p. 10.

[17] The Berks Bucks and Oxon Archaeological Journal, Vol. 4, April, 1898, “Historic Houses, Donnington Castle and its Ancient Lords”, F. N. Macnamara, pp. 49-60.

[18], accessed 25Apr2017.

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