Jane Atterbury 1650–1685: At Peace in Bedlam

The following is a reprint of an article written by the author, and published in Bulletin No. 210, Jun2019, Merton Historical Society, Quarterly. http://mertonhistoricalsociety.org.uk/bulletin-210/

Jane Atterbury’s Gravemarker, Unearthed at “New Churchyard” Site by Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) in 2016. Copyright reserved by MOLA.

Jane Atterbury 1650 – 1686 At Peace in Bedlam

On a Spring day in 1686 Jane Atterbury, the wife of William Atterbury, aged 35/6, was laid to rest among the more than 15,000 bodies already interred on a one-acre plot adjacent to Bethlem Royal Hospital [aka Bedlam] off the west side of Bishopgate Street in north London. This small plot, first established as the “New Churchyard” in 1569, continued in use until ordered closed on 1Mar1739, and ultimately received more than 25,000 burials1. The approximate location of Bethlem Churchyard is shaded red in Figure 1, an excerpt from Ralph Agas’2 map of London (circa 1561), and was situated on a tract owned by the City as part of the Bethlem Royal Hospital [Asylum]. The New Churchyard was intended mainly as a non-parochial burial ground to provide “overflow” capacity from other parochial burying sites around the City, which had become severely stressed in the wake of the 1563 plague outbreak.

No single historical register exists of the persons interred in Bedlam Churchyard, but a database 3 containing the records of almost 8,300 persons believed buried at Bedlam has been compiled by volunteers, who scoured historic parish burial registers from across the city for notations of persons from their respective parishes referred for burial at Bedlam. 4 These volunteers worked under the supervision of the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA), which had been brought in to conduct archaeological excavations at the future Liverpool Street Station of the Crossrail Underground project. On compiling this interment database it was discovered that burials ranged across the full spectrum of London society, but the majority of burials were for persons near the bottom of the socioeconomic scale. Likewise, there appears to have been a significant number of persons whose beliefs were at odds with the mother church, i.e., dissenters, nonconformists and separatists. According to Vanessa Harding “suicides and nonconformists, who in different ways excluded themselves from the moral community, were often buried there…”5

Robert Hartle, Senior Archaeologist, MOLA, contacted the author in Jun2016 with the following inquiry: “I am an archaeologist with Museum of London Archaeology (http://www.mola.org.uk/). We’ve recently been excavating what remains of the New Churchyard (1569-1739, aka Bedlam or Bethlem Churchyard) at modern day Liverpool Street, London (http://www.crossrail. co.uk/sustainability/archaeology/liverpool-street/) I have information that Jane Atterbury, the grandmother of William Atterbury the immigrant, was buried there in 1686 at the age of 36.” Mr. Hartle expressed interest in consulting with an Atterbury researcher in hopes of confirming the identity the Jane Atterbury, presumed buried at Bedlam. After exchanging several e-mail communications, it was learned that the MOLA team had unearthed a grave marker at the Liverpool Street Station site which exhibited the following inscription: “HERE LYeTH Y BODY OF (IANe) ATTeRBVRY WF(e OF) WILLIAM ATT(eRBVRY) WHO DYeD Y 21 [or 24?] OF MA(R)1686 IN Y (36 YEARE OF)”.6 This marker was not found in situ, but rather amongst the scattered rubble near the center of the site, apparently disturbed by redevelopments at the site over the centuries. Given that the marker was located within the perimeter of the burying ground, it was concluded by the archaeologists that it had once marked the burial site of Jane Atterbury situated somewhere within Bedlam. Mr. Hartle has graciously provided a digital image of that grave marker, which was catalogued as artifact No. 2267 during the dig. As shown in Figure 27, this marker was carved from sandstone and has been severely eroded. Kudos to the archaeologists for having been able to decipher its marginally indiscernible inscription.

As evidenced by his inquiry, Mr. Hartle was initially of the belief that this Jane Atterbury was the wife of William Atterbury, variously blacksmith, weaver and milkman, of St. Giles Cripplegate. He further expressed the belief that this Jane and William Atterbury were the grandparents of William Atterbury, the American immigrant, transported a convict from Newgate Prison to Annapolis MD in 1733. After conducting a cursory investigation of church records available at Ancestry.com, the author advised Mr. Hartle that his initial identification of this Jane Atterbury might not be correct. This opinion was predicated on a series of records from the register of St. Giles Cripplegate, abstracted in chronological order and analyzed hereinafter. First, it should be recognized that there were only two marriage records found for a William and Jane Atterbury during the subject time period:

  1. Name: William Arterbury, Gender: Male, Record Type: Marriage, Marriage Date: 21 Jun 1676, Marriage Place: All Hallows London Wall, City of London, London, England Spouse: Jane Wilkinson.8 Given the surname spelling of “Arterbury” and the date of this marriage, the author believes this to have been William Arthurbury, son of William Arthurbury of Morden Parish, Surrey, baptized 9Jun1650. There were no other candidate William Atterburys born in or around Middlesex County, who fit the required demographics.
  2. Name: William Attleberry, Gender: Male, Record Type: Marriage, Marriage Date: 19 May 1684, Marriage Place: All Hallows London Wall, City of London, London, England, Spouse: Jane Ratcliffe.9 This William Atterbury was presumed by the author to have been the same person later described in St. Giles Cripplegate as a blacksmith, weaver and/or milkman. The basis for this determination is predicated on much the same criteria as utilized to identify William Arthurbury, of Morden Parish, plus the added information provided in birth and burial records of children presumed associated with this person. Also, this could have been the William, born to John and Susan Atterbury, christened at St. Leonard’s Shoreditch on 25Mar1653. However, that William would have been 31 years old in 1684, which seems unlikely.

So, there appears to have been only two persons named William Atterbury, married to women named Jane, living in London around the time that Jane Atterbury was interred at Bedlam. Now, for a presentation of the other parish church records believed associated with these two separate William Atterburys:

  1. 24Jul1679 – Samuel Atterbury, son of William Atterbury, mason, was buried at St Giles, Cripplegate, City of London, London, England.10 There were only seven records of either births or burials of children of a William Atterbury in London between 1676 (when William married Jane Wilkinson) and 1690 (four years after the burial of Jane Atterbury at Bedlam), and all of those records were in the St. Giles Cripplegate register. This record and the following record are clearly distinguishable from the other five records, given the father’s occupation of “mason”. The other five records are clearly associated with William Atterbury, blacksmith, weaver and/or milkman. Unless another William Atterbury had moved into London during this time period, William Atterbury, mason, almost certainly was the same person that married Jane Wilkinson on 21Jun1676. These were the only two records believed to have been associated with William Atterbury and Jane Wilkinson. Since no christening records were found for either of these children, the name of the mother could not be determined with certainty, but is believed by the author to have been Jane Wilkinson. According to Robert Hartle, the burial record for Samuel Atterbury indicates his place of burial as Tinsdale’s, aka Bunhill. If correct, it should be noted that Bunhill, like Bedlam, was a nonparochial burying ground, i.e., not affiliated with an Anglican church.
  2. 5Aug1682 – Unnamed child of William Artherbury, Mason, [indexed as Antherbury] was buried at St. Giles Cripplegate, City of London, London, England.11 This is a particularly important record for establishing the true identity of this person described as William, Mason. Given the continuity of the occupation having been a mason, these two burial records were almost certainly for children born to the same father. The surname spelling of Artherbury is so unique as to almost certainly connect this William Artherbury as the son, born to William Arthurury and Anne Olliver of Morden Parish, Surrey on 9Jun1650. According to Robert Hartle, this record for the unnamed child of William Artherbury indicates his place of burial to have been at Bedlam Churchyard.

The other five records found for children of a William Atterbury in London between 1676 and 1690 are abstracted as follows:

  1. 5Apr1685 – William Atterberry [indexed as Allerberry], son of William Atterberry, Smith [aka Blacksmith], and his wife, Jane, was born at St. Giles Cripplegate, City of London, London, England.12 It was this William Atterbury, born to William Atterbury, blacksmith, who most Atterbury researchers identify as the father of William Atterbury, the American immigrant. This William Atterbury was apprenticed to John Wight, Butcher, on 6Apr1699, father identified as William Atterbury, blacksmith. Given the date of this birth so closely following the marriage of William Atterbury and Jane Ratcliffe, this William Atterbury is believed to have been their child.
  2. 30Jan1686 [O.S.] – Thomas Atterberry, son of William Atterbury, Blacksmith, and his wife, Jane, was born at St. Giles Cripplegate, City of London, London, England.13 This is believed to have been the second child born to William Atterbury, blacksmith, and Jane Ratcliffe.
  3. 31Mar1689 – Ann Atterbury, daughter of William Atterbury, Weaver, and his wife, Jane, was born at St. Giles Cripplegate, City of London, London, England.14 This christening was for a daughter born to William Atterbury, weaver, and his wife, Jane, more than four years after the burial of Jane Atterbury at Bedlam.
  4. 20Aug1690 – Ann Aterbury, daughter of William Aterbury, Smith [aka Blacksmith], was buried at St. Giles Cripplegate, City of London, London, England.15 This almost certainly was the burial record for the child christened in the preceding record. Note the father’s occupation recorded initially as Weaver, and then as Smith [aka Blacksmith]. Given the continuity of names, dates and occupations, it is a virtual certainty that the fathers in each of the records for Ann Atterbury were one and the same person.
  5. 18Jan1690 – Unnamed Atherbury, son of William Atterbury, Blacksmith, and his wife, Jane, was born at St. Giles Cripplegate, City of London, London, England.16 Although other records for children of William Atterbury, variously blacksmith, weaver and/or milkman, are to be found in the St. Giles Cripplegate register after the date of this record, presentation of those records is unnecessary to the purpose of identifying the Jane Atterbury, buried at Bedlam.

In the preceding five records it has been established that Jane Ratcliffe, wife of William Atterbury, blacksmith, lived for several more years beyond the interment of Jane Atterbury at Bedlam in 1686. Consequently, it is possible to state with a fair degree of certainty, that the Jane Atterbury, interred at Bedlam, was not Jane Ratcliffe, assumed wife of William Atterbury, blacksmith. Given the absence of evidence of the existence of any other Jane Atterbury, wife of William Atterbury, in London during this time period, it is reasonable to conclude that the Jane Atterbury, interred at Bedlam, was Jane Wilkinson, wife of William Arthurbury, mason, presumed son of William Arthurbury and Anne Olliver of Morden Parish. Having reached this conclusion on the weight of solid documentation and sound reason, it must be acknowledged that the ancestry of Jane Wilkinson, herself, could not be established with any degree of certainty.

However, as for the identity of Jane’s husband, William Arthurbury, the author believes his identity as a son of William Arthurbury and Anne Olliver of Morden Parish, Surrey, has been established with a fairly high level of certainty. Moreover, the research of this writer has established with a fairly high level of certainty that William Arthurbury and Anne Olliver of Morden were the paternal great-grandparents of William Atterbury, the American immigrant. The line of decent of William, the Immigrant, from his great-grandparents is summarized in the pedigree chart at end of article.

In addition to the matching given name, unique surname spelling, dates, and general geographic locations, there is one other, slightly more subtle, factor which would seem to connect William Atterbury and Jane Wilkinson to William Arthurbury of Morden. This factor is the appearance of a connection to religious dissention. The fact that Jane Atterbury was buried in Bedlam Churchyard, and that no record was found of her burial in any other London church register suggests that she may have been associated with a nonconforming religious sect. Another factor that would seemingly support this connection is the absence of any christening records for her two presumed children. Similarly, the burials of these two children, according to Robert Hartle, were also in non-parochial facilities. Members of most nonconforming religious groups of that period did not subscribe to the child baptismal practices as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer. Consequently, it was not unusual that christening records for children born into a nonconforming family would be absent from the parish register. Burial services, on the other hand, although not strictly in accordance with the nonconformist’s beliefs, were more difficult to avoid. These seeming evidences of a nonconforming bent within the William Arthurbury and Jane Wilkinson household may be relevant to establishing the ancestral identity of William Arthurbury, mason. For further documentation of such possible connection, the reader is referred to another article written by this author and published in an earlier issue of this Quarterly bulletin entitled William Arthurbury, Brownist and Seditious Publisher.17

Written by Robert Atteberry, Sep2018.

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