Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Atherton, William (1806-1864)

ATHERTON, Sir WILLIAM (1806–1864), lawyer, was born at Glasgow in 1806, being the son of the Rev. William Atherton, a well-known Wesleyan preacher, by Margaret, daughter of the Rev. Walter Morison, a minister of the Established Church of Scotland. He was educated in England, adopted the legal profession, and practised from 1832 to 1839 as a special pleader below the bar. In the latter year he was called to the bar at the Inner Temple. He chose the northern circuit, and was not long in securing a high reputation. He was returned to parliament as one of the members for the city of Durham in 1852, and was re-elected by the same constituency in 1857 and 1859. In politics he was an advanced liberal; opposed to the repeal of the Maynooth giant; in favour of the ballot, a large reform in the law, and the removal of all religious disabilities. He was appointed a queen's counsel in 1852, and became a bencher of his inn the same year, he was judge-advocate of the fleet and standing counsel to the admiralty from 1855 till December 1859, when he succeeded Sir H. S. Keatinge as solicitor-general, and received the honour of knighthood. In June 1861, on the elevation of Sir R. Bethell (Lord Westbury) to the lord chancellorship, Sir William Atherton succeeded to the vacant post of attorney-general. He resigned his office in the autumn of 1863 on account of ill-health; and died at his residence, Westmoreland Terrace, Hyde Park, London, 22 Jan. 1864. He married, in 1843, Agnes Mary, daughter of Mr, Thomas James Hall, chief magistrate at Bow Street. While practising below the bar he published 'An Elementary and Practical Treatise on the Commencement of Personal Actions, and the Proceedings therein to Declaration, in the Superior Courts at Westminster. Comprising the Changes eftected by the Uniformity of Process Act (2 W. 4. c. 39) and recent Rules of Court.' Lond. 1833. 12mo.

[Solicitor's Journal, viii, 3, 42, 247; Times, 23 Jan. 1864; Dod's Parliamentary Companion, (1863).]

T. C.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.10
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

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219 i 2 Atherton, Sir William: for 1852 read 1851