Mr and Mrs William Atherton

WAG 1353


This artwork has been identified as having links to a person connected with transatlantic slavery. This research is part of the Walker Art Gallery’s ongoing work to be more transparent about the collection’s relationship to Britain's colonial past. This portrait by the English artist Arthur Devis (1711 - 1787) shows William Atherton (1703 - 1745), a Preston woollen draper, with his wife Lucy Atherton (née Lonsdale, dates unknown). The portrait was once thought to have commemorated the couple's wedding in 1730. Now, however, it is believed to date from the following decade. Their children were involved in the transatlantic slave trade. For example, their son William Atherton (died 1804) was an owner of enslaved African people. He left £2.000 per annum to his wife Elisabeth Atherton (née Sepleton, 1755 - 1831). The remainder of his estate, including some plantations in Jamaica, was left to his brother John Atherton (died 1820) and eventually to his brothers Richard Atherton (1738 - 1804) and Henry Atherton (1740 - 1816) and their children.