THE ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA

A DICTIONARY OF ARTS, SCIENCES, LITERATURE AND GENERAL INFORMATION

ELEVENTH EDITION 1911

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ATHERSTONE, a market-town in the Nuneaton parliamentary division of Warwickshire, England, 102½ m. N.W. from London by the London & North-Western railway. Pop. (1901) 5248. It lies in the upper valley of the Anker, under well-wooded hills to the west, and is on the Roman Watling Street, and the Coventry canal. The once monastic church of St Mary is rebuilt, excepting the central tower and part of the chancel. The chief industry is hat-making. On the high ground to the west lie ruins of the Cistercian abbey of Merevale, founded in 1149; they include the gatehouse chapel, part of the refectory and other remains exhibiting beautiful details of the 14th century. Coal is worked at Baxterley, 3 m. west of Atherstone.

Atherstone (Aderestone, Edridestone, Edrichestone), though not mentioned in any pre-Conquest record, is of unquestionably ancient origin. A Saxon barrow was opened near the town in 1824. It is traversed by Watling Street, and portions of the ancient Roman road have been discovered in modern times. Atherstone is mentioned in Domesday among the possessions of Countess Godiva, the widow of Leofric. In the reign of Henry III. it passed to the monks of Bec in Normandy, who in 1246 obtained the grant of an annual fair at the feast of the Nativity of the Virgin, and the next year of a market every Tuesday. This market became so much frequented 846 that in 1319 a toll was levied upon all goods coming into the town, in order to defray the cost of the repair to the roads necessitated by the constant traffic, and in 1332 a similar toll was levied on all goods passing over the bridge called Feldenbrigge near Atherstone. The September fair and Tuesday markets are still continued. In the reign of Edward III. a house of Austin Friars was founded at Atherstone by Ralph Lord Basset of Drayton, which, however, never rose to much importance, and at its dissolution in 1536 was valued at 30 shillings and 3 pence only.


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