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|Eleanora Atherton 1782 ... 1870||
It is said by some that, on her death in 1870, she was one of the richest woman in England.
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
Atherton, Eleanora (1782–1870), philanthropist, was born on 14 February 1782, the elder of the two surviving daughters of the four children of Henry Atherton, (1740–1816) of Lincoln's Inn, barrister, and his wife, Ann (1751–1826), daughter of Edward Byrom (1724–1773) of Manchester and his wife, Eleanora Halstead (1727–1758) of Lymm, Cheshire. Of Eleanora Atherton's education little is known, although she grew up in an intellectual environment. She settled in Manchester, and divided each year between the Byrom family home at 23 Quay Street and their country home at Kersall Cell, Salford.
Eleanora Atherton was coheir of Henry Atherton and of Edward Byrom, and heir of her aunt, Eleanora Byrom of Manchester, and her uncle, William Atherton of Jamaica. Besides owning land and property in Manchester and Salford, she also owned property in London, Cheshire, Lancashire, and Jamaica.
Eleanora Atherton inherited the cumulative riches of her forebears and became a prolific but unostentatious philanthropist. It is estimated that in her lifetime she gave several thousand pounds annually to local charities in Manchester and Salford, and her charitable bequests between 1838 and 1870 were thought to have amounted to about £100,000. Like many women of her day she donated her wealth to philanthropic organizations concerned with religion, children, the sick, and the elderly. She carried on the family tradition of church building and restoration.
In 1841 she financed the building of Holy Trinity Church, Hulme, at an estimated cost of £18,000. When consecrated in 1843, this was described as the best ecclesiastical structure in the parish of Manchester.
Jointly with her relative Colonel Clowes she gave the site for St Paul's Church, Kersall. In 1860 she paid for the restoration of the Jesus Chapel in the cathedral at Manchester and later contributed to the rebuilding of the cathedral's tower. She bequeathed £5000 for the support of St John's Church, Manchester, which had been built by a relative, Edward Byrom, along with funds to be invested for the support of clergy in other local churches and donations for the support of clergy widows.
She was a supporter of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge and the National Society, and donated £5000 to the Manchester ragged and industrial schools, part of which was to be used for the building of a new wing in memory of her aunt, Eleanora Byrom. During her life and in her will she made substantial donations to medical charities in Manchester, including St Mary's Hospital, the eye hospital, the infirmary, and the dispensary, as well as institutions providing for the terminally ill.
She erected almshouses in Prescot to the memory of her sister, Mrs Willis, at a cost of £10,000. Until the later years of her life she was involved as a committee member in the administration of the Manchester Ladies Female Jubilee Charity School and St Mary's Hospital, Manchester.
Eleanora Atherton supported the literary work of Manchester's Chetham Society, and donated to the society the library of her forebear John Byrom, philosopher, poet, and probable Jacobite spy. In 1851 she organized the printing of a catalogue of his collection of 3327 books and 41 manuscripts. These included a carefully edited version (1854–7) of his manuscript shorthand diary accounts of his connection with the Jacobite rebellion and evidence of the involvement in the uprising of Eleanora's female forebears, Phoebe, Beppy, and Dolly Byrom. Passages excluded from the printed edition of his diary suggested his role as a Jacobite spy and possible lover of Queen Caroline.
Eleanora Atherton was a calm, religious woman, gentle, sedate, and subdued in manner, with a dislike of ostentation and strong emotion. In the 1860s, in her old age, she was a familiar figure in Manchester, carried round the streets by her old retainers in a sedan chair. She spent the last three years of her life confined to her room. On her death on 12 September 1870 at her home in Quay Street, aged eighty-eight, Eleanora Atherton left a considerable fortune. She was interred at St Paul's, Kersall Moor, on 22 September 1870.