WM minister, born at Lamberhead Green, Lancs. He was an advocate of missions and of Methodist day schools, having had the advantage of a Scottish education. His first ten years in the ministry were spent in Scottish circuits, where he made the acquanitance of Lady Maxwell, whose life he wrote (1838). ElectedPresident of the Conference in 1846, he was a leading opponent of Jabez Bunting. He gave his support to the establishment of missions, chapel building and Methodist education. In 1849 he became superintendent of the Wakefield Circuit and Chairman of the Leeds District, but died on 26 September 1850.
His son, Sir William Atherton (1806-1864), born in Glasgow in October 1806, was called to the bar in 1839 and travelled on the Northern Circuit. He became a QC in 1851 and MP for Durham in 1852, being re-elected in 1857 and 1859. A staunch Liberal, he supported the abolition of all religious disabilities and opposed the withdrawal of the grant to the Roman Catholic seminary at Maynooth. He was appointed Solicitor-General in 1859 and knighted in 1860, and in 1861 became the first Methodist Attorney-General, resigning in 1863 because of poor health. He died in London on 22 January 1864.