ATHERSTONE, a market-town, chapelry, and the head of a union, in the parish of Mancetter, Atherstone division of the hundred of Hemlingford, N. division of the county of Warwick, 20 miles (N. by E.) from Warwick, and 105 (N. W. by N.) from London, on the road to Chester; containing 3743 inhabitants. The name of this place, in Domesday book written Aderestone, is by Dugdale derived from its Saxon possessor Edred or Aldred, and thence called Edredestone or Aldredestone; by others its name is deduced from its situation near Mancester, or Mancetter, the Manduessedum of the Romans, reckoning from which station here was the nearest milliarium on the line of the Watling-street, and hence called Hither-stone or Atherstone. In 1485, the Earl of Richmond, previously to the battle of Bosworth Field, entered the town on the 20th of August, encamped his forces in a meadow north of the church, still called the Royal meadow, and took up his own quarters at an ancient inn, now the Three Tuns, where he passed the night. Here he had an interview with the Stanleys, and concerted those measures which secured him the victory in the celebrated battle that took place on the 22nd, and which terminated the war between the houses of York and Lancaster.
The town has one principal street, containing many ancient and several modern houses, and from which another street branches to the market-place; it is paved, well lighted, and amply supplied with water. There is a circulating library; and assemblies are held occasionally in the town-hall, a neat brick building on piazzas. Stone is quarried for road-making and for walls; and the manufacture of hats and caps, chiefly of a coarse kind, for soldiers and the West India trade, was formerly carried on to a considerable extent; but since the termination of the war, and the abolition of the slave trade, it has declined, there being little demand for soldiers' caps and none for negroes' hats. The Trent Valley railway, completed in 1847, runs by the town; and the Coventry and Fazeley canal passes at its northwestern extremity, where extensive coal and lime wharfs have been constructed. The market, granted in the 31st of Henry III., is on Tuesday; and fairs are held on April 7th and July 18th, for cattle; Sept. 19th, 20th, and 21st, for cattle, cheese, and pedlery, on the Tuesday after which is a statute-fair; and on Dec. 4th, which is a great show-fair for cattle, &c. The county magistrates hold a petty-session weekly: the hundred court is held here in rotation with other towns; and a court leet annually, at which constables and other officers are appointed. The powers of the county debt-court of Atherstone, established in 1847, extend over nearly the whole of the registration-district of Atherstone.
The township comprises 842 acres, chiefly pasture land. The living is a perpetual curacy; net income, £150; patron, the Vicar of Mancetter. The chapel is dedicated to St. Mary; it formerly belonged to the monks of Bec, in Normandy. There are places of worship for Independents and Methodists; also a convent of the Dominican order, the foundation stone of which was laid in Sept. 1837, and a chapel attached to which, dedicated to Our Blessed Lady of the Rosary, was opened Oct. 6th, 1841. A grammar school was founded in the 5th of Elizabeth, 1573, by Sir William Devereux of Merevale, Thomas Fulner, and Amyas Hyll, and a charter of incorporation was obtained: in 1749 the schoolroom was divided, and the grammar school is now conducted in one part, and an endowed English school in the other. The endowment amounts to £302 per annum, of which the master has £150 and the English master £50, and £60 are appropriated for repairs, contingent expenses, and a building fund; the residue being paid in augmentation of the head master's salary. Upwards of forty scholars are at present on the foundation. The poor law union of Atherstone comprises nine parishes and places in the county of Warwick, and five in the county of Leicester, and contains a population of 10,866. Drayton, the poet, and one of the earliest topographical writers, was, according to Dugdale, born here.