In the south transept of Westminster Abbey is a monument of red and white marble, erected in 1746, to the memory of Sir Edward Atkyns and members of his family (none of whom are buried in the Abbey). The inscription tablet reads:
“To the memory of Sir EDWARD ATKYNS one of the Barons of the Exchequer in the reigns of King Charles the first and second; He was a person of such integrity that he resisted the many advantages and honours offered him by the chiefs of the grand Rebellion. He departed this life in 1669 aged 82 years.
Of Sir ROBERT ATKYNS his eldest son created a Knight of the Bath at the coronation of King Charles the 2nd. Afterwards Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer under King William and Speaker of the House of Lords in several parliaments; which places he filled with distinguished abilities and dignity as his learned writings abundantly prove. He died 1709 aged 88 years.
Of Sir EDWARD ATKYNS his youngest son Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer; which office he discharged with great honour & integrity, but retired upon the Revolution from publick business, to his seat in Norfolk, where he was revered for his piety to God and humanity to men; He employed himself in reconciling differences among his neighbours, in which he obtained so great a character that few would refuse [to leave] the most difficult cause to his decision: and the most litigious would not appeal from it. He died 1698 aged 68 years.
And of Sir ROBERT ATKYNS eldest son of Sir Robert abovementioned, a gentleman versed in polite literature and in the antiquities of this country, of which his History of Gloucestershire is a proof. He died 1711 aged 65 years”.
A tablet on the sarcophagus below reads:
“In memory of his ancestors, who have so honourably presided in the Courts of Justice in Westminster Hall, EDWARD ATYKYNS Esqr. late of Ketteringham in Norfolk, second son of the last named Sir Edward, caused this monument to be erected. He died January the 20th 1750 aged 79 years”.
The monument is by sculptor Sir Henry Cheere and the family arms are shown – argent, a cross sable bordered with demi fleurs de lis between four mullets sable (a silver ground with a black cross and four black voided stars). The crest shows two greyhounds’ heads, silver and black, with the motto “Vincent [which should be Vincit] cum legibus arma (he represses violence with laws).
Sir Edward was born in Oxfordshire, son of Richard and Eleanor Atkyns. He was admitted to Lincoln’s Inn in London and became a lawyer following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather who had both held judicial office under the Tudors. Edward married Ursula Dacres and had two sons (Robert and Edward) and three daughters. His second wife was Frances Berry. He was appointed a baron of the Exchequer in 1640 and later became an advisor to Oliver Cromwell. Despite this connection Charles II knighted him in 1660. He died on 9 October 1669.
Sir Edward’s eldest son Robert was born at Cheshunt in Hertfordshire and baptised 29 April 1621. He was educated in Hertford and at Sidney Sussex college Cambridge, becoming a lawyer and later a Member of Parliament. He married Mary Clerk and secondly Anne Dacres. Again, even though he served in the Cromwell regime, he was knighted by Charles II, becoming solicitor-general to the queen. He was appointed lord chief baron of the Exchequer by William III and died at Sapperton Hall in Gloucestershire on 18 February 1710 (cited as 1709 in Old Style dating on the monument).
Edward Atkyns, second son of Sir Edward and Ursula, also attended Sidney Sussex college and entered Lincoln’s Inn. In 1656 he married Elizabeth Lucy and had two sons (one being Edward who erected the Abbey monument) and seven daughters. He was knighted in 1679 and lived in retirement at Pickenham in Norfolk although he died in London in 1698.
Robert, eldest son of Sir Robert and Mary, was baptised on 26 August 1647, attended Oxford university and was knighted in 1663. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society. In 1669 he married Louise Carteret and was a Member of Parliament for Gloucestershire. His celebrated history of that county was published in 1712. He died in Westminster on 29 November 1711 and was buried at Sapperton church in Gloucestershire where there is a monument to him.
A photograph of the monument can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library.
Further reading for the family:
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004.