Eleanora Atherton (14 February 1782 – 12 September 1870) was an English philanthropist. She is best known for her work in Manchester, England. At the time of her death in 1870, she was one of the richest women in the nineteenth century.
Atherton was born on 14 February 1782 and was the oldest surviving daughter of Henry Atherton (1740–1816), a barrister, and Ann Byrom (1751–1826).
Atherton inherited her wealth from several family members. She lived half the year at the Byrom family home at 23 Quay Street in Manchester and half at the family's country home Kersal Cell in Kersal.
Atherton also owned land in London, Cheshire, Lancashire, and Jamaica. The land that Atherton, along with her younger sister Lucy Willis, inherited in Jamaica from their uncle, William Atherton of Jamaica, included slaves.
During her lifetime, Atherton is estimated to have annually donated several thousands of pounds to charities in and around Manchester every year. She is thought to have given away a total of around £100,000 between 1838 and 1870. The charities that she donated money to usually concerned religion, children, the sick or the elderly.
In 1841, Atherton funded the building of the Holy Trinity Church in Hulme, Manchester, and St Paul's Church in Kersal, built between 1841 and 1843. In 1860 she paid for the restoration of the Jesus Chapel in Manchester Cathedral as well as later contributing to the restoration of the cathedral tower. Several other members of her family funded the building and restoration of various churches and Atherton later bequeathed £5,000 to St John's Church in Manchester which her grandfather, Edward Byrom funded.
As well as religious buildings, she also donated funds to various medical buildings in Manchester including St Mary's Hospital, Manchester Royal Eye Hospital and institutions which helped people who were terminally ill.
Atherton funded several buildings in memory of family members including the new wing of a Manchester ragged school in memory of her aunt, Eleanora Byrom, and almshouses in Prescot in memory of her sister, Lucy.
Atherton died on 12 September 1870 in her home in Quay Street where she had been confined for three years. She was buried in St Paul's Church in Kersal, one of the churches which she had funded. She died one of the richest women in the nineteenth century having left £400,000.
Atherton was a slave owner and profited from the use of slaves on her Jamaican estates. After the abolition of slavery in Britain she applied two times for compensation for the loss of 182 slaves (for which she received £3466 8S 8D) and another 544 slaves (for which she received £1972 17S 9D).