Townships: Ainsworth

Pages 180-182

A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 5. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.

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Euenesworth, 1243; Aynesworth, 1332.

Ainsworth lies about 6 miles west-north-west of Middleton Church; it is quite separated from Great Lever by the townships of Little Lever and Darcy Lever in Bolton, and from the rest of the parish by Radcliffe, and portions of Bury. It measures about 2 miles from north to south, and over a mile across. The area is 1,308½ acres. (fn. 1) It is an upland slope; the highest ground, over 500 ft., is in the northern half of the township, near the centre of which are situate the village and church. The eastern side is known as Cockey Moor, part of the moor being in Radcliffe. Blackshaw Brook forms the boundary on the west. The population in 1901 numbered 1,718.

The principal road is that from Bolton to Bury, passing through the southern end of the township. A more northerly road between the same places passes through the village, and runs across Cockey. The Lancashire and Yorkshire Company's Bolton and Bury line crosses the southern corner of the township, where it has a station called Bradley Fold.

A bronze celt and Roman coins have been found on Cockey Moor.

This moor was a mustering place for the Royalist troops in 1642. (fn. 2)

The soil is light, overlying gravel; wheat, oats, and potatoes are grown, and some land also is devoted to pasture. Cotton weaving is pursued, also bleaching and dyeing. 'Mr. John Wilson of Ainsworth, originally a fustian manufacturer, produced several ingenious inventions by which he brought cotton velvets to the utmost perfection; he also procured from the Greek dyers of Smyrna the secret of dyeing Turkey red. (fn. 3) Stone quarries are worked.

In 1666 there were fifty-one hearths liable to the tax, but no house had as many as six hearths. (fn. 4)

The township was in 1894. extended to include the rural part of Elton. (fn. 5) It is governed by a parish council. A small recreation ground and gymnasium was presented to the township in 1902.


AINSWORTH was a member of Middleton Manor, and the earliest notice of it is in the grant of land there to Cockersand Abbey, made by Roger de Middleton about 1200. (fn. 6) It is usually mentioned with other portions of the manor in settlements and inquisitions, (fn. 7) and has descended to the Earl of Wilton. (fn. 8)

Ainsworth of Pleasington. Azure three spades within a bordure or.

Ainsworth gave a surname to a local family, one of whom, by marriage with Maud de Middleton, held the principal manor for many years. (fn. 9) The Ainsworth family, settled at Pleasington, continued to hold land in Ainsworth till the beginning of the 17th century. (fn. 10) An estate in Ainsworth, Breightmet, and Harwood was in 1588 sold or mortgaged by Thomas Ainsworth to Ralph Booth, (fn. 11) whose estate descended to his nephew Geoffrey Lomax in 1622. (fn. 12)

Other resident families were named Aspinall, (fn. 13) Harper, (fn. 14) and Openshaw. (fn. 15) Robert Horrox of Ainsworth having declined knighthood compounded in 1631. (fn. 16)

About 1514 there was a dispute between the lords of Middleton and Radcliffe as to the right of turbary on Cockey Moor. (fn. 17)

The land tax returns show that Sir Thomas Egerton owned most of the land in 1783. Mrs. Ann Baron was the other owner. (fn. 18)

An inclosure award for Radcliffe and Ainsworth was made in 1812. (fn. 19)


A chapel existed at Cockey Moor in 1515, (fn. 20) and probably continued in use after the Reformation. (fn. 21) In 1620 it had a special curate or lecturer. (fn. 22) Just before 1650 it was endowed with a small piece of land improved from the common, and had a regular minister, supported by the offerings of the people. (fn. 23) Though the minister is stated to have been 'turned out' in 1662, (fn. 24) the building appears to have remained in possession of Nonconformists for nearly fifty years after this. (fn. 25) In 1718 Bishop Gastrell found that the rector of Middleton preached there once a month; other Sundays it was vacant. (fn. 26) Some endowments were secured. (fn. 27) The registers begin in 1727. The chapel, now called Christ Church, was rebuilt in 1832, and had a separate ecclesiastical parish assigned to it in 1867; (fn. 28) the rector of Middleton is patron. The following have been curates and vicars:—

1725. James Wylde, B.A. (Magdalen Hall, Oxford) (fn. 29)
1759 John Barlow, B.A.
1768 Robert Deane, B.A.
1799 James Archer (fn. 30)
1828 John Haughton, B.A.
1836 Richard Heslop (fn. 31)
1851 G. R. Carr
1857 Robert Macdonnell Evanson, M.A. (T.C.D.)
1888 John Alexander Lauria, M.A. (Emmanuel Coll., Camb.)
1905 Alfred Wood

There is a chapel of the Methodist New Connexion, built in 1847.

The people of the district in the 17th century appear to have been resolute Puritans. As stated above the chapel at Cockey was retained by the Nonconformists until the beginning of the following century; in 1715 they built a meeting house so near the old chapel' that the congregations might hear one another sing psalms.' The doctrine for nearly a century has been Unitarian. (fn. 32)


  • 1. The census report of 1901 gives 1,4.60 acres, including 18 of inland water. The increase is accounted for by the extension in 1894.
  • 2. Stanley Papers (Chet, Soc), iii, p. lxxi.
  • 3. E. Butterworth, Middleton, 57.
  • 4. Subs. R. bdle. 250, no. 9, Lancs.
  • 5. Loc. Govt. Bd. Order 31671; the extreme western end of Elton was the part added.
  • 6. Cockersand Chartul. (Chet. Soc), ii, 733. The bounds were—Murbrook from the deep moss, Mucklebrook, and the syke from Balshaw.
  • 7. e.g., Lancs. Inq. p.m. (Rec. Soc. Lancs, and Ches.), ii, 105.
  • 8. On the partition of the Middleton and Radcliffe estates about 1780. The land tax returns of 1787 (at Preston) show that then Lord Grey de Wilton owned the greater part of the township.
  • 9. See the account of the manor of Middleton. William son of Robert de Ainsworth, about the end of the reign of Henry III, granted an oxgang of land here to Roger de Barlow; and added another oxgang, as well as a toft, with houses and meadows belonging thereto; Harl. MS. 2112, fol. 171/208. Maud, the sister of William de Ainsworth, released her claim in the 2 oxgangs to the same Roger de Barlow; ibid. Robert de Ainsworth in 1324 gave land in Ainsworth to Robert his son and heir on his marriage with Isabel daughter of Richard de Woolston; Towneley MS. GG, no. 1690. Robert son of Robert de Ainsworth occurs in 1353; Towneley MS. DD, no. 2219. John son of Robert de Ainsworth and Maud his wife received land at Stakehill in 1342; GG, no. 1755. It is perhaps a different John son of Robert who, with Agnes his wife, is mentioned in 1398–9 ; DD, no. 2207–12. John son of John de Ainsworth and Robert de Pilkington (who had married the younger John's daughter Katherine) in 1383 became bound to James de Radcliffe; a warning had been published from the pulpit of Walton Church; GG, no. 1840. The younger John, who lived at the Peak, by his wife Ellen (no. 1843, 2055) had a son Alexander; and Alexander in 1419 made a settlement of lands at Mellor in Derbyshire on his son (by Margaret 'Walklate') Hector, who married Margaret daughter of William de Clayton; no. 2007, 1784, 2064. Hector, probably illegitimate, afterwards sold his lands to Richard son of Robert de Pilkington; no. 2033. Another Robert de Ainsworth attested a Droylsden charter about 1250; Byron Chartul. no. 25/5. John de Ainsworth was among the witnesses of a Farnworth grant in 1295; Lever Chartul. no. 54. Ellis son of John de Ainsworth was defendant in a claim by John de Barton and Agnes his wife in 1324; De Banco R. 252, m. 43 d. Ellis de Ainsworth contributed to the subsidy of 1332; Exch. Lay Subs. (Rec. Soc. Lancs, and Ches.), 36. Ellis Ainsworth is named in 1411; DD, no. 2216. James Ainsworth of Middleton occurs in 1443; Pal. of Lanc. Plea R. 5, m. 6b. Lawrence Ainsworth in 1460 complained that Nicholas Longford and others, including Hugh, Geoffrey and Robert Ainsworth, had disseised him of his free tenement in Ainsworth; Pal. of Lanc. Writs of Assize. Robert Ainsworth in 1543 complained that the lands called the Wood and Marled Earth, through which ran 'a brook and other little pirls' of water, had been damaged by certain persons— Lawrence Bradshaw of Breightmet, Joan widow of Thomas Ainsworth of Breightmet, &c.—having diverted the water courses; Duchy Plead. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), ii, 176. Robert Ainsworth appears as plaintiff or defendant in other suits about the same time; Ducatus Lanc. (Rec. Com.), ii, 82, 77; i, 232, 262. Giles and Thomas Ainsworth occur in 1580; ibid, iii, 87. Giles and Robert Ainsworth were freeholders in 1600; Misc. (Rec. Soc. Lancs, and Ches.), i, 248.
  • 10. Thomas Ainsworth of Pleasington, who died 1613, held three messuages, 60 acres of land, &c., in Ainsworth of Sir Richard Assheton in socage and by 9d. rent; Lancs. Inq. p.m. (Rec. Soc. Lancs, and Ches.), i, 247. A Richard Ainsworth died in 1629, holding lands in Pleasington and Ainsworth; Towneley MS. C 8, 13 (Chet. Lib.), 7.
  • 11. Pal. of Lane. Feet of F. bdle. 50, m. 29; the transaction included twentyseven messuages, a water-mill, 200 acres of land, &c. Thomas Ainsworth died at Ainsworth 26 May 1594, holding messuages and land there of Richard Assheton of Middleton in socage by a rent of 18d. His heir was his nephew Robert son of his brother Peter Ainsworth, aged twentyseven; Duchy of Lane. Inq. p.m. xvi, 8. The fine is recited in the inquisition. The purchaser or mortgagee was the son of Ralph Booth, who died in 1567, holding three messuages, &, in Ainsworth, partly of the queen by knight's service, and partly of Richard Assheton by a rent of 2s. yearly. Alice widow of Ralph, father of Ralph Booth, died in 1580; while Anne widow of Ralph died in 1574; Ralph, the son and heir, was twenty-two years of age, probably in 1584, when the inquisition was taken; Duchy of Lane. Inq. p.m. xiv, 75. Thomas Ainsworth, vendor or mortgagor, died at Ainsworth on 26 May 1594, holding seven messuages, &, in Ainsworth, and fourteen messuages, watermill, &c., in Breightmet and Harwood; the former of Richard Assheton in socage, by a rent of 18d. yearly, and the latter of the queen. His heir was his nephew Robert son of Peter Ainsworth; Duchy of Lane. Inq. p.m. xvi, 8. See an entry in Pat. 7 Jas. I, pt. 26, for lands in Ainsworth, Breightmet, and Harwood.
  • 12. Roger Booth died at Ainsworth in 1622, holding three messuages, &, of Ralph Assheton of Middleton, by a rent of 2s. and a pair of gloves; and 11 acres of the king by the 300th part of a knight's fee. The heir was his nephew Geoffrey Lomax, son and heir of Alice Holt, the sister of Ralph, then aged thirty-six; Lancs. Inq. p.m. (Rec. Soc. Lancs, and Ches.), iii, 306.
  • 13. John Aspinall of Ainsworth was a freeholder in 1600; Misc. (Rec. Soc. Lanes, and Ches.), i, 250.
  • 14. John Harper was a defendant in 1549 touching common of pasture on Cockey Moor; Ducatus Lane. (Rec. Com.), i, 232. A later John Harper died in 1638, holding a messuage, &c., in Ainsworth of Ralph Assheton of Middleton in socage; John his son and heir was thirty years of age; Duchy of Lane. Inq. p.m. xxx, 74.
  • 15. About 1480 Richard Openshaw, 'heir of the Shaw,' took an encroachment on Cockey Moor, which twenty years later descended to his son John. After John's death his brother James occupied the same, for John's son, another John, was 'out of the country at the wars,' and did not for some years appear to claim it; Cockey Moor Exam. 18. The house of John Openshaw in 1515 was beside the meeting of the boundary of three parishes-Middleton, Bury, and Bolton; ibid. 9. Lamwell Openshaw of Ainsworth was a freeholder in 1600; Misc. (Rec. Soc. Lanes, and Ches.), i, 250.
  • 16. Ibid, i, 215.
  • 17. The depositions are printed in full in Raines' Examinations touching Cockey Moor (Chet. Soc. Misc. ii). It was shown that the people of Ainsworth were considered to be parishioners of Middleton, and paid tithes and other dues to it. John Hasnall, seventy-five years of age, had often been at 'the driving of the moor,' and the Radcliffe men had never claimed any right upon it. On the other hand it was shown that there had been disputes in former times between the lords of Radcliffe and Middleton concerning the moor.
  • 18. Returns at Preston.
  • 19. In accordance with the Act 49 Geo. III, cap. 8.
  • 20. Cockey Moor Exam. 12. The chapel is mentioned in 1544; Ducatus Lanc. (Rec. Com.), ii, 77, 82.
  • 21. It was but scantily furnished in 1552; Ch. Gds. (Chet. Soc), 12. In 1580 there was a dispute as to a water corn mill, 'late of the chantry of Cockey chapel'; Ducatus, iii, 63. Camden speaks of it as ' a chapel built of timber, beset round about with trees'; Britannia (ed. 1695), 745. It is named as 'a chapel of ease' about 1610; Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. xiv, App. iv, 12.
  • 22. Misc. (Rec. Soc. Lanes, and Ches.), i, 54, 66 ; Mr. William Rathbone. He was silenced by the Bishop of Chester for nonconformity ; Oliver Heyvvood was one of his pupils; Heywood, Diaries, i, 29, 157. An earlier minister was a Mr. Hibbert ; ibid, i, 20. The chapel was ' vacated by the ejection of an Episcopal clergyman about the year 1640, on the ground of his being "scandalous and ignorant," but really on his refusal to take the Covenant'; Raines in Gastrell's Notitia Cestr. (Chet. Soc), ii, 105. This seems to be an error of Canon Raines. Richard Goodwin, M.A., was minister, seemingly in succession to Rathbone, from 1641 to 1647; Peter Bradshaw, ' an orthodox, able minister,' from 1647 to 1653; Nightingale, Lancs. Nonconf. iii, 119; Commw. Ch. Surv. (Rec. Soc. Lanes, and Ches.), 27.
  • 23. Ibid. The commissioners recommended that it should be made a parish church; but nothing seems to have been done till 1659, when further inquiry was recommended; Plund. Mins. Accts. (Rec. Soc. Lanes, and Ches.), ii, 305. The ministers were—Taylor, 1654–7; Peter Bradshaw, 1657 to 1660; and John Lever, 1660 (?); Nightingale, op. cit.
  • 24. See the extract from the Bishop of Chester's Act book in Notitia Cestr. ii, 105.
  • 25. Various Nonconformist ministers preached in it as opportunity offered—e.g. Oliver Heywood, Henry Newcome, and others; O. Heywood, Diaries, ii, 51, 87, 103 ; H. Newcome, Autobiography (Chet. Soc.), 160. The Prayer-book service was 'occasionally performed on stated Sundays in the afternoon, by the rector of Middleton'; Notitia, ut sup. John Loxam was the curate, 1677–86; Visit. Lists at Chester. In 1683 Justice Greenhalgh had 'grown unreasonable, fining people for going to Cockey chapel, though bell was rung, prayers read, &c.'; O. Heywood, Diaries, ii, 223. John Compton was the certified 'Presbyterian parson ' of 'Cockey chapel' in 1689; Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. xiv, App. iv, 232. Warden Wroe in 1706 reported to the bishop that 'the chapel was in the hands of the Dissenters'; Notitia, ut sup. There was, however, a warden.
  • 26. Notitia, ut sup.
  • 27. Bishop Gastrell records £2 15s. arising from the 6 acres of inclosed land; this land was then and still is in possession of the Nonconformists. Also the interest of £20 for preaching two sermons; in 1724 £100 was given by the rector, and £100 by the Dean of St. Paul's; Notitia.
  • 28. Lond. Gaz. 21 May 1867.
  • 29. The Church P. at Ches. Dioc. Reg. begin with this curate.
  • 30. Afterwards rector of Middleton.
  • 31. Perpetual curate of Slaley, Northumberland, 1831–48; of Otterford, Somerset, 1851–5; vicar of St. John's Park, Sheffield, 1855; also simultaneous curacies; published sermons, &c. He was suspended for drunkenness, &, in 1842; Church P. at Chester.
  • 32. There is a full account of it in Nightingale, Lancs. Nonconf. iii, 115–27, with notices of the ministers, and a view of the building. A 'new built house on Cockey Moor' was licensed in 1672; ibid. 121. The chapel has endowments of over £250 a year; details are given in the Endowed Charities Report for Middleton, 1901, pp. 32–6.