The little village of Ainsworth sits on a hill overlooking suburbs of Bolton and Bury down to Manchester to the south. Although it is close to the cities, it is surrounded by pastures and farms, so that as you drive up to it you have the feeling of going out into the countryside. To the north are a few other small villages, and then the West Pennine Moors, a scenic area of forests and rolling hills.
Then and Now
At the eastern edge of Ainsworth village is a small moor which is called Cockey Moor. There was a Bronze Age village there about 1,000 B.C. which may have been called Kokka (a Celtic word for “red earth”).
On the moor have been found remains of a Roman encampment and there is an old Roman road beside it that was built in 79 A.D. It is thought this was the Roman settlement of Coccium, a name which was probably Latinized from the Celtic. Over the centuries this Roman name became anglicized to Cockey Moor.
With the arrival of the Saxons, the place got another name: Ainsworth. A “worth” is a small enclosure, such as a fenced-in farm or estate. The origin of the “Ains” prefix seems lost in obscurity, though it is probably a variant on someone’s name, perhaps a Saxon name such as Einulf or Einsilf; Einsilf’s farm = Einsilfworth = Ainsworth.
Finding the place in history was somewhat complicated by the fact that it has always been called both Ainsworth and Cockey Moor. The legal name of the parish church is “The Parish Church of Christ in Cockey, otherwise Ainsworth.” In 1200 A.D. the village was referred to as “the ancient hamlet of Ainsworth”. A writer in 1586 mentioned “Cockley, a wooden chapel set round with trees.” Early 17th century maps show the place and call it “Cockley Chapel”. At that time there was apparently not much in Ainsworth apart from the chapel. The wooden chapel, probably a half-timbered Tudor building, was replaced with one of stone in the early years of the 17th century. Our emigrant ancestor(s) quite probably knew the stone building which stands there today.
When the Industrial Revolution caused explosive growth in Lancashire because of the cotton cloth trade, Ainsworth grew up a bit and there are 18th-19th century millworkers’ houses here: very small row houses squashed together on the main street, with tiny neat gardens in the front. There was a very small mill in the village. There has been growth since the 1930’s and the large majority of houses are modern.
Village life centers around the active parish church and its school. In addition there is a Methodist church, two pubs, liquor store, post office, service station, one-room library, small restaurant, and a few offices. That’s about it. There is one main street through the middle of the village (Bury Old Road), and the A58 (Bury New Road) goes by at the bottom of the hill.
Ainsworth today is finding an identity as a bedroom community for Bolton and Bury. There are many lovely new homes, some quite upscale, and most of the village homes have lovely gardens, making the place fresh with color. It is noted locally for its daffodils in spring. It offers the attraction of village life, while being only five or ten minutes drive from two large cities with plenty of modern shopping plazas and other facilities.
- An interesting note: the above mentioned library is notable in that it is apparently the smallest public library in Britain. Read this touching story about the efforts of the residents of Ainsworth to save their local library from funding cuts.
- Other news stories from Ainsworth:
- You can occasionally read news of Ainsworth village in the Bolton Evening News. Go to the Archive section and search on “Ainsworth”. In addition to news articles, you’ll also discover a large number of local residents whose surname is Ainsworth.