A Brief History of Ainsdale
Ainsdale is mentioned in the Domesday Book (1086) as Einuluesdel (Oxford Book of Place Names), which is Old Scandinavian for 'Valley of a man called Einulfr'. Other spellings I have seen include Einulvesdael, Aynaltesdale, Ainulvesdale and Aynesdale. As can be seen from the origin of the name the first settlers were Vikings (9th Century). They were not raiders but settlers driven out from Ireland by the Celts. They do not seem to have been given trouble by the Anglo-Saxons further inland, probably because the land was so poor compared to that in their own control. Local place names from this period show that the early inhabitants were Christian, e.g. Ormskirk (Church on a hill), Kirkdale (Church in the Valley), Crosby, Crossens (Kross-Ness) and Churchtown (Kirktown).
In the 9th Century this area was in the Kingdom of Northumbria. In 937 the result of the Battle of Brunanburgh brought the area into Mercia. Very little was recorded until Norman times when, as already mentioned, William the Conqueror ordered the compilation of the Domesday Book, Ainsdale was valued at two carucates of land (this amount would require 16 teams of 8 oxen to plough in one year).
Very little is then heard of Ainsdale for hundreds of years, the village does not even appear on maps until Yates map of 1786. Ainsdale did not have its own manor, it was owned by the lord of one of the local manors. In the 16th and early 17th century Ainsdale belonged to the Halsall family of Halsall until it was mortgaged to raise money (thought to be for gambling debts) by 'Bad Sir Cuthbert' Halsall to Robert Blundell of Ince in 1631. Sir Cuthbert died the following year; his widow was given the chance to pay off the debt but could not so in 1634 Robert Blundell took over the property. The Blundell family owned the village right into the 20th Century, the only change of note being when Charles Blundell left Ainsdale to a distant relative instead of a nephew (he had no children) in 1837. The relative was Thomas Weld who then took the name Thomas Weld-Blundell.
The Blundell family, like many leading families in Lancashire, was strongly Roman Catholic. From time to time they were forced to pay fines or had property confiscated because of their denomination as the government of the country oscillated between Protestantism and Catholicism. It may have been worse had it not been for the fact that most of the local justice system was controlled by their friends and acquaintances.
Until the railway came life in Ainsdale had been virtually unchanged for centuries. The beach was used for fishing by day and smuggling by night (although the beach is open and shallow it was then a very remote place, and close to the Isle of Man where a lot of the goods came from). The area behind the sand dunes was used to farm rabbits and inland the main occupation was Agriculture
Ainsdale expanded rapidly after the railways came (1848), as a dormer-village for people working in Liverpool and Southport and as Ainsdale-on-Sea became a popular bathing spot from the 20th Century. In 1841 the population was 176, by 1981 it had risen to 15,803. In April 1912 Ainsdale, along with Birkdale, became part of Southport and in 1974 it was transferred from the county of Lancashire to the Metropolitan Borough of Sefton, part of the newly created county of Merseyside.
The Anglican Church in Ainsdale
Until the late 19th Century Ainsdale was a very small place, it did not have its own Church, it came under the Chapelry of Formby to the south. This meant a long trek to services and the church school (from 1659, although it is not clear when pupils from Ainsdale started going). Parishes in the North West were typically very large, containing many population centres. Formby (containing Ainsdale) was in the Parish of Walton-on-the-Hill (eight miles away in what is now Liverpool) which in turn was in the Diocese of Chester. Formby was made an independent Parish sometime between 1846 and 1887.
As has been mentioned above the area was noted as a stronghold of Roman Catholicism, even during the periods when it was illegal to be a 'Papist'. But still, when the population of Ainsdale began to expand rapidly it became very unsatisfactory to have large numbers of Anglicans having to go to St. Peter's in Formby. Also the Sandons' Act (1876) and Mundella's Act (1880) made attendance at school attendance compulsory for the under-tens. Something had to be done! Ainsdale Anglicans started holding services and meetings in Ainsdale, at first at the home of Mr & Mrs Edwin Collier and then in the Assembly Rooms, Rotunda Buildings, Bank Square - now the Royal Bank of Scotland, Station Road. Services were led by a Layreader, Mr A.J. Buston. In 1882 a Curate, Rev. James Cannon, was appointed as 'Curate in Charge District of Ainsdale in the Chapelry of Formby', a choir was formed and a Sunday School started.
The congregation continued to grow and in 1884 the Church responded to pressure from Ainsdale people and began moves to build a church in Ainsdale. The church was designed by C.A. Robinson and built by T.Riding. The memorial stone was laid on 18 August 1886. The first services were held in the church on 27 February 1887 and it was licensed as a Chapel of Ease of St. Peter's Formby. St. John's became a Parish in its own right by Order of the Privy Council on 30 June 1906, promulgated in the London Gazette on 6 July. The first incumbent was Rev. Alfred Drew.
St. John's School was open on 8 January 1894 with 41 pupils, by June of the same year there were 71 pupils.
St. John's Ainsdale 1886 - 1986
Pauline Collier (copies available from St. John's Church)
Old Birkdale and Ainsdale
Sylvia Harrop (see The Birkdale and Ainsdale Historical Research Society) ISBN 0-9510905-0-X
Changing Face of Ainsdale
North Meols and Southport - a history
Peter Aughton - ISBN 0-948789-38-7
St. Peter's Church - Formby