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 Sefton Digital Archive has a number of old photographs of Ainsdale.