Archive centreWhitehaven
TitleAinsworth family of the Flosh, Cleator and Harecroft Hall, Gosforth, iron ore mine and mill owners
DescriptionIncluding pedigrees, letters, wills, birth, marriage and death certificates. Map of Cleator.
ContextAinsworth papers administrative history

The papers span six generations from David Ainsworth born c1773 and his brother Thomas, cotton spinners of Preston and Backbarrow, to David Ainsworth, son of Sir Thomas of Ardanaiseig, born in 1926 to his fathers' second wife.

The Ainsworth family is linked both in business and by marriage to the Stirling family of Ayrshire. How the families first drew together is not revealed by these papers but the oldest document is a will dated 1818 of James McQuhae of Backbarrow. Thomas Ainsworth was married to Lydia Wells McQuhae, her father the Reverend William McQhae being sometime Moderator of the Church of Scotland and tutor to the brothers of James Boswell. Presumably James is the brother of Lydia Wells and thus Thomas Ainsworth's brother in law, but it has proven difficult to find the names of all the Reverend William McQuhae's children as he had at least 16 to two different wives.

The Reverend McQuhae certainly had another daughter called Mary McQuhae who married the Revered John Stirling of Craigie. Here the second link between the two families occurred a generation later when the son of David Ainsworth, also called Thomas, married Mary Laurie, the daughter of John and Mary Stirling. A draft family tree is available in the Local Studies Files in the searchroom.

According to "A Memorial of the late William Ainsworth" by James Harwood, Thomas married Mary Stirling in 1837, at about the same time as he purchased the mills at Cleator and The Flosh. However, within the collection a letter dated 26 July 1836 is sent from Craigie Manse to Mary Ainsworth at Summer Hill (Lancashire), and mentions her "worthy husband". Mary and Thomas are obviously married by this date. Another letter from Craigie Manse is directed to a Bessie, possibly Elizabeth Stirling, from Lydia, most likely Lydia Stirling, both sisters of Mary Laurie and John. The letter is undated but Lydia died in1829 age about 15 so presumably dates from a year or two prior to that.

Around 1840, Thomas Ainsworth went into business with Mary's brother John Stirling, but a letter from Thomas to his executors dated 1854 reveals a fall-out.

Thomas and Mary had 4 children who grew to maturity; David, John Stirling, William McQuhae and Alice. Both David and John Stirling became Justices of the Peace for Cumberland, David was also MP for Cumberland, and John Stirling was High Sheriff of Cumberland in 1891. (Burkes Landed Gentry 1894). John Stirling was also Justice of the Peace and Member of Parliament for Argyllshire, where he owned the Ardanaiseig Estate on the shores of Loch Awe.

David Ainsworth lived sometime at The Flosh but in his will of 1903 describes himself as of Wray Castle, Lancashire. He died childless but settled twenty thousand pounds on "his devoted friend" Miss Maud Smith.

The Ainsworth family had strong Unitarian roots, and the younger brother of David and John Stirling, William McQuhae Ainsworth was minister of St. Nicholas Street Presbyterian Chapel in Lancaster between 1877 and 1883. He died in mysterious circumstances, seemingly falling overboard from a ship sailing from Beirut to Constantinople. A letter in the collection (YAIN 7/3) written by his cabin mate describes the event. "A Memorial of the late William M Ainsworth, being a selection of his Sermons, Prayers, & Letters of Travel" was subsequently edited by James Harwood. (Local Studies Collection ref 78 AIN).

John Stirling Ainsworth was created 1st Baronet Ainsworth, of Ardanaiseig, co. Argyll [U.K.] on 12 January 1917. His Cumbrian residence was at Harecroft Hall in Gosforth and he and his wife Margaret Catherine Macredie had five children, one of whom died as a baby, all of which were born at addresses in London.

The title passed to Sir Thomas Ainsworth of Ardainaseig who had married Lady Edina Hope Conyngham whilst residing at Harecroft Hall. He was divorced in 1925 by Lady Edina, and the interlocutor (a court order delivered before the final judgement) was made the same day as that in the divorce of Marie Eleanor Hope-Johnstone by her husband. Marie Eleanor and Sir Thomas subsequently married and their son David was born in 1926. The papers in YAIN 5 & 6 include papers relating to the divorce and maintenance of the children.

Related materialAinsworth and Stirling Family Local Studies files
Catalogue levelFonds
Subject termsIron industry

Show related place indexes

CodePlace names
NA421The Flosh/Cleator/Cumberland
NA2349Harecroft Hall/Gosforth/Cumberland
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