Emma Brereton meets John Ainscough, owner of Holden Wood Antique Centre
It was when John bought his first house that he became interested in antiques, or more that the world of antiques found him.
He was settled in a good solid career with Walkersteel, owned by Jack Walker, as a business analyst. He never envisioned he would one day be surrounded by artefacts from all over the world, housed in a church that he renovated.
“My first house was an old Lock Keepers cottage and it was a huge renovation project,” says John. “It needed gutting and I put every penny I had into it which meant I didn’t have much money left for furniture.”
“To keep with the style of the property, I bought old pieces from junk and curiosity shops as and when I could afford to replace the items I’d accumulated and ended up with a garage full of old interesting furniture I no longer needed.”
John started to sell items from his garage and later a storage unit but still didn’t have any intention of leaving Walkersteel.
“Anyone who knows or knew of Jack Walker knew what a dynamic person and businessman he was. I really loved working for his company. They gave employees confidence and watched them grow and flourish. If you had an idea and you wanted to run with it you were encouraged to.”
After a quick Google search of Jack Walker, I’m interested to see that his Wikipedia page describes him as an industrialist and as you read through his achievements, you can see why his passion must have been infectious to John and other employees at the organisation.
“When Walkersteel was sold out to British Steel and the IT department was outsourced to Cap Gemini, the work started to lose its soul. It wasn’t the same anymore yet I stayed put, using my antiques hobby as a way to escape from what became a mundane job,” says John.
John’s side-line of selling antiques had been growing from strength to strength and it was at this point, around 20 years ago, he came across the church on the Grane Road that was up for sale.
“The church was unused, unkempt and was up for sale with planning permission to turn it into a car park,” explains John. “I didn’t want to see this beautiful building go to waste so I bought it for £65,000 – remember it was 20 years ago and it was falling apart – and we spent a further £100,000 on the renovation.”
The renovation was done in six months, despite being in his business analyst role. John partnered up with friend Peter Crossley and opened in 1996. When the time was right, four years later, John made the full transition over to Holden Wood.
Now 20 years on John’s passion is still strong and Holden Wood antiques is continuing to grow, housing over 50 antique dealers with experts in many areas such as furniture, jewellery, clocks and watches, books, ceramics and glass and military items.
“You never know what is going to come through that door,” says John who has valued some unusual items including one of Winston Churchill’s walking sticks.
Antique dealing has changed, so as well as all the traditional antiques, Holden Wood is always looking to buy one off and quirky items. Things like early photographs, postcards, documents and letters. Also, unusual items, industrial items, scientific items, old promotional and display pieces.
“Look out for things that tell a story or relate to local history, social history or industrial history and if you are clearing an attic or cellar, we would be happy to look at anything of interest,” adds John.
A few years ago, a beautiful new tea room was added and has become very popular in its own right and is building a reputation for its seasonal menus and local sourcing.
John studied at UCLan when it was Preston Polytechnic, graduating with a qualification in computer studies. He is originally from Parbold in Wigan and lived in Bolton until moving to the house behind the antique centre.
Life is an interesting journey, what can start off as a hobby can end up as a life’s passion and a way to make a good living – John is living proof of that.