Rawtenstall is situated in East Lancashire in the picturesque Rossendale valley at the confluence of the river Irwell and its tributary, the Limy. Until recently the population was employed in the extensive cotton and woollen mills in the vicinity but the decline of these industries has lead to Rawtenstall becoming a dormitory town for Bury, nine miles to the South and Manchester, nineteen miles to the south. At Rawtenstall the road from Bury diverges – north to Burnley or east to Bacup and then on to Yorkshire.
Rawtenstall has a recorded history dating back to 1323, when the whole of the area was part of the Royal Forest of Rossendale. The name has changed over the years but seems to have appeared originally as ‘Rautenstale’ from the old English: ‘rauten’ – roaring and ‘stale’ – a stream or pool. This is believed to refer to the River Limy which joins the Irwell here at Rawtenstall -the Limy must have been considerably more impressive than the trickle which we find today. The Forest of Rossendale has itself long gone, the valley having been deforested by settlements by the time of Henry VII.
The first cotton mill (Hareholme) arrived in the valley in 1770 and the town expanded rapidly during the late 18th century and the 19th century with the advent of the Industrial Revolution and the growth of the textile and, later, the footwear industries. Between 1838 and 1866 thirty mills were constructed in Rawtenstall alone together with another forty elsewhere in Rossendale whilst by 1900 there were thirteen shoe and slipper factories. In 1843 Rawtenstall acquired its first policeman, Mr James Webb and in 1846 the railway arrived - Rawtenstall was finally on the map!
Rawtenstall was created an ecclesiastical parish in 1842 but not until 1894 was it made a civil parish. In the local government reorganization of 1974 Rawtenstall merged with the towns of Haslingden and Bacup and parts of the areas of Whitworth , Edenfield and Stubbins to form the Borough of Rossendale.
Rawtenstall is the administrative and commercial centre for the Borough and, with a population of approximately 23,000, is the largest town in the Borough... The town boasts a number of fine buildings, which include St Mary's Parish Church (1829), the Carnegie Public Library (1907) and Longholme Chapel (1842).