On the track of Rainhill’s history

St Helens Star: On the track of Rainhill’s history On the track of Rainhill’s history

RAINHILL’s seen it all down the years... from Norman barons to steam loco trials and from super-rich West India merchants to a mass murderer.

The name Rainhill comes from the Old English personal name of Regna or Regan.

It occupies the southern slope of the hill from which the ridge of the hill roughly forms the boundary with Eccleston in the north.

The portion next to Sutton was called Ritherope, which is mentioned in 1341. It is next mentioned in 1746 when it passed to the wife of John Williamson of Liverpool, who died at Roby Hall in 1785.

The Scholes estate was added and owned by the Gascoyne family until 1857 when it was sold to Bartholemew Bretherton.

The principal road, from Prescot to Warrington, passes through the township at a south-eastward angle. At the north-western boundary is the area known as the Holt. Then the road crosses the Liverpool and Manchester railway by the famous Skew bridge. Once the railway, had arrived a considerable village grew up where formerly there was only a house or two, and the place was called the Cross, or Kendrick's Cross.

Further down the road and approaching the Stoops is the area of the original village. There it is joined by a more southerly road from Prescot, having passed the old ‘hall’ at a point known as Blundell’s Hill, more than 250 feet above sea level.

Shortly after the Norman Conquest, much of the North West was given to Roger of Poitou. The Hundred of Warrington, which included Sutton and Rainhill, was granted to Geoffrey of Valoines, who took the title of Baron of Widnes. The second Baron of Widnes married the heiress of the Baron of Halton. The marriage of a descendant to Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, united the Barony of Widnes with other Lancashire estates.

The earliest known reference to Rainhill is in 1190 when Richard de Eccleston granted the village to his brother Alan. In 1230 it was passed by the Ecclestons to Roger of Rainhill. When Roger died it was left to his son Simon. When Simon died Rainhill was divided between the husbands of his two daughters, and this division, each part being a “moiety”, persisted until 1881.

Toll Gate: IN the 1700s there were two main roads, Prescot to Warrington and Cronton to Eccleston, which intersected at Kendricks Cross.

By an Act of 1746, Prescot was turnpiked to St Helens, and by a 1753 Act Prescot to Warrington. It made roads six yards wide with a gravelled surface. Milestones were set up in 1754, as was a toll gate at Kendricks Cross. The Turnpike Trust ceased in 1871.

The completion of the turnpike road permitted improved stagecoach services between Manchester, which left Mondays and Thursdays, and Liverpool, which returned Tuesdays and Fridays.

Coaches to London began in 1761, the journey taking three days. They ran twice a week. The mail coach ran daily from 1785, the journey time 34 hours.

Bartholemew Bretherton started in coaches in 1800 in Liverpool. On journeys to Manchester or London, Rainhill was the first stop where horses were changed.

In 1838 he built the Church of St Bartholemew. In 1824 he built Rainhill House, later known as Rainhill Hall, then Loyola Hall. The buildings and grounds of the latter were given to the Society of Jesus in 1923. Bartholemew also bought Percival’s House, Percivals Hill and Doctors Nine Acres.

Mary had married Gilbert Stapleton in 1848 and when he died in 1856 she changed her name to Mary Stapleton-Bretherton. Their properties descended through inheritance. In 1919 the family left to live on their estates in the south of England and most of the Rainhill estate was sold at auction in 1920.

In 1600 Edward Eccleston granted 16 acres to John Kendrick of Rainhill. Later John Kendrick added to it land at Kendrick’s Cross in 1708, bought from Daniel Lawton. John died in 1708 and it passed to his son-in-law Henry Fenny, and then to William Cross, a watchmaker of Windle, who had married Tabitha Fenny.

The estate was later split into several portions. The larger portion, extending east to a few yards beyond Lawton Road, was known as Fennys. The Rainhill Tavern (now the Victoria Hotel) was sold separately and much of the remaining estate was sold in 1824 to William Johnson of St Helens.

Kendrick's Cross is a small stone pillar fixed in an ancient pedestal; Blundell’s Hill Cross also stands on an ancient pedestal. The crosses are due to Bartholemew Bretherton.

Thomas Moore and Co established a glass bottle manufacturing works at Kendrick’s Cross in 1828. The first Iron Foundry in Rainhill was established by the Melling family in 1840. John Roby established a brass foundry next to Mellings in the late 1850s, which ceased in 1973.

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