AS it’s the fifth Thursday of the month, it’s time for a brief history of a local township.

This time it is Rainford. Next week I will tell you of a new exciting archaeological project taking place there.

The Victoria County History, written in 1907, tells us: “This is a large township, embracing open country, flat on the north and west and undulating on the south-east.

The highest ground, rising to 300 ft. above sea level, is near the village of Crank, a bare exposed spot. In the northern portion of the district there are coal mines; the remainder is agricultural, the principal crops raised being potatoes, oats, wheat, and clover. The soil is clayey.

The Sankey or Rainford Brook flows through the whole length of the township from north-west to south-east, on its way towards the Mersey.

Formerly the land can have been of comparatively little value, the large area of moss being shown by such names as Reeds Moss, Rainford Moss, and Mossborough; occasional patches of unreclaimed mossland are still met with.

About 1720 the northern half was called Chapel End, and the southern, Haysarm end. The village of Rainford is in the former, and the hamlet of Crank in the latter.

The main route through is from St. Helens to Ormskirk. The London and North-Western Company opened a railway line, to link St. Helens with Ormskirk, in 1858, with stations at Crank, Rookery, Rainford Village and Rainford Junction. That service disappeared in 1951, but Rainford still has a station on the route from Liverpool to Wigan.

The district appears to derive its name from a tributary of the stream running through it: Randle Brook. The name Randle was present in the district at a very early date.

Rainford is not mentioned by name in the Domesday Survey and no record of its existence has been found before 1189. The greater part of the district at this time was moss land bordering the great expanse of Simonswood Forest.

Ralph de Rainford appears in 1202 in a fine by which he acquired a “part of three oxgangs of land in Rainford, between Blackstone clough and Launclough; the bounds being: From Blackstone clough to Brokkar lee, and thence to Birchley (in Billinge), and downwards to Sankey Brook. Ralph and his men were to have common of pasture as well in wood.”

In 1208 Siward de Derwent and Juliana his wife, who in 1246 held part of Halsnead in Whiston, acquired from William de Rainford some land “ between the place called Bicswahe and Holcroft Ford“.

In common with many other areas in our Borough, land was gifted to Cockersands Abbey. His charter mentions Luthecrofts Head, Bicshaw, Holcroft, and Aldcroft in the description of the boundaries.

In 1300 Mossborough Hall was built. In 1324 Rainford was held by the Lathoms. Sir Robert died in 1324 and is said to have passed Rainford to his brother Thomas, who settled at Mossborough.

The estates subsequently to the Stanleys, and through them to the Earl of Derby, who is still probably the Lord of the Manor.

In the age of Elizabeth there were problems if you were Roman Catholic... “On 22 March, 1583, the Council was advised that Henry Lathom of Mossborough had lately fled out of the county of Lancaster, and was supposed to be hiding in the house of Lady Egerton at Ridley in Cheshire.

“Shortly afterwards Mossborough Hall was visited by the queen's officers and ransacked. Not content with carrying off everything of a sacred character, they declared all the goods, movable and immovable, confiscated to the royal exchequer, and put seals on all the doors, chests, &c. Mrs. Lathom, who was in the house at the time, was treated in a most barbarous manner by the miscreants, who tore open her dress even to her undergarments, under pretence of examining her person for medals, rosaries, or other pious objects. At length Mr. Lathom was apprehended and imprisoned at Lancaster, where he was lying in 1590.”

No records of the early origins of the church/chapel have been found. In 1541 Lawrence Robey was in charge, but its fate at the Reformation is unknown. In 1592 the curate was excommunicated, as were Henry Lathom, and his wife Margaret. The chapel came into the hands of the Presbyterians, until about 1700, when it was recovered for the Established Church. The township was formed into a district chapelry in 1869, and the present church of All Saints was built near the old one in 1878. The registers date from 1718.

In the seventeenth century the Singleton family were at Granke or Crank Hall. The Hall was on the site of an earlier building known as The Crank which was at one time a monastery. Its history is obscure but it appears to have been erected during the reign of Elizabeth by some Franciscan friars who had been driven out of Wigan because of their religion. These friars are part of the legend of the White Rabbit of Crank.

During the Civil War, Matthew Hopkins was appointed as Witchfinder General. He tested the Rainford witches in 1643. One died during the test, and two failed the tests and were hanged. The test was to tie the thumbs and toes together and throw them into a pond. If they sank they were innocent, but if they floated they were guilty.

Rainford had several collieries, which were gone by 1930. The clay tobacco pipe industry was established in Rainford in the late Elizabethan era. It brought new prosperity on which the village was able to build, and Rainford was well established as an important regional centre by 1650, exploiting the local deposits of suitable coal measure clays and abundant peat for firing their kilns. Most of the 17th century pipe shops were located on the outskirts of the village and close to the uncultivated moss lands as at Reeds Brow, Maggotts Nook, Holiday Moss, Berringtons Lane and Windle Moss.

On the 22nd June 1869, Rainford broke away from the parish of Prescot and became an independent township. A Local Board was set up and in 1880, under the Local Government Act, Rainford formed its first Urban District Council.

In 1974 it became part of an enlarged St. Helens.

My thanks to Martin Rigby’s excellent book, “A History of Rainford”.

The Census Return of 1841 for Rainford shows a total of 672 occupations, labourers, lawyers, saddlers, shoe makers, blacksmiths, nailors, weavers, locksmiths, miners, coopers, merchants, surgeons, cordwainers, brick makers, surveyors and stone masons, but the three major occupations were agricultural labourers, pipe makers and farmers. The census records three paupers.