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Rawtenstall (pron.: /ˈrɒtənstɔːl/ or local /ˈrɒʔənstɔːl/) is a town at the centre of the Rossendale Valley, in Lancashire, England. It is the seat for the Borough of Rossendale, in which it is located. The town lies 17.4 miles north of Manchester, 22 miles east of Preston and 45 miles south east of the county town of Lancaster. Nearby towns include Bacup, Haslingden and Ramsbottom.

The name Rawtenstall has been given two possible interpretations. The older is a combination of the Middle English routen (‘to roar or bellow’), from the Old Norse rauta and the Old English stall ‘pool in a river’ (Ekwall 1922, 92). The second, more recent one, relates to Rawtenstall’s identification as a cattle farm in 1324 and combines the Old English ruh ‘rough’ and tun-stall ‘the site of a farm’ (Mills 1991, 269), or possibly, ‘buildings occupied when cattle were pastured on high ground’ (Mills 1976, 125).

The earliest settlement at Rawtenstall was probably in the early medieval period, during the time when it formed part of the Forest of Rossendale in the Honour of Clitheroe, and consisted of simple dwellings for forest servants and animals. More substantial buildings may have followed in the 15th and 16th centuries with corn and flour mills.

The town entered a major period of growth during the Industrial Revolution, as new mills were constructed to process cotton. The climate and weather were conducive to the industry, as was the town’s nearby location to the rapidly developing industrial and mercantile centre at Manchester, dubbed ‘Cottonopolis’. Only a few of these mills survive today, and none are still operational. During this period, David Whitehead and his brother became important entrepreneurs in the town. They built a number of mills, including one of the earliest mills in the valley, at Lower Mill, and the still existing Ilex Mill. They also built substantial houses for themselves at Holly Mount, as well as large numbers of terraced houses for their workers. The population of Rawtenstall quadrupled in the first half of the 19th century and would double again in the second half. Other industries active in this period included quarrying and small scale coalmining, as well as an expanding commercial sector.

Rawtenstall was incorporated as a municipal borough in 1891. As with many small mid-Lancashire towns, it saw a population decline in the 20th century, going from 30,000 inhabitants in the 1911 census to 21,500 in the 1971 census. Under the Local Government Act 1972, the town became part of the Rossendale district with other settlements. With the decline of the traditional manufacturing industries, shoemaking became one of the last survivors. The firm of H. W. Tricketts, in nearby Waterfoot, had been a major producer and exporter of footwear across the British Empire, but eventually the last shoemaking firms closed as production moved overseas.

Rawtenstall is part of the Rossendale and Darwen constituency, after the constituency of Rossendale was abolished in 1983. The constituency sends one Member of Parliament to the House of Commons.

Its neighbouring communities in the valley are Bacup, Haslingden and Ramsbottom. The area is bounded to the north by Loveclough and Whitewell Bottom, to the east by Waterfoot and Cowpe and to the south by Townsend Fold and Horncliffe. The River Irwell passes through the town on the first part of its route between Bacup and Manchester. Over recent years the area has become increasingly popular with visitors, attracted by historic buildings, dramatic landscapes and fine walking country.

Rawtenstall railway station also serves the town, but since the closure of the main line to Manchester, it now operates mainly as a tourist route, as part of the East Lancashire Railway, of which Rawtenstall station forms the northern terminus. The M66 motorway from Manchester is linked to Rawtenstall via the A56 bypass, allowing for a driving time between Manchester and Rawtenstall of around half an hour.

Rawtenstall also has a public library, built in 1906 with Carnegie funding.

The Rossendale Valley’s local newspaper, the Rossendale Free Press was originally based here, before being bought out by M.E.N Media in 2009 and subsequently moving to Manchester. Rawtenstall also has one of the largest indoor markets in Rossendale (a sign declaring it to be “probably the friendliest market in the world”), which suffered a serious arson attack in March 2011.

It was home to the North of England’s largest dry ski-slope, before it was closed due to funding cuts. Ski Rossendale was located five minutes from Rawtenstall town centre in the Oakenhead area, directly above Whitaker Park and Rossendale Museum. Over its 40 year existence it had seen world record attempts and was used by Olympic athletes and novice skiers. It re-opened once again in November 2011 with new funding, with a large ceremonial fireworks display on its opening day, Bonfire Night.

It is also home to the traditional herbalist and temperance bar Fitzpatrick’s Herbal Health, who claim to be the oldest brewers of sarsaparilla and dandelion and burdock in the country. Fitzpatrick’s gained television acclaim in April 2005 when managers Gareth “G” Hawden and Chris Law won The Famous Sarsaparilla taste-off on ITV. It is the last bar of its kind in the country of England.

Famous fashion boutique Sunday Best is situated on Bank Street. Sunday Best won the Daily Telegraph magazines best shop in Britain award for women’s fashion in 2011 whilst Roland’s Florist on Bacup road was runner up in the best Florist category. The awards were judged by TV shopping guru Mary Portas.

Whitaker Park is located on the outskirts of the town centre, and consists of the former house of the mill owner George Hardman, set in extensive landscaped grounds. Donated to the township in the early 20th century for the purposes of civic recreation, the house now contains the Rossendale Museum, whilst the gardens and surrounding land are laid out as a public park. The museum contains exhibits of local history, or displays of the house as it was originally. Part of it is used to house an extensive exhibition of taxidermy, whilst other areas are used to display art. The park itself has tennis courts, a bowling green, basketball court, a playground and an aviary, as well as formal gardens and fountains.

The Irwell Sculpture Trail also runs through the town, where four of the sculptures are located; the Whispering Wall, the Gateway, the Willow Tree and the Bocholt Tree. The last, by sculptor Bernard Tindall, celebrates Rossendale’s twinning links with the town of Bocholt, Germany. The Shoe Trail also hits the outskirts of the town, and goes through nearly places such as Whittaker park.

Rawtenstall had become locally infamous for its deserted and boarded-up shopping centre, in the middle of the town. Since 2003, various deals had taken place regarding reconstruction or refurbishment, but so far, no work had commenced. The last ‘deal’, in February 2011, between Rossendale Council and the owners of the Rawtenstall centre, Ashcap, was said to “improve Rawtenstall town centre” and thus, in late 2011 the Shopping Centre was finally demolished giving way to a new town square area, where local markets and other events are held. Rossendale Council funded the demolition using money set aside for a public pool in neighboring town Haslingden. This move was slammed by critics and the local papers.  The last surviving shop in the Valley Centre, Rawtenstall Post Office moved to nearby Kay Street in early February to try and spur on the development. In 1993 the first professional beauty salon in Rawtenstall opened in Ormerod Street and still trades today as Polished Beauty Clinic.

Note: this page is partly based on a Wikipedia page. Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. Where possible, text is being updated to original, fully referenced research. ‘Our photos’ means we took the photographs. The Street View and street map visuals are courtesy of Google.

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