Welcome to Rainow

Rainow landscape
The village centre from the Gritstone Trail


By kind permission of the Rainow WI an electronic copy of The Story of Rainow is available here. The book is in PDF format so Adobe Acrobat Reader software is required to view it. My thanks go to David Shackleton for his help with scanning the book.

An electronic copy of its precursor A Village History is now available here.

NEW: an electronic copy of a history of St. John The Baptist, Saltersford, known locally as Jenkin Chapel, is available here.

Past and Present

This site records some of the interesting history of the village of Rainow, its institutions, customs and people. If you are interested in how the village lives in the present time, take a look at the web site maintained by the Parish Council at www.rainowvillage.co.uk. Kerridge Ridge and Ingersley Vale is a very active community project that, over the past decade, has done some sterling work on the industrial history, geology and ecology of the western side of the village - see www.kriv.org.uk. Also a web site to support our very popular Church Fete is currently under construction at www.freewebs.com/rainowfete. And the fantastic village magazine "The Raven" now has its own website at www.rainow.com.


Rainow lies in the foothills of the Pennines straddling the Cheshire boundary of the Peak District National Park. The village gets its name from the Old English Hraefn Hoe meaning Ravens' Hill, an indication that the area was once a wilderness. The closest town is Macclesfield.

The western boundary runs along the crest of Kerridge (Key Ridge from the Old English Caeg Hrycg). The hill has an altitude of over 900 feet, but descends steeply into the River Dean valley. The heart of the village lies to the east of the river. Moving further eastward, through Gin Clough to Saltersford then on to Pym Chair the land begins to rise again, eventually to over 1,600 feet along The Tors at the eastern boundary. The village is bounded to the north west by Bollington, to the north by Pott Shrigley and to the south by Macclesfield Forest. The B5470 is the principal highway through the village.

The hamlets of Brookhouse, Bull Hill, Calrofold, Cester Bridge, Charles Head, Eddisbury, Four Lane Ends, Gin Clough, Gorseybrow, Harrop, Hedgerow, Hough Green, Hough Hole, Ingersley, Jenkin Chapel, Kerridge End, Lamaload, Nab End, Pedley Fold, Plungebrook, Redmoor Brow, Saltersford, Tower Hill, Walker Barn, Waggonshaw Brow an Yearnslow all lie within the parish boundary. Each name tells a tale.

Click here to see the parish map.

Click here to see a satellite map.

Early History

A number of large menhirs (standing stones) can still be seen in the locality. Their original purpose was probably to signpost tracks through Rainow that once formed part of a ridge way to the Scottish borders. Three tumuli (burial mounds from the Bronze Age and so 3,000-4,000 years old) are evident near Yearn's Low, Blue Boar and Further Harrop.

Prior to the Norman Conquest, East Cheshire was primarily oakwood forest and remnants of ancient sessile oak remain at Thornset Farm. After the county was subdued during the winter of 1069-70 William the Conqueror granted it to his nephew, Hugh d'Avaranches who became the first Earl of Chester. The Domesday Book of 1086 includes the Manor of Macclesfield and its woodland, Macclesfield Forest. During the Civil War the Forest was taken over by the Parliamentarians as being Crown Lands and they started the process of dividing up the land between their supporters. Many of the local farms were established during this period. After the restoration the Forest returned to the King's Steward, but the distribution of land by grant, lease or purchase continued.

Houses and People

The first recorded dwelling in Rainow is the One House, by the Buxton Road just a quarter of a mile inside the parish. This dwelling was mentioned as part of the grant made to Richard Davenport when he was created a Forester around 1150. Subsequent settlement in Rainow is believed to have been in the area of Rainow Low. In 1380 Rainow had 30 houses and sometime before 1416 a corn mill was built.

The population of Rainow by census year is shown in the following graph:

Rainow population

Note that there was no census in 1941. A bit of bother abroad apparently.

Churches and Chapels

Holy Trinity Church

Holy Trinity Church was built in 1846, on land given by Joseph Harding, and consecrated in the same year. The church was constructed at a cost of £1,800 by John Mellor of Kerridge End and the architect was Samuel Howard of Disley. Rainow is an ancient chapelry in the parish of Prestbury: St. Peter, serving part of the township of Rainow, which became a district church in 1863. The boundaries of "The District Chapelry of Trinity, Rainow" were published in the London Gazette on 28 July 1863 as: "All that part of the parish of Prestbury, in the county of Chester, and in the diocese of Chester, which is comprised within and is co-extensive with that portion of the township of Rainow, which constitutes, the ancient chapelry of Rainow." In 1921 the chapelry was amalgamated with that of Saltersford: St. John to form the combined district of "Rainow with Saltersford" and extended further in July 1921 when the civil parish of Macclesfield Forest was transferred from Forest Chapel: St. Stephen, to form the combined district of "Rainow with Saltersford and Forest". The incumbent lived first in the Old Vicarage on Pedley Hill, then in a house on Hawkins Lane. In 1958 the present vicarage was built adjoining the Church.

Click here to see photographs of a trip to the top of tower courtesy of Rev. Steve Rathbone.

One of the Millennium Stones is located on the opposite side of the road.

Jenkin Chapel

Jenkin Chapel was built by voluntary contributions in 1733. It was constructed of the local gritstone with a saddleback roof and and an outside flight of steps leading to a gallery (a small tower was added in 1754-55). More information can be found in an excellent booklet published in 1977 on the history of the chapel which is now properly known as St. John the Evangelist, Saltersford.

There has always been some debate locally as to the naming of Jenkin, however recent research has identified a very plausible answer. When people began to adopt surnames, they often took their father's name, therefore you get surnames like Wilson, Tomson and Johnson. When there was more than one son, the very youngest would often use the word 'kin' meaning 'little' to distinguish themselves from their brothers. Hence you get Wilkinson (Will's little son), Tomkinson (Tom's little son) and Johnkinson - soon corrupted to Jenkinson - meaning John's little son. Since Jenkin Chapel was originally dedicated to St. John the Baptist, the name probably just means "John's little chapel". The church was indeed originally dedicated to St. John the Baptist, but was when it was eventually consecrated in 1894 it was re-dedicated to St. John the Evangelist.

Episcopal Chapel

Formerly at the top end of what became Chapel Lane. The chapel was not consecrated so people still had to walk over to Prestbury to be married. It was demolished in 1844 and part of the site made into a graveyard. The chapel bell, dated 1724, was sent to Jenkin to be melted down with Jenkin's cracked bell to make one good bell for Jenkin.

Rainow Wesleyan Chapels

The first Wesleyan chapel was built on Billinge Brow in 1781 as a venue for travelling preachers. The buildings included a cottage to accommodate the preacher and a stable for his horse. This was closed and turned into cottages when a successor was built in the village at what became Chapel Brow. This second chapel was demolished, leaving the Chapel House and its small graveyard, when the current Wesleyan Chapel was erected in 1878.

Walker Barn Wesleyan Chapel

Walker Barn Chapel chapel was built in 1863 and was also used as a Sunday and day school. The chapel is still in use.

The War Memorials

The memorial park dedicated to the men who died in the world wars is at the top of Tower Hill on the east side of the main road.

The First World War memorial is in the form of a small celtic cross on top of a six metre high tapered sandstone pillar and records 37 names. The memorial is built from Kerridge stone, a hard material that is quite difficult to work by hand but very weather resistant, hence the memorial remains in very good condition. It was designed and built by Rainow resident, Andrew Sutton. A stone mason by trade he was also the Rainow Sub-postmaster and lived as you might expect at The Old Post Office Cottage.

The Second World War memorial is a substantial stone seat and records 7 names on a stone tablet.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission can provide the sad details as to when and where the men fell in battle.


The village Institute was built in 1820 by public subscription as a Sunday School and later became the parochial day school. The fact that the village stocks stand close by is probably just a coincidence. After 1901 the building became a venue for meetings and a centre for entertainments such as billiards and cards, dominoes and draughts. By popular demand heating and lighting were installed in 1930. The institute is still going strong.

A school house was built opposite Jenkin Chapel in 1860. It was demolished around 1920, but the outside privy is still standing ... conveniently.

The National Day and Sunday School (aka The Church School) was built by voluntary subscription in 1842 to replace a school connected to the Episcopal Chapel. Your author was educated there - mostly when it was raining.

The Wesleyan School was built in 1896. This and the Church school were converted to private homes when a new school was built off Round Meadow.

The current Rainow Primary School is held in high esteem and educates around 170 children from the village and surounding areas.

The Poorhouse

Millbrook Cottages were built as the Rainow Union Workhouse around the middle of the 18th century to look after the aged and those of the parish incapable of work. The 1841 census return for the Chapelry of Rainow included 47 persons in the poorhouse. The poorhouse closed in 1856. The two remaining occupants were John Potts and John Trunks, both listed as rag-gatherers.

Industry and Mills

Coal was mined out of the east side of Kerridge. One of the mines was known as the California drift mines after the nickname of one of the Vare family that had taken part in the Gold Rush of 1849. The name was shortened to Cali and the stretch of the Dean that runs along the foot of Kerridge is known locally as Cali Brook. The Quebec drift mines were dug on the upper part of the south slope of Big Low, again after another Vare family member who had worked in Canada. Quarries were and still are a feature of the west side of Kerridge.

During the Industrial Revolution the invention of machines led to the building of mills wherever a reliable supply of water could be found to drive a water wheel. Beginning in the 1790's a number of mills were built over three of the streams that flow through the parish:

  1. the River Dean;
  2. stream from Common Barn through Gin Clough;
  3. stream from Macclesfield Forest through Brookhouse.

The latter two streams join the Dean at the foot of Kerridge within 200 yards of each other.

Only two of the ten mills that were built in Rainow are still standing today: Gin Clough Mill and Ingersley Vale Mill.

Ingersley Vale Mill (1809) was almost famous for having the second largest water wheel in the country with a diameter of 56 feet and buckets 10 feet and 6 inches wide (the largest wheel being the Laxey Wheel on the Isle of Man with a diameter of 72 feet and 6 inches and buckets 6 feet wide). The mill is currently part demolished and awaiting conversion into something new.

In 1790 Joseph Lowe bought the Gin Clough estate for £300 from Edward Clayton. Lowe decided to go into the cotton industry and in 1794 he built Gin Clough Mill. The building was two storeys high and measured 10 yards long by 8 yards wide and was fitted out for cotton spinning. Water to drive the wheel and power the machinery was conveyed from a mill pond through a 6 inch cast iron pipe to a 15 feet diameter overshot wheel housed inside the building's northern wall. When Lowe died the Cotton Factory passed into the ownership of his son Joseph jr. In 1823 the mill was sold at auction to Thomas Cooke who doubled the length of the mill and converted the machinery for silk throwing before putting it out to let. This extension meant that the waterwheel was now located in the centre of the building. A steam engine was subsequently installed some time before 1833. In 1825 the mill was occupied by David Rowbotham and in 1837 by James Sharpley, both described as silk throwsters. Sharpley was also the first Registrar for births and deaths and he continued to reside in the mill cottage until at least 1874. In 1865 John Maybury was recorded as running the mill and in 1869 the occupant was Peter Vare. However, in the census of 1871 the mill is listed as 'empty' and tem years later as 'in ruins'. The mill was subsequently bought by Thomas Rowbotham in 1893 who used it as a joinery shop making carts and coffins. Rowbotham's sons, William and Thomas continued the business until the mill was bought by Jack Leigh around 1950. For the next sixty years it was the workshop for John Leigh & Sons, a dairy engineering business.

The decline of industry in Rainow began with the advent of steam power, continued by the digging of the Macclesfield canal and was completed with the coming of the railway. The steam engine meant that mills were no longer reliant on a natural water supply to drive the machinery; the canal provided cheaper, more convenient ways to bring in raw materials and distribute the finished products and the railway brought cheaper and better coal from the north Staffordshire mines. In 1891 the Lancashire, Derbyshire and East Coast Railway Co. planned to build a railway from Prestbury to Buxton via Rainow. However, the project was abandoned as being too costly owing to the lay of the land. Cotton mills began to be built in Bollington along the line of the canal and the drift of capital and labour to Bollington began. In 1801, Bollington had a population of 1,231 versus 1,390 in Rainow, but seventy years later it was 5,040 and 1,316 in Rainow. In the early 20th century most people who lived in Rainow walked to and worked in the mills of Bollington. In 1961 the village's population had dropped to 1,005.

The last major industrial building in the village was completed in 1964. Lamaload Dam and Water Treatment Works was built to supply the locality with drinking water. This project required the demolition of Lamaload Farm and the evacuation of Lower Ballgreave and Lower Hooley farms. The dam has a capacity of 1.9 million cubic metres of water.

Local Legends


Two Rainow women, Ellen Beech and Anne Osbalderton, were hanged after the 1656 Michaelmas Assizes at Chester for practising "certain arts from which wicked and devilish acts certain people of Rainow fell ill and died".

Mystery of John Turner

James Mellor jr. fixed the original stone in Ewrin Lane, below Buxter Stoops, recording the death, during a snowstorm on Christmas Eve, of John Turner.

Here John Turner
was cast away
in a heavy snow
storm in the night
in or about the year
The print of a woman's shoe
was found by his side
where he lay dead

The date on the present stone of 1755 is incorrect. Descendents of James' brother, William, were the first people in the village to have a car.

White Nancy

On the northern end of Kerridge ridge is a white building, circular in cross-section in the shape of a sugar loaf. This landmark is known as White Nancy. Before White Nancy was built the site was occupied by a beacon described as a small rotunda of brick. Such beacons were erected on high points across the land in which fires could be lit to warn of invasion. White Nancy was built as a summerhouse to commemorate the battle of Waterloo (1815). It was white-washed from the beginning, but painted green during World War II so as not to provide a landmark for enemy aircraft. The boundary line dividing Rainow and Bollington passes through the middle of the building, placing White Nancy in both parishes. There is no settled reason for the name Nancy, it has been suggested that is that it was the name of the horse that lead the team dragging the building materials up the hill.


The Club of Walks

Before World War I most events were celebrated by a procession through the village. The 'Club of Walks' was held annually by the Church of England Friendly Society (the Old Club) and the Oddfellows Friendly Society (the New Club). The Oddfellows procession was held on the first Wednesday in June and the Church of England's on the first Wednesday in July. The processions formed at The Horse and Jockey public house and were led by the Rainow Brass band on a two mile walk to Kerridge End and back. A hearty meal of roast beef and plum pudding was then consumed, washed down with plenty of ale.

Rainow Wakes

Rainow Wakes falls on the third Sunday in October when, by tradition, the village mayor is elected. The office has no executive power, but the election was an eagerly awaited and farcical proceeding and a good excuse for a procession and a party. The following poster from around 1877 gives an idea of the event:


Celebration of the old and ancient custom of Rainow.

The election of the Mayor of Rainow for the ensuing year
will take place on Friday, the 18th October 1877.
Proposed candidate James Duffield Esq., Hawkins Lane.

Grand torchlight procession, accompanied by Rainow Brass Band,
will start from the Township School
to Kerridge End and back at half past seven o'clock.

Mayor's feast at 8 o'clock sharp.
Admission by ticket only which can be obtained from
The Blacksmith's Arms, The Robin Hood, The Horse and Jockey,
The Rising Sun and The Plough.

Persons desirous of joining the procession can do so by applying to
any of the committee.

To conclude with a grand display of fireworks.

When the mayor was chosen he was dressed in a red robe, an immense chain of office and a hat with various colours of ribbons then seated upon a donkey facing the tail end. The procession would then begin. On the journey they called at every inn and the mayor was provided with liquid refreshment. The mayor is now elected at the village fete held each July. The fete also perpetuates the local fell race known as the Kerridge Climb which involves running to the highest point of Kerridge - without oxygen - and back down. Only one mile in distance, but mostly vertical. Your author has participated on a number of occasions but cannot recommend it.

Local Sayings


  1. Relief Map 422 k
  2. Historic Sites 205 k
  3. Houses and Farms 132 k
  4. Local Industries 105 k
  5. Rainow Parish 507 k
  6. From Space (zoom and pan to see the rest of the parish).

Rainow Low
Rainow Low from Billinge Side

Mostly summarised from The Story of Rainow, a book compiled by Rainow Women's Institute based on information collected by Wilfred Palmer, with additional material by Mrs Carne & members of the Rainow W.I. and maps by M. Meecham. Printed by TILLS, Macclesfield, Cheshire, 1974.
Additional material was sourced from its predecessor, A Village History. Printed by Fredk. J. Smith, Chestergate, 1952.
All copyrights acknowledged.

Richard Leigh