Rawtenstall 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.
Rawtenstall was incorporated as a municipal borough in 1891 and in 1894 a civil parish was created to match the borders of the borough. Rawtenstall was created 31 Dec 1894 through the abolition of the township and civil parish of Cowpe-Lenches Newhallhey and Hall-Carr, part of Haslingden chapelry and civil parish, parts of the townships and civil parishes of Higher Booths, Lower Booths, Newchurch, and Tottington-Higher-End.
Following the local government reorganisation in 1974 Rawtenstall became part of the Borough of Rossendale.
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.