Rainford is well known for its industrial past when it was a major manufacturer of clay smoking pipes. The nearby coal mines became worked out and closed prior to the Second World War.
Until the mid-1960s, it was also a location for sand excavation, for use in the glass factories of St Helens.
One of the noteworthy buildings in Rainford is the Rookery, a large 17th-century manor house situated off the ‘Pottery Padds’; the house was formerly a school and workhouse and has since become home to a tenant.
Rainford lies on a fertile agricultural plain and is effectively an urban island surrounded by large scale farming, mainly arable, but with some livestock herds.
The village consists of two main sections – the main body of the village, centred on the parish church; and Rainford Junction, a smaller settlement which has grown up around Rainford railway station. The two parts of the village are separated by a band of farmland, although they come close to meeting at the village’s north-western end.
There are three smaller villages which are near to Rainford – King’s Moss to the east, Crawford to the north-east and Crank to the south-east.
Agriculture has been a constant since time immemorial around Rainford.
From the mid-17th century Rainford was a centre of clay pipe manufacture. C.J. Berry speculates that this may have been due to the prevalence of Catholics in the industry, and Rainford’s history of Nonconformism and religious tolerance, in contrast to the persecution Catholics received in much of the country in the era. The type of clay used was only generally found in Devon and Cornwall, and was thus imported. The industry in the area peaked during the period c. 1800–40, in which there was little else in the village besides the clay pipe industry. Whilst other towns in the area made pipes, the industry in Rainford started earlier and continued longer. The last two pipe manufacturers retired in 1956. The clay industry continued in the area thereafter, though, with the Rainford Potteries (established 1890) making earthenware drainpipes from local clay.
Rainford Junction is so called because it contained the junction between the Liverpool & Bury Railway‘s Skelmersdale Branch and St Helens Railway, and is now home to the village’s only railway station. The railway station is on the Kirkby – Manchester Victoria via Wigan line. Passengers wishing to travel to Liverpool must change at Kirkby onto the Merseyrail electrified line. Rainford Village railway station, located on Cross Pit Lane, served the centre of the village from 1858 until closure in 1951. It was located on the line to St Helens Shaw Street railway station.
Rainford sits alongside the A570 (Rainford Bypass), a dual carriageway constructed in the late 1930s to supplant the original route running through the village centre. The A570 connects at one end to the East Lancashire Road (A580) and, at the other end, the M58 motorway. This results in excellent road links, and the village therefore has many inhabitants who commute to the nearby cities of Liverpool and Manchester and to St Helens.
There are bus services in Rainford; as at November 2015 Arriva North West operate service 38 which connects the village and Rainford Junction to St Helens every 30 minutes. Evening and Sunday journeys on this service are numbered 356 and go via Crank approximately hourly. HTL Buses operate the 152 from St Helens to Rainford with a few services extended to Ormskirk. The 157 goes to Ashton and is currently operated by Cumfybus.
Rainford has many noted public houses, including the Bottle and Glass, the Junction Hotel, the Star Inn, the Derby Arms, the Golden Lion, and the Eagle and Child. It is also home to the George Wright Brewery.
Annually the village has a music festival called Picnic in the ParkRainford Picnic in the Park website; profits benefit Rainford Rangers, the local football team. The 2018 headline was John Coghlan‘s Quo. The 2019 headline was Carol Decker‘s T’Pau (band). 2020’s event was postponed until 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rainford Silver Band is highly regarded, and has won many contests. A ‘walking day’ takes place every year in June and a fairground is set up behind the Golden Lion public house, in which the silver band participate. A well-supported Rainford Show is held each year in early September in the old Rainford Urban District Council offices, with competitive classes for handicrafts, flowers, vegetables, floral art, photography etc.