The Raines Collection

Scope and Content

Material written, collected and owned by Francis Robert Raines (1805-1878), vicar of Milnrow near Rochdale. During a period of approximately 50 years Raines compiled over 40 folio volumes known as the Lancashire Manuscripts, amassed hundreds of letters written to him by local historians and antiquarians, and acquired over 250 deeds and papers relating to Manchester, the area around Rochdale and the West Riding of Yorkshire.

Administrative / Biographical History

F. R. Raines was born in Whitby, Yorkshire, on 22 February 1805. He was educated at Burton Pidsea in Holderness and, from the age of 13, at Clitheroe as apprentice to William Coultate, surgeon, who later moved to Burnley. During his apprenticeship Raines went to Clitheroe and Burnley Grammar Schools, but he found medicine uncongenial and was released from his apprenticeship.

In 1826 he was admitted to St Bees Theological College and following his ordination became assistant curate of Saddleworth in 1828. Soon after he took the curacy of Rochdale parish church, and in 1832 was appointed perpetual curate of the chapelry of St James, Milnrow, where he remained for the rest of his life. In 1836 he married Honora Elizabeth, daughter of Major John Beswicke of Pike House, Littleborough. His appointments included Domestic Chaplain to Earl Dunmore, 1841, Rural Dean of Rochdale, 1846-1877, and Honorary Canon of Manchester Cathedral, 1849.

Raines began his antiquarian studies at Saddleworth, where he helped James Butterworth to compile The History and Description of the Parochial Chapelry of Saddleworth (1828). In 1843 he helped to found the Chetham Society and succeeded Parkinson as Vice President in 1858. He was responsible for editing eighteen volumes of the Society's Remains, more than any other single editor, and was widely regarded as the chief authority on the history of Rochdale and its neighbouring towns.

Raines died after a short illness at Scarborough on 17 October 1878, and was buried in Milnrow churchyard. A memorial was later erected in the church.

Access Information

There are no restrictions on access to this collection. Viewing is by prior appointment. Please contact

Acquisition Information

The collection was bequeathed by F. R. Raines to Chetham's Library in 1878. A number of manuscripts in the Miscellaneous Manuscripts series were given to Chetham's Library by Raines during his lifetime.

Alternative Form Available

A DVD of the 44 volumes of Raines's Lancashire Manuscripts is available to purchase from the Family History Society of Cheshire. Please visit their website for more information:


  • "A Sermon Preached in the Parish Church of Milnrow, after the funeral of the Rev Canon Raines by the Dean of Manchester" (Manchester, 1878).
  • Andrew Todd, Canon Raines' Lancashire Manuscripts, Journal of the Lancashire Family History and Heraldry Society, vol. 9 no. 1 (1988).
  • F. R. Raines, "Saddleworth and Rochdale in days of old...Extracts from the diary of Canon F. R. Raines...selected and annotated by his grandson", cuttings from the Oldham Chronicle, 23 Jan-27 Feb 1926 (Archivist's note: Raines's diary has not been located).
  • C. W. Sutton, rev. Alan G. Crosby, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, (Oxford University Press, 2004).
  • "Catalogue of the valuable library of books formed by the late Rev Canon be sold by auction...December 17th & 18th 1878" (Manchester, 1878).
  • Fishwick, "Francis Robert Raines", The Reliquary, Jul 1878, pp 219-223.
  • William Smith, Old Yorkshire, 5 vol (London, 1883), vol 4, pp 151-156. Includes portrait.
  • Joseph Foster, Pedigrees of the County Families of Yorkshire, 3 vol (London, 1874), vol III North and East Riding.
  • Richard Parkinson, Old Church Clock, 5th edition, ed Evans (Manchester, 1880), pp xciv-xcvii.
  • Alan Crosby, 'A society with no equal': the Chetham Society, 1843-1993, Chetham Society, 3rd Series, vol. 37 (1993).