In the Doomsday Book Rushton including what later became Rushton James was referred to as Riseton, with land for two plough teams, the land that, at the time was "waste", belonged to the King. The name Rushton is Old English and means a settlement by the rushes - a reference to an area of marsh land in the valley to the east of the township which became the village of Rushton Marsh, the suffix Spencer was taken from the Despensers who were the Lords of the Manor.
Rushton Spencer was formerly a township in the parish of Leek (the largest parish in Staffordshire). The parish was divided into the quarters of Leek and Lowe (which included the town of Leek), Bradnop, Endon, and Leekfrith - which consisted of Heaton, Leekfrith, Rudyard, Rushton James, Rushton Spencer and Tittesworth. In 1654 the inhabitants of Rushton chapelry, which covered the townships of Heaton, Rushton James and Rushton Spencer, claimed exemption from serving the office of churchwarden for Leekfrith quarter on the ground that they already served as chapel wardens.
The North Staffordshire Railway Company's Churnet Valley Line, which ran between North Rode and Uttoxetter (a distance of 27¾ miles), opened on July 13th 1849 and from this time there was a station in Rushton Spencer, which later became a house after the closure of the railway in the 1960s. Initially there were only four trains in each direction a day, but extra trains ran two days a week to carry livestock and agricultural produce to market in Leek.
The Railway Inn which was opposite the station replaced the Hope and Anchor in 1853, it is now know as The Knott Inn named after the Staffordshire Knott used on the rolling stock and uniforms of the NSR Co.