There is evidence of a Roman settlement in the area, on the site now occupied by Urmston Cemetery, previously the site of Urmston Old Hall. Fragments of Roman pottery were discovered during an excavation in 1983 by the South Trafford Archaeological Group. After the Romans left in AD 410 (to defend their own lands from invasion), the area would probably have been invaded by the Anglo-Saxons from Northumbria in the seventh century and then by the Danes (Vikings) in the ninth.

Shortly after the Norman conquest of England, in the period 1069-1070, William the Conqueror (William I of England) led a ruthless military campaign in the area against Earl Edwin, the Saxon Earl of Mercia, who ruled England north of the River Mersey. He subsequently gave his kinsman, Roger de Poictou, all of the land between the River Mersey and the River Ribble. This area was referred to as "Inter Ripam et Mersam" in the Doomsday Book of 1086 and was included with the information about Cheshire, though it can not be said clearly to have been part of Cheshire. The area became part of south Lancashire (established as a county in 1182 and one of the youngest historic counties of England) with the River Mersey forming the Cheshire-Lancashire border.

In 1194, the area (or part of it) is said to have been known as Wermeston, from old English or old Scandinavian meaning "farmstead or habitation belonging to a man called Wyrm".

Part of the land referred to as Inter Ripam et Mersam in the Doomsday Book, was given to Albert de Greslet who in turn, towards the end of the 12th century, bestowed as much land as a team of oxen could plough in one year (one caracute) upon Orme Fitz Seward, the son of Edward Aylward, upon his marriage to his daughter Emma. The area became known as Orme's Tun (dwelling or settlement) or Orme Easton (river settlement), changing over the years into Ormestun, Ormeston, Urmyston and finally Urmston. The map to the right shows Urmyston as part of the hundred of Salford in 1610 (click to enlarge).

The Manor (estate of land) of Urmston was rented by a family using the local surname. The earliest known holder of this is Richard de Urmston (or Ormeston), who was recorded in 1193-4 as giving 40 shillings "for having the king's good will". Adam de Urmston, Richard's son, held it in 1212. In the 13th century, Orme Fitz Seward's land passed to Richard de Trafford. The de Trafford family later lost the land, but won it back as the result of a duel.

Before the Norman Conquest of Britain, people did not have hereditary surnames; they were known mainly by a personal name or nickname which was sufficient when communities were small. As the population increased, it gradually became necessary to identify people further. Norman barons introduced surnames into England after 1066, and the practice gradually spread until 1400, by which time most families had adopted the use of a hereditory surname, often derived from a place or occupation. It is possible that the Ormeston family's surname was derived from where they lived.

The name Trafford is of Anglo-Saxon origin. It is an Anglo-French version of Stratford, derived from the Old English words stræt (meaning street, or more specifically Roman road) and Ford (meaning river crossing).

de Trafford is a Norman variant. The name was influential in naming the local borough in recent times due to it's strong history with the area.

Urmston Old Hall was the home of the manorial lord, and the centre of power in the area during the Middle Ages.

Farming was the main occupation in Urmston until the early 19th century, when weaving became a significant source of employment, although this later declined due to competition from large industry. Once a township within the parish of Flixton, Urmston was part of the Chorlton Poor Law Union from 1841 to 1849, and then Barton upon Irwell Poor Law Union from 1849 to 1930. It grew rapidly from a small farming community into a residence (commuter town) following the building of the railway in the 1870s with a population increase of 650% between 1871 and 1901. It became an urban district of Lancashire in 1894. In 1933, Flixton Civil Parish and parts of Davyhulme Civil Parish and Stretford Urban District were added to it. In 1974, Urmston became a district of the newly formed Metropolitan Borough of Trafford, in the County of Greater Manchester.