The earliest documented reference to Hale is in the Domesday Book of 1086, although the name of the settlement is probably as old as 7th or 8th century. The area was mostly agricultural. Hale grew in the Middle Ages to the point when Hale Barns was established as a separate settlement. Hale was formerly in Cheshire.
Hale, Bowdon and Hale Barns together are regarded as the wealthiest areas in Greater Manchester, and similarly wealthy to Cheshire Golden Triangle towns Wilmslow, Alderley Edge and Prestbury. These towns and the area between them contain some of the most expensive properties in England outside London.
The toponym "Hale" derives from the Old English halh, meaning a nook or shelter, as supported by the surrounding area that has natural features that provide shelter. The name Hale occurs in a number of places throughout Britain.
The oldest record of Hale is in the Domesday Book of 1086. However, what little evidence there is – in the form of etymology and a few surviving records of events in the area – points to Saxons settling the area in the 7th century. The Domesday Book records that in the reign of Edward the Confessor in the mid-11th century a Saxon thegn, Ælfward, held the manor of Hale, and after the Norman conquest of England his lands were held by the Norman Hamon de Massey who also gained Dunham and Bowdon. The Massey family remained barons of this area until the mid-14th century, due to the extinction of the Massey line. A this time Hale was divided between the Booths of Dunham – the family that became the Earls of Stamford – and two other owners. Throughout this period the area around Hale was mainly agricultural.
Hale expanded and prospered over throughout the Middle Ages to the extent that by the middle of the 15th century a tithe barn had been established in Hale Barns – the value of the tithe taken from Hale was more than double that of any other township in the Bowdon parish. The growth of Hale resulted in the establishment of Hale Barns as a separate settlement to the east. Previously Hale Barns had merely been an isolated extension of the main settlement of Hale, but the first explicit reference to the village of Hale Barns is in documentation from 1616.