The name Timperley derives from Timber Leah, the Anglo-Saxon (Old English) for a "clearing in the forest". This can be used to roughly date the settlement of Timperley to between the 7th and 8th centuries. The first documented mention of the township of Timperley was in 1211. Timperley was a predominantly agricultural settlement before the Industrial Revolution, focusing mainly on arable crops.
The Bridgewater Canal branch from Stretford to Runcorn was built through Timperley and opened in 1776. This improvement in transport encouraged the development of market gardening in the area to serve the growing city of Manchester. The city also provided a source of night soil which was unloaded from the canal by Deansgate Lane to provide manure for farms and market gardens.
During the mid-19th century four railways were built in Timperley. The Manchester South Junction and Altrincham Railway (MSJAR) opened in 1849 with a station in Timperley on Wash Lane (now Park Road). The Warrington and Stockport Railway (W&SR) opened in 1854 from Timperley Junction just south of Timperley station on the MSJAR. It became part of the London and North Western Railway (LNWR) in 1859. The Stockport, Timperley and Altrincham Junction Railway was built through Timperley to link with the now LNWR W&S at Broadheath Junction opening in February 1866 and, from Skelton Junction, to link with the MSJAR at Deansgate Junction opening in December 1865. This became part of the Cheshire Lines Committee (CLC).
Baguley station on the CLC line also served Timperley village. Timperley curve was built in 1879 by the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway (MS&LR) linking Skelton Junction with Timperley Junction. The CLC line (often referred to as the West Timperley line) from Skelton Junction to Glazebrook was opened in 1873. West Timperley railway station on this line was actually in Broadheath. The arrival of the railways in Timperley brought the middle classes from the centre of Manchester, and this is reflected by the increase of numbers in domestic services in Timperley at the same time. The impact of the railway can be seen in Timperley's growth between 1851 and 1871, more than doubling from 1,008 to 2,112.
In 1931, the MSJAR line was electrified, one of the first railway lines in Great Britain to use supply by overhead cables. A large electrical sub-station was built in connection with this just south of Timperley station. The line was converted to be part of Manchester Metrolink in 1992.