The town has early medieval origins, and until the arrival of the railway in 1873 was a small farming community. The railway acted as a catalyst, transforming the town into a residence for the middle classes. Today, Urmston is one of the major urban areas in Trafford: it includes the areas of Davyhulme and Flixton.
In 1983, during an excavation by South Trafford Archaeological Group, fragments of Roman pottery were found in the area now occupied by the cemetery – previously the site of Urmston Old Hall – suggesting that there may have been a Roman settlement on the site. In the early 13th century, Lord Greenhalgh and his family lived at Highfield House (under what is now the M60 motorway).
Shortly after the Norman conquest of England, between 1069 and 1070, William the Conqueror led a military campaign against the Saxon Earl Edwin, who ruled England north of the River Mersey. On the campaign's successful conclusion, William gave his kinsman Roger de Poictou all of the land between the River Mersey and the River Ribble. Part of this land was in turn given to Albert de Greslet, who towards the end of the 12th century, bestowed as much land as a team of oxen could plough in one-year on Orme Fitz Seward, the son of Edward Aylward. It is probable that the name Urmston is derived from Orme's Easton, or Ormestun, the "tun" or dwelling of Orme Fitz Seward.
The Manor of Urmston was rented by a family using the local surname. The earliest known member of the Urmston family is Richard de Urmston, who was recorded in 1193–94 as giving 40 shillings "for having the king's good will". Orme Fitz Seward's land passed to Richard de Trafford in the 13th century. The de Trafford family later lost the land, but won it back as the result of a duel.
Urmston Old Hall was the home of the manorial lord, and a centre of power in the area during the Middle Ages. The Old Hall was completely rebuilt in brick and timber in the late 16th century. New Croft Hall, also in Urmston, was the residence of a wealthy freeman and may have been moated. Urmston was only one of three manors in Trafford to have had two medieval halls, the others being Hale and Timperley. Neither of the halls has survived to the present day.