Little is known of Northenden's Saxon origins other than that it was one of the few disembarkation points on the Mersey flood plain between Stockport and Stretford. A church was recorded here in the Domesday book of 1086. The village has grown in importance since 1641, when a ferry boat for crossing the River Mersey was installed. In 1642 a ford was also constructed, hence the names Boat Lane and Ford Lane. There was a water mill and, it is rumoured, a public house. The plan form of the village was established with properties being built along the two lanes, which intersected near the church.
Little change occurred for the next two centuries until, by the mid 19th century, market gardens in and around the village supplied food for the rapidly expanding population of Manchester. The only routes to the City were via the ferry boat or the ford until, in 1862, Palatine Road was opened and provided a bridge crossing. Northenden was still a rural village and, towards the turn of the century, good quality semi-detached houses were built for clerks and managers who were able to commute to Manchester on the horse-drawn bus and the tram.
In the 1940s the new suburb of Wythenshawe was largely completed, and by then Northenden's rural character had gone. Palatine Road was developed for shopping and other commercial uses, and slum clearance removed many of the village's early cottages around the church.
The water mill, which had provided a flour-milling service for a wide area, survived until the 1950s. It was situated on the banks of the Mersey where the weir, to create the change in water level and power the machinery, is still in existence.