The name probably derives from the Anglo Saxon 'Withy-ton', which meant a settlement in an area where 'wythes' or willows abounded. By the 13th century, Withington was an independent manor whose Lord was William de Withington, but towards the end of that century the manor had become a sub-manor of the Barony of Manchester, a much larger area stretching as far as Denton.
Later lords of the manor were the Mosleys, Lady Ann Bland and the Egertons of Tatton. Withington remained a rural hamlet with virtually no industrial or commercial activity until the middle of the 19th century.
It is likely that the village's first urban form of development coincided with the construction of Queen Street and Albert Street, off Wilmslow Road, in 1859.
Communications improved immensely with the opening of Palatine Road in 1862, and consequently Withington expanded rapidly in the wake of Manchester's prolific industrial growth. Further impetus was provided by the opening in 1880 of the Midland Railway, a mile to the south of the conservation area, with a station in Albert Park.
The Egerton estate was sold piecemeal to developers after 1887, until virtually all the open rural land was destined for more intensive uses. In 1904, all the land in Withington was incorporated into the City of Manchester. The character of the suburb has been one of large private family houses, and in the early 20th century this changed to multiple occupancy. The last remaining areas of open land to be developed were for the Parrs Wood and Old Moat local authority housing estates.
The shopping centre, which grew to keep pace with the housing and provide for its needs, is composed of rows of shops on either side of Wilmslow Road, with a few banks, churches, public houses, a library and cinema, and minor roads with a small number of shops.