By the 9th century, there was an Anglo-Saxon settlement here. Later in the Middle Ages, improved drainage methods led to population growth. In the late Victorian and Edwardian periods, its perceived rural character made it popular among the middle class. The loss of its railway station, the conversion of larger houses into flats or bedsitters, and significant social housing development to the south of the area changed its character again in the 1970s.
Historically, Chorlton was a village on Lancashire's southern border with Cheshire, and a township within the ancient parish of Manchester. It was incorporated into the city of Manchester in 1904. Chorlton borders Stretford, Sale, Didsbury, Withington, and Whalley Range. The River Mersey runs past Chorlton along its southern boundary. The area's eastern boundary has changed since the 19th century because of incorporation into the City of Manchester and division into wards.
Chorlton probably means Ceolfrith's farm or settlement from the Old English personal name and tūn, an enclosure, farmstead or village. Hardy is derived from a personal name, Hearda, and ēg, Anglian for island or dry ground in a well-watered land. It has alternatively been suggested that Hardy may mean "by the woods", in reference to the ancient forest of Arden Wood that grew on both sides of the River Mersey in the area. Chorlton was recorded as Chollirton in 1250, Chollerton from 1292 and as Chourton in 1572.
The ancient hamlets of Chorlton and Hardy, separated by the Chorlton Brook, together with Martledge and Barlow Moor, did not come under the combined name of Chorlton-cum-Hardy (cum is Latin for "with") until the 18th century; local historian Cliff Hayes reports that he can find no mention of Chorlton-cum-Hardy before 1700. The name was adopted by Victorian property developers who arrived in the wake of the coming of the railway in 1880, to distinguish this Chorlton from Chorlton-upon-Medlock. The form Chorlton with Hardy was used to some extent from the early 19th century onwards and in the early years of the 20th.
The district was part of the kingdom of Northumbria from the 7th century, but settlement in the Mersey valley may well have been later. Thomas L. Ellwood suggested 610 AD as the date of founding the settlement, but John Lloyd in his 1972 history considered the period 610 to 900 AD more likely.