Wombwell means "well in the hollow" it was a prosperous rural settlement, becoming the site of a major coaching inn before the opening of the railways brought new industries.

Prehistoric activity in the Wombwell area is indicated by Mesolithic and Neolithic findspots and the possible ‘henge’ in Wombwell Wood. Iron Age and Romano-British field systems and settlements are visible in several parts of the Wombwell area as cropmarks on aerial photographs.

Place-name evidence indicates early medieval activity in the area. Recorded as ‘Wanbella’ in the 1086 Domesday survey, Wombwell may derive its name from the Old English element ‘wamb’, meaning a hollow, and means the well in the hollow (Smith 1961). Following the Norman Conquest, Wombwell was granted to Ilbert de Laci, the lord of Pontefract. St. Mary’s Chapel was extant during the medieval period and remained standing in 1831, while Wombwell’s 13th-century manorial mill remained in use in the 18th century.

Wombwell does not appear to have been a market town during the medieval or early post-medieval periods, although documentary evidence indicates that the village was a prosperous rural settlement from at least the 14th century. By 1686, Wombwell was the site of a major coaching inn on the route from Halifax to London, with 24 guest beds and stabling for 20 horses (Hey 1979).

The South Yorkshire Railway opened at Wombwell in 1851 and industrial development in the area commenced with the opening of Wombwell Main Colliery in 1855. Mitchell’s Main Colliery followed in 1883 and coal-mining dominated the area until the closure of Wombwell Main in 1969.