Originally a Norse settlement, Roby appears in the Domesday Book as 'Rabil' at which time it was one of the manors held by Uctred. The name means boundary farm. It was part of the West Derby Hundred, and as with many of the surrounding townships became part of the Barony of Widnes in 1351 and subsequently merged into the Duchy of Lancaster.
The manor was held by the de Lathom family, and although they were based at Knowsley, they did make numerous attempts to develop and extend Roby. Robert de Lathom founded Burscough Priory in the late 12th century, and his namesake in 1304 was granted the right to hold a market and fair in the township, but this seems to have declined in the mid 1320's after Prescot was granted its own market. In 1372 there was an attempt to establish Roby as a borough, but again this was ultimately unsuccessful. A few years later Isabel, the daughter of Sir Thomas Lathom married Sir John de Stanley and the lands were divided between the Stanley and Harrington families.