The settlement dates back to the 13th century and consisted originally of timber-framed farmhouses situated on the hillside above the valleys of the Calder and Ryburn rivers. These were gradually replaced in the 17th and 18th centuries by stone houses that mainly housed workers of the woollen industry that developed in the area at this time. As the industry thrived, some of the houses built by yeoman farmers were very substantial and remain excellent examples of their type, such as Lower Old Hall (dated 1634) and Fallingworth Hall (dated 1642). Norland Hall, lower down on the hillside near Milner Royd, was typical of an older timber-framed building encased in stone in the late 17th century. In 1911 it was struck by lightning and dismantled in 1914. The American newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst bought the stones in 1922 with the intention of re-building the hall in the USA. However, his plan came to nothing and eventually some of the material was incorporated into a chapel in San Simeon, California, in 1968.
The village has a church, St. Luke's, which opened in 1866. Three other places of worship, Mount Pleasant Methodist Chapel (1819–1962), Mount Zion Chapel and Bethel Baptist Chapel (1865-?), are now all private residences.
The primary school was originally built as a Sunday School in 1871 and opened as a Church of England day school in January 1872. It has since been extended twice (1894 and 2003).
The War Memorial was erected in 1920 and the park around it created four years later on the site of the old village pinfold. In 2000 a millennium sundial was added and a time capsule buried by the children of Norland school. [source]