Lees was originally a collection of hamlets which were part of the town and parish of Ashton Under Lyne. Although Lees is sometimes synonymous with Hey, the village of Hey itself is ¼ of a mile north of Lees village, near Lees railway station.
Farming was the main industry until the Industrial Revolution brought cotton mills and the associated influx of workers to the area. At the beginning of the 19th century it had become fashionable to drink the waters from a newly discovered mineral spring, and there were plans to develop Lees into a spa town like Harrogate. These came to nothing however because of the power and profitability of cotton.
In 1894 Lees Urban District was created from part of Ashton under Lyne, and this existed until 1974 when Lees became part of the newly created Metropolitan Borough of Oldham.
Leesfield was a chapelry in Prestwich and Ashton-under-Lyne parishes, containing the village of Lees. Although Leesfield does not appear on any maps, the modern Leesfield church and primary school are in the middle of Lees. In the Parish of Leesfield the Parish church is St Thomas, and there are two daughter churches St Agnes & St Hugh's.