Ringley is situated in the Irwell valley, about 6 miles NW of Manchester. Early settlement and industry grew up on the banks of the river. Before a bridge was built, the river could be crossed at a ford a little further downstream. Before development the area was wooded and the name probably comes from the Old English meaning a clearing. Early occupations were farming and handloom weaving. Then coal mining, paper making and cotton spinning took over. The Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal passing through Ringley opened in 1795. The Horseshoe Inn by the church gate was a scheduled stopping place for the packet boats running from Bolton to Manchester and the railway from Bolton to Manchester opened in 1838. The chapelry became a parish in 1898.
Prestolee lies on the River Irwell and is one of a cluster of villages between Bolton and Kearsley, which includes Stoneclough and Ringley. Prestolee was a chapelry within the ancient ecclesiastical parish of Prestwich-cum-Oldham. It is surrounded almost completely by water and is effectively an island, with the River Irwell to the North, West and South, and the Manchester, Bolton & Bury Canal to the Northeast. There is one road (Bridge Street) that provides vehicle access over the river Irwell. Prestolee Road also allows access to the village via a small canal bridge but the road is not metalled and not practical for most vehicles. Pedestrian access from the north is facilitated by using Prestolee Aqueduct, or the nearby Pack Horse Bridge.
There has been settlement in Prestolee for several centuries, and possibly since Norman times. There was a spinning mill as early as 1780 and chemicals and paper were manufactured nearby. The main development came after 1840 when Thomas Bonsor Crompton built a spinning mill between the canal, which provided transportation for coal and cotton and the river, which provided water. The mill used water power for 9 months and steam power in April, May and June when at this period there was consistent drought. Thomas Bonsor Crompton was born in Farnworth and had extensive paper and cotton mill interests. He built many houses in Prestolee for his employees and gave money for the foundation of churches and schools in the area. A new mill was built on the site in 1869 and in 1897 it became the Irwell Bank Spinning Co. In 1904 this mill was extensively rebuilt and refitted. The mill closed in 1959 and was subsequently demolished. Since the 1960s many of the old houses have been demolished and there have been new developments.