In Elizabethan times, Whitefield was a barren moor and Stand Hall was the Manor House of Pilkington. After the Restoration, nothing of great importance appears to have taken place in the area which retained its old name of Pilkington. A small, but thriving community of weavers and farmers had grown up, and it is to one of these groups that Whitefield probably owes its present day name. Bury Old Road was constructed in 1755 and cottages were built on either side of the road, for it was the only road between Manchester and Bury. By 1792 the population of Whitefield was 2,780 though there were only a dozen tenements at the hamlet of Besses o' th' Barn. Industry started in Whitefield at Stand Lane. A cotton mill was built in Peel Street in 1780 by the father of Sir Robert Peel. Bury New Road was constructed in 1827. It was a turnpike road with a toll bar at Besses o' th' Barn. The toll bar became the centre of life there. By 1830, Besses was a thriving community with three mills and ten shops and by 1850, on the west side of Stand Lane was a series of mills and even a coal mine.
Once a part of the township of Pilkington; in 1866 Whitefield became a Local Board of Health District. In 1894 the township of Pilkington disappeared under the boundary revision terms of the Local Government Act, and parts of it were added to neighbouring local authorities. The Outwood part of what had been Pilkington was added to Radcliffe, whilst the Unsworth section became a part of Bury. The remainder, still a fairly large area, then became known as Whitefield. Under the Local Government Act of 1972, Whitefield became part of the Metropolitan Borough of Bury.