Ribchester was originally established as a Roman auxiliary fort named Bremetennacum or Bremetennacum Veteranorum. The first fort was built in timber in AD 72/73 by the 20th legion. The fort was renovated in the late 1st century AD and was rebuilt in stone in the early 2nd century. During the life of the fort, a village grew up around it. A fort remained at Ribchester until the 4th century AD and many of its remains can still be seen around the present village. (for example, the Roman Baths' site off Greenside and the Granaries behind the Village Hall next to St Wilfrid's Church).
The most famous artifact discovered in Ribchester, and dating from the Roman period, is the elaborate cavalry helmet. The helmet was discovered, part of the Ribchester Hoard, in the summer of 1796 by the son of Joseph Walton, a clogmaker. The boy found the items buried in a hollow, about 10 feet below the surface, on some waste land by the side of a road leading to St Wilfrid's Church, and near a river bed. In addition to the helmet, the hoard included a number of patera, pieces of a vase, a bust of Minerva, fragments of two basins, several plates and some other items that were thought may have had religious uses. The finds were thought to have survived so well because they were covered in sand.
Since 1814 the Ribchester Helmet has been on display in the British Museum, although it was on loan to the Ribchester Museum in its centenary year 2014 for four months, a brief return after 218 years.Post-Roman Times
Relatively little is known about the history of Ribchester during the seven hundred years after the departure of the Romans in the early 5th Century. While it is likely that the fort itself fell into disrepair quite rapidly it may have been used for defence by the civilian population. There is still evidence today of items which would previously have been part of the fort being incorporated into later buildings. For example, the pillars which form the portico at the front of the White Bull hotel.
That the site of the Roman fort remained the focus of the village is indicated by the later building of St. Wilfrid's Church very nearly over the Principia or headquarters area of the Roman camp. The church's website provides a detailed history of both St. Wilfrid's and St Saviour's Church, which stands in the nearby settlement of Stydd and which is perhaps a remnant of a Knights Templar or Knights Hospitallers establishment.
In the 17th and 18th centuries the village became, like many in East Lancashire, a centre for cotton weaving. Initially in the homes of the weavers and latterly in two mills, neither of which now operate, (Bee Mill and Corporation Mill) built on Preston Road on the northern edge of the village.
Opposite the Hillock (now the White Bull Car Park) is a row of Weavers' cottages noteworthy for their unusual configuration of windows. Built for the hand loom weavers they have three levels with a single window at the uppermost. Although it is commonly believed that the window in the top level is to illuminate the looms this may not be the case as the weaving would probably have been carried out in the lowest part of the house because of the size of the loom and the need for damp conditions to keep the cotton flexible.The weaving of cotton and other textiles continued in Ribchester until the 1980s, when the last weaving business closed in Bee Mill.
The parish was part of Preston Rural District throughout its existence from 1894 to 1974. In 1974 the parish became part of Ribble Valley.