The village of Whitby dates back to Viking times but was categorised as part of Eastham in the Domesday Book. However the neighbouring villages of Great and Little Sutton and Hooton did merit inclusion. The town of Ellesmere Port owes its existence to the cutting of the Ellesmere Canal in the eighteenth century, which was designed to connect the rivers Mersey, Dee and Severn. William Jessop and Thomas Telford were appointed to oversee the project and parliamentary approval for the project was given in 1793. Although the Severn part of the project was never completed, the canal connected to the Mersey in Netherpool in 1795 and the basin became known as Whitby Wharf and Locks. The area which included locks, cottages and warehouses became known as Port of Ellesmere and by the nineteenth century this had changed to Ellesmere Port. The Ellesmere Canal was later renamed the Shropshire Union Canal.
The town of Ellesmere Port grew up around the docks and gradually expanded to include residental, retail and industrial buildings. It benefited from the opening of the Manchester Ship Canal, which brought increased seaborne traffic to the port, together with the founding of the Stanlow Oil Refinery in the 1920s. The former ICI plant paved the way for further chemical companies to be attracted to the town. The Vauxhall Motors factory opened in 1962 and a number of new housing estates, such as Grange Farm, were built to accommodate workers. The Ellesmere Port plant is the only British Vauxhall factory in the UK (since the closure of Luton in 2004) and it currently manufactures the Astra and Vectra models. The town centre moved from its dockside position to the current Sutton Way, Stanney Lane and Whitby Road area. The suburbs of Ellesmere Port include Whitby, Great Sutton (including Hope Farm and Grange), Little Sutton, Westminster, Rivacre, Overpool, Hooton, Little Stanney and Great Stanney (locally called Stanney Grange) which also includes Cheshire Oaks and Wolverham.
The Port Arcades shopping centre was built in the 1980s and further retail development took place with the establishment of the Cheshire Oaks outlet village with its associated leisure facilities. As a result, the employment base for the town has diversified from primarily industrial to include more retail and leisure occupations. Ellesmere Port is currently part of the borough of Ellesmere Port and Neston, which is also a parliamentary constituency. It will become part of Cheshire West and Chester unitary authority when this comes into force in April 2009. The main local football team is Vauxhall Motors which plays in the Conference North league and has a ground at Rivacre Park. It has become one of the most successful amateur teams in the country. There is also Ellesmere Port FC which plays in the West Cheshire league and there was a speedway stadium on Thornton Road which operated during the late 1970s and 1980. The population of Ellesmere Port in the 2001 census was 64,100.