The village sits astride an ancient 'ford' crosing point of the River Derwent.

Stamford Bridge in Roman times initially consisted of a military fort established c. 70 AD and later developed into a large linear civilian settlement focussed on a bridge crossing of the river one mile south of the present village. Iter I of the Antonine Itinery lists Derventio as being 7 Roman miles from Eboracum (York) which matches the distance between Stamford Bridge and York. In relation to known discoveries under the town of Malton, antiquaries always assumed that Malton should be called Derventio. The remains at Stamford Bridge were not known to them, lying undiscovered under arable and pasture fields until quite recently. In consideration of this archaeological evidence, and in the absence of any other possible contenders, Stamford Bridge should be considered to be Roman Derventio.

The Battle of Stamford Bridge on 25 September 1066 marked the end of the Viking era in Britain. 

The settlement was called Pons Belli by the Normans, meaning Battle Bridge. Rents of freeholders and cottagers were recorded in 1368 and there was a common oven recorded the same year.

The A166 east-west road crossing the river at Stamford Bridge is one of the main roads from York to the East Riding and the coast. The road bridge in the village was closed from 5 March 2007 for just over 11 weeks so that essential repairs could be carried out. The enormous volume of traffic that uses the bridge is exceptional for such an old structure (dating from 1727). The bridge re-opened on 22 May.

In 1882 the population was 449; in the 2001 UK census the parish population was 3,394.

The village suffered from record floods in November 2000 which seriously flooded a number of businesses and homes. Flood defences have now been installed, costing £3.7 million.

The history of Stamford Bridge is covered in British History Online: Catton Kexby, Scoreby and Stamford Bridge West and Catton High and Low Catton and Stamford Bridge East.