It was designed by John Carr as the country house of Sir Peter Byrne Leicester and was completed in 1767. A major feature of the house is its portico of four Doric columns above two sweeps of curved flights of steps. Each column measures more than high and each is fashioned from a single piece of Runcorn sandstone. Immediately to the west of the hall is St Peter's Church which is also a Grade I listed building and which is joined to the house by a passage. The house was home to Sir John Leicester, created Baron de Tabley, a great collector of British works of art, for which a Picture Gallery was added to the house, to designs of Thomas Harrison, about 1810; it contains works by many artists, some of whom were visitors to the house. These include J. M. W. Turner, Henry Thompson and James Ward.
A fire damaged the east wing, which was put in order by the architect George Moneypenny in 1819-21. The house remained in the possession of the Leicester/Warren/Leighton family until the death, in 1975, of the last remaining heir, Lt. Col. John Leicester-Warren. The University of Manchester acquired the property after an offer to the National Trust was declined. Tabley House was converted to a private school in 1947. It remained a school until its new owners, the University of Manchester, closed the school in 1984. The house is still owned by the University, but has been leased to a health care company on a 125-year term. The house is open to the general public at advertised times.
In 2007 the university sold of the Tabley estate, consisting mainly of tenant farms, to The Crown Estate. This was part of the University's estates plan of selling unwanted land to fund the building program following the merger in 2004. The landscape park of around 150 hectares is listed at Grade II on the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England. Knutsford services on the M6 motorway occupies land which used to be part of the Tabley House estate.