Originally known as the Ward of Anketill de Auvergne, Farringdon was named after Sir Nicholas de Faringdon, who was appointed Lord Mayor of London for "as long as it shall please him" by King Edward II. The Ward had been in the Faringdon family for 82 years at this time, his father, William de Faringdon preceding him as Alderman in 1281, when he purchased the position. William de Faringdon was Lord Mayor in 1281–82 and also a Warden of the Goldsmiths' Company. During the reign of King Edward I, as an Alderman and Goldsmith, William Faringdon was implicated in the arrest of English Jewry (some, fellow goldsmiths) for treason.
The Ward was split in two in 1394: Farringdon Without and Farringdon Within. "Without" and "Within" denote whether the ward fell outside or within the London Wall — such designation also applied to the wards of Bridge Within and Without.
As well as goldsmiths, in medieval times the Fleet Ditch attracted many tanners and curriers to the Ward. As the City became more populous, these trades were banished to the suburbs and by the 18th century the River Fleet had been culverted and built over. In its later years, the Fleet became little more than an open sewer, and the locality was given over to slums due to undesirable odours. The modern Farringdon Street was built over it, with the Fleet Market opening for the sale of meat, fish and vegetables in 1737. Charles Dickens described the market, in unflattering terms, in his novel Barnaby Rudge, set in 1780:
"Fleet Market, at that time, was a long irregular row of wooden sheds and penthouses, occupying the centre of what is now called Farringdon Street. They were jumbled together in a most unsightly fashion, in the middle of the road; to the great obstruction of the thoroughfare and the annoyance of passengers, who were fain to make their way, as they best could, among carts, baskets, barrows, trucks, casks, bulks, and benches, and to jostle with porters, hucksters, waggoners, and a motley crowd of buyers, sellers, pick–pockets, vagrants, and idlers. The air was perfumed with the stench of rotten leaves and faded fruit; the refuse of the butchers’ stalls, and offal and garbage of a hundred kinds. It was indispensable to most public conveniences in those days, that they should be public nuisances likewise; and Fleet Market maintained the principle to admiration."
In 1829, it had become necessary to widen Farringdon Street, and the market was moved to new premises at Farringdon Market. This did not thrive, and its activities were moved to West Smithfield.
On 27 January 1769, the radical MP John Wilkes was elected Alderman for this Ward, while a prisoner in Newgate Prison. This was after he had repeatedly been elected as a Member of Parliament and expelled from Parliament for "outlawry"; essentially for what was considered at the time "obscene and malicious libel" against, no less than, King George III. Later, Wilkes was elected Lord Mayor of London (1774–75).
Other famous Aldermen include scions of the Childs, Hoares and Goslings banking families.