Coesfeld received its city rights in 1197, but was first recorded earlier than that in the biography of St. Ludger, patron and first bishop of the diocese of Munster who was born north of Coesfeld in Billerbeck. The day before he died, Ludger spent the night in Coesfeld and heard mass in the morning in the church he founded. He was on his way from his abbey in Essen to Münster. The road he followed passed Coesfeld and Billerbeck, and after preaching in the St. Lambert's church, 26 March 809, he travelled on to Billerbeck, where he died in the evening.
In medieval times the region was subordinate to the bishopric of Münster. When the area became part of the Prussian province Westphalia in 1816 the new administration created two districts, Coesfeld and Lüdinghausen. Except minor changes they stayed until the major reorganization in 1975 when both were merged to form the current district.