The Group was founded in 1950 by Saddleworth artist Ellis Shaw and friends who had attended classes at Oldham School of Art.  They hired an old weaving loft in Spring Street, Uppermill to hold exhibitions, meetings and classes.  L S Lowry was a frequent visitor and guest exhibitor at the first Saddleworth Arts Festival in 1957.

In association with the Carnegie Trust weekend schools were held over several years by nationally recognised artists including Ruskin Spear, Josef Herman and Kyffin Williams.

In 1979 when the tenancy on the Spring Street studio ended, Roger Tanner offered exhibition space at the new gallery attached to Saddleworth Museum.  The Group became affiliated to the Museum and continues to hold twice yearly exhibitions in the spacious gallery overlooking the canal.

SGA also has a tradition of exhibiting at other venues which have included the Millgate Centre and Heights Chapel, Delph, Dobcross Countryside Centre and Gallery Oldham.

Since 2002 and usually every 4 years subsequently, the SGA or some of its members have organised an event known as Journees de Peinture when artists from Europe and America have come to Saddleworth to paint the landscape.  The Museum was their normal base for meetings and an exhibition.  In the intervening years, SGA members visited the artists at similar events in their home countries.

The fiftieth anniversary of the Group was celebrated in 2000 with a special show and a brochure with contributions from members describing their art practices.  The seventieth anniversary in 2020 fell during the covid pandemic when an online exhibition proved to be very popular.