Wilms' tumours, paediatric kidney cancers, are the archetypal example of tumours caused through the disruption of normal development. The genetically best-defined subgroup of Wilms' tumours is the group caused by biallelic loss of the WT1 tumour suppressor gene. Here, we describe a developmental series of mouse models with conditional loss of Wt1 in different stages of nephron development before and after the mesenchymal-to-epithelial transition (MET). We demonstrate that Wt1 is essential for normal development at all kidney developmental stages under study. Comparison of genome-wide expression data from the mutant mouse models with human tumour material of mutant or wild-type WT1 datasets identified the stage of origin of human WT1-mutant tumours, and emphasizes fundamental differences between the two human tumour groups due to different developmental stages of origin.