Until the 19th century Kings Norton was a rural area with a number of mills on the River Rea, grinding local corn. A cattle market where local farmers brought their cattle, driving them along the local lanes, was on the corner of Wharf Road and Pershore Road South.
The construction of the canals and railway was the start of changes in the area. The Worcester and Birmingham and Stratford canals meet in the Lifford area of Kings Norton, and it was here that factories were established. Two of the earliest were a paper mill and chemical works. This industrial area is now known as Kings Norton Business Centre and has undergone extensive rebuilding and modernisation.
Through this same area the railway was built in 1840, bringing more people from the centre of Birmingham to live and/or work in Kings Norton. A railway station was built close to the industrial area and close to Cotteridge.
Chocolate makers Cadburys also become significant employers of local people.