Until the 19th century, Northfield was a rural farming community. There was a nail making industry in cottages next to the Church, but the industry was in decline, and a number of mills on the banks of the River Rea, where locally grown corn was ground. Northfield was also on the main routes from Birmingham to Worcester and Redditch and in 1762 the route we now know as the Bristol Road became a turnpike road. The 'Bell and Bluebell Inn' at the junction of Bell Lane and Bell Holloway was a coaching station for travellers until a new 'Bell Inn' was built on the Bristol Road in 1803.
It was the building of the Birmingham to Gloucester railway line through Northfield and the opening of a station on Church Hill in 1870 that led to the changes in the area. The railway brought visitors and industry from the centre of Birmingham out to the rural areas. At the turn of the century visitors to Northfield could visit the local skating rink on West Heath Road next to the bridge over the river Rea, and perhaps stay at the Temperance Hotel on the corner of Station Road. Unfortunately the skating rink was used during the First World War as a munitions factory and following an accident the rink was destroyed by fire.
In 1879 the Cadbury brothers moved their business to Bournville just two miles from Northfield and established a garden village between Bournville and Northfield to house their workers. This village was well planned with wide tree-lined roads, parks, and a variety of other amenities.