Northfield was a village within the rural north Worcestershire countryside before it was formally absorbed into Birmingham in 1919. The name Nordfeld is of Saxon origin, likely to be a reference to the settlement being open land north of Bromsgrove, and was first recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086.
It’s also home to St Laurence Church, one of three remaining medieval churches in Birmingham, with the present church mainly built during the 12th to 15th centuries. However it’s almost certainly Anglo-Saxon as the priest is also mentioned in the Domesday Book.
Northfield's History: Public Houses
The Bell and Bluebell Inn at the junction of Bell Lane and Bell Holloway was a coaching station for stagecoach travellers until a new Bell Inn was built in 1803. This was again demolished and rebuilt in the 1990s but this new building didn’t continue as a pub for long and today it is the British Heart Foundation furniture shop.
The Great Stone Inn is named after a giant boulder that was dropped by the ice as it retreated during the Ice Age over 10,000 years ago. The stone is now housed in the 17th century pound adjacent to the pub, a sandstone enclosure where stray animals were kept until their owners paid a fee to get them back.
A new style of public house was built in the suburbs during the 1920s and 1930s, many with gardens and bowling greens to encourage families to visit. This included the Traveller’s Rest (now demolished) and Black Horse Pub, with the latter designed to look like it has been on the site for hundreds of years.
Northfield's Public Houses (Past)
Northfield's Roads (Past)
Northfield's History: Roads
Northfield sits on Bristol Road South, part of the A38, a 292 mile-long road that runs between Bodmin in Cornwall and Mansfield in Nottinghamshire. Much of the A38 follows a Roman road that ran from the Bristol Channel to northeast England, while we know that in the Middle Ages it was a salt road used for transporting salt from the Droitwich brine springs (and may well have been since before Roman times).
In the 1762, the stretch of road between Birmingham and Worcester became a turnpike (toll road) with the Northfield tollgate on the junction of where Rochester Road is today.
In 2007 a relief road was built to reduce the volume of traffic traveling directly through the town centre. The new road was called Sir Herbert Austin Way after the man who founded the world-famous Austin Motor Company in the early 1900s and started the area’s long association with the car industry.
On the relief road, the Traveller’s Rest Junction and Black Horse Junction are named after the pubs. While Isaac Tongue Junction is in honour of a local blacksmith who, in the 1800s, would ‘re-christen’ children on his anvil. They’d often grow up being known by this nickname, rather the name they were given at their religious baptism.
Northfield's History: Quakers
George Cadbury and his brother were Quakers who took over the family business and in 1878 opened the later world-famous Cadbury’s chocolate factory in Bournville, two miles from Northfield. They were philanthropists concerned about the quality of life of their workers and providing an alternative to grimy city life.
Northfield Manor is situated in what is now Manor Farm Park, and was home to George and Elizabeth Cadbury until the 1950's. It’s since been used as University of Birmingham halls of residence and housed nurses from the Woodlands Hospital, but now stands empty.
Northfield Library was built in 1906 on land donated by the Cadbury family, but was destroyed by a fire in 1914 (reputedly by suffragettes). The current library was built later that year, preserving the original façade.
The Royal Orthopaedic Hospital was formed from the union of two hospitals, and opened in 1909 at The Woodlands, a building also gifted by George Cadbury. While Northfield’s Adult Education Centre building was built in 1930 on more land given by the Cadburys, and used to be the Quaker Friends Meeting House as well as the village post office.
The area still has strong Quaker links with Northfield Ecocentre, the current Quaker Meeting House on Church Road and many surrounding homes on Bournville Village Trust estate (a garden village originally built to house Cadbury workers).
Source: John Stuart
Northfield's History: 19th and 20th Century
In the 1800’s nail-making took place in cottages and small workshops near St Laurence Church, as a secondary occupation for low-paid agricultural workers when they had little work in the fields. There was also small separate hamlet on Bell Lane where a few late 18th century and early 19th century cottages still survive.
In 1870 Northfield railway station opened on Church Hill, bringing further visitors and industry from the centre of Birmingham out to the rural areas.
Northfield high street was the site of Ashbank Farm, where you could buy milk directly from the cow until Birmingham City Council made a compulsory purchase of the farmhouse and land in 1952 in order to build a road. Between 1904 and 1953 Birmingham also had a network of trams, including two routes that travelled along the Bristol Road South and through the centre of Northfield.
Northfield changed rapidly through the 20th century, including large areas of housing built during the 1930s and 1960s and the Grosvenor Centre in 1967 (known as Northfield Shopping Centre from 2005).
The pedestrianised area outside St Mary's Hospice, at the junction of Church Road and Bristol Road South, was once the site of a blacksmith’s forge and cottage. It’s now known as Tay’s Corner after Joseph Tay who opened a number of shops on the site during the 1930s to 1960s.
Behind the shopping centre is Victoria Common, an area that was originally called Bradley field before being transformed into a public park to mark Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee that opened in 1901. It received £250,000 of improvements in 2013 including a new children’s play area, picnic area and outdoor gym equipment.