Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries the non-conformist churches played a pivotal part in the lives of thousands of people in the rapidly expanding Black Country.
Their influence reached well beyond the religious life of the region. In every community, non-conformist chapels provided social support, schools and, in times of epidemics, hope.
They also offered working men the chance to hold office and take decisions about their social conditions at a time when many other institutions denied them these opportunities.
University of Birmingham researcher Dr Janet Sullivan has studied these communities in which she has a special interest – her great, great, great, great grandfather was one of the founders of the first Methodist community in Oldbury.
Dr Sullivan discusses the importance of the non-conformist churches on the social history of the Black Country with well-known broadcaster, Graham Fisher.