There has probably been a church at the
centre of Walsall since Norman times, if not before. The
oldest building in the town is the inner crypt of St.
Matthew’s Church, which dates from the 13th century and contains a bricked-up Norman doorway.
The church had a number of chapels of ease, many of which
became parish churches.
There is a long tradition of
non-conformism in the town. Religious persecution continued
for many years, until things came to a head in the mid 17th
century, after which Nonconformist congregations were
allowed to worship legally.
In 1689 William and Mary came to the
throne, and the Bill of Rights Act was passed, which
prevented the monarch claiming that his or her power came
from God, so removing the concept of divine right. It also
made kings and queens subject to Acts of Parliament. In the
same year the Toleration Act was passed to promote religious
toleration. It gave all nonconformists except Roman
Catholics the freedom of worship.
Catholics gained their freedom with the
passing of the Catholic Relief Act of 1829 which removed
many of the remaining restrictions on Roman Catholic
Walsall Parish Church, as seen from
the bottom end of High Street.