In the late 18th century, while Revolution raged in France, many in Birmingham feared that religious dissent might lead to revolution against the Church of England and the British monarchy. Dissenters are those that refuse to accept the doctrines of an established church, in this case against the Church of England.
Catherine Hutton was a dissenter from a prosperous and respected Birmingham family. In this extract, she describes Joseph Priestley, minister of the Old Meeting House. Priestley had written an inflammatory pamphlet that described 'laying gunpowder' under the 'old building of error' . Priestley caused alarm among supporters of the established church, who believed they were under threat. Priestley had gained notoriety for his criticism of an attack on the French Revolution by Edmund Burke (a conservative statesman and political thinker).
At this time dissenting churches were flourishing in Birmingham. Many of them were erecting new buildings. The Roman Catholics had moved back into the centre of the city after a century of being banished to the borders of town.