a1 Dept of Economic and Social History, The Queen's University of Belfast, Belfast, BT7 INN
Nonconformity was one of the major formative influences on Victorian society in Britain. The census of 1851 revealed that of seven million worshippers attending service on census day roughly half were counted in a nonconformist chapel. Even the Victorian who failed to attend service regularly found it difficult to evade the influence of nonconformity — and the Evangelicalism with which it was most closely —identified — in a society whose very customs, attitudes and even political life were so largely moulded by it. The main physical manifestation of this pervasive influence was the ubiquitious chapel, its most obvious human expression the professional minister. Of the leading nonconformist denominations the Congregationals were served by some 1,400 full-time men in 1847 while the Wesleyan, Primitive, New Connexion and Association Methodists had respectively 1,125, 518, 83 and 91 ministers in 1851.