An old-established market town and a centre for cotton-spinning and the manufacture of silk hats, but described by Benjamin Gregory as being in 1841 'one vast, grim, suburbless slum'. The town is now part of Greater Manchester.
A society was formed by John Bennet in 1748 and survived his departure from Wesley's connexion in 1752. The first Methodist chapel in Cheshire was opened there in 1759 (rebuilt 1784). A minority seceded in 1797 to join the MNC. Both PM and WMA subsequently gained a foothold, but WM was always dominant. Stockport Circuit was formed in 1786 from Manchester. Tiviot Dale was opened in 1826 as the second WM chapel. The undenominational Sunday School, which became the largest in the world, was founded by Methodists in 1796. Prominent local Methodists included Matthew Mayer, John Wesley's host on his visits after 1760 and James Heald MP, who was instrumental in locating the northern Theological Institution at Didsbury. It became a popular retirement town for other prominent Methodists. The IM Conference met there in 1817 and 1844 and the MNC Conference in 1887 and 1902.
John Wesley's Journal:
August 1748: 'A little handful of people I found here also who are desirous to flee from the wrath to come. I stopped half an hour and gave them a short exhortation, for which they appeared to be exceeding thankful.'
April 1759: 'I rode to Stockport, designing to preach at one o'clock; but we were at a loss for a place. We fixed at length on a green near the town's end, and we had a quiet and solemn opportunity.'
March 1760: 'About seven in the evening I preached at Stockport, where more and more hear the word of God and keep it.'
[Six days later] 'I was much out of order on Saturday, and not well on Sunday. However, having appointed to preach in Stockport at noon, I determined not to break my word. As it rained, our friends provided a post-chaise… A large congregation was waiting, and received the word with all readiness of mind. For some years the seed seemed to be here sown in vain; but at length it yields a good increase.'
July 1764: 'I rode to Stockport and preached at one on a green at the end of the town. A few wild men strove to make a disturbance; but none regarded them.'
August 1765: 'About one I preached at Stockport on a green at the south end of the town. It was sultry hot, but few regarded it; for God "sent a gracious rain upon His inheritance." '
March 1766: [Good Friday] ' As soon as we came from church I began at Stockport on "We preach Christ crucified; to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness." '
April 1774: 'I preached … in the evening at poor, dull, dead Stockport, not without hopes that God would raise the dead. As one means of this, I determined to restore the morning preaching, which had been discontinued for many years. So I walked over from Portwood in the morning, and found the house well filled at five o'clock.'
April 1782: 'I found I needful to press the same thing [Christian perfection] at Stockport in the evening.'
April 1784: 'I found a lovely congregation at Stockport, much alive to God.'
July 1787: 'Being informed that the people in general were dead and cold, I strongly applied "Now it is high time to awake out of sleep." God was pleased to speak in His word, and that with a mighty voice; but still more powerfully at five in the morning, while I was enforcing that promise, "The Lord whom ye seek will suddenly come to His temple." '
April 1788: 'In the evening, as well as on the next, the house at Stockport was thoroughly filled with people ready prepared for the Lord, and adorning the doctrine of God our Saviour.'