The development of the modern resort dates only from the mid-19th century. The first itinerant preacher to preach there was Joseph Garrett from Ringwood in 1846. Methodism was more formally introduced in 1859, when the population was still under 1,000. Local preachers from Poole conducted services over a stable in Orchard Street, moving a little later to the Belle Vue Assembly Rooms. The first chapel, a temporary building, was opened in 1866 on a site at the junction of Old Christchurch Road and Post Office Road. Plans to demolish the adjoining Tregonwell Arms came to nothing, so the first Punshon Memorial Church opened in 1886 on Richmond Hill, named in honour of W. Morley Punshon, an outstanding preacher and orator whose efforts had made the Watering Places Fund a success. (His widow was living in Bournemouth.) Notable names among its ministers were Nehemiah Curnock and A.E. Whitham This impressive gothic church was destroyed by a bomb in 1943, and replaced by a new church in Exeter Road in 1958 (closed 2007).
Originally in the Poole WM Circuit, Bournemouth became a separate circuit in 1873. The building of new churches (usually beginning as school-chapels) followed the rapid spread of the suburbs: e.g. Springbourne (1867, 1876), replaced by Wesley, Holdenhurst Road (1908); Seabourne Road, Pokesdown (1874, 1907), replaced by Southbourne Road (1926); Victoria Park, Winton (1875, 1928). Ashley Road, Boscombe (1880, 1893), replaced by St. George’s, Portman Road (1931); Poole Road, Westbourne (1887, 1899; now a TESCO express).
In 2007 the Punshon Memorial and Southborne congregations united to form Trinity Methodist Church at Southbourne.
At the time of Methodist Union in 1932 there was also a Primitive Methodist circuit centred on Herridge Memorial church on Curzon Road with other churches on Poole Road, Branksome (1912) and Hannington Road, Boscombe.