John Haime introduced Methodism into his native town in 1748 after returning from the continental wars. Wesley’s Journal refers to two visits to the town in 1750, on the first of which he preached in ‘the house’; but the first chapel of which there is firm documentary evidence was built in 1766 on a site which remained leasehold until 1893. It was replaced on the same site in 1827. The present church, Garrett Memorial, was opened in 1907 and is named after Charles Garrett, a native of the town.
In the early years the Shaftesbury society was in the South Wiltshire/Salisbury Circuit, but became a separate circuit in 1809. A home missionary was added to the staff in 1811 to evangelise the area. The circuit’s main thrust was to the west and south-west, giving rise, for example, to the Sherborne and Yeovil Circuits.
Primitive Methodism was introduced into the Shaftesbury area in 1823, when a ‘Western Mission’ was launched by the Tunstall Circuit. Motcombe, where there had been a Wesleyan cause since the 1770s, was one of its centres and became the head of a separate Circuit in 1828, with two preachers stationed there. In August 1826 a ‘large room’ was opened at Enmore Green, just outside Shaftesbury. Attempts to preach in Shaftesbury itself met with attempts to drown their voices by ringing the church bells. Threatened by the magistrates with imprisonment overnight, Samuel Turner was championed by a ‘philanthropic Quaker’, John Rutter.