The town had a local reputation for drunkenness and cockfighting, despite the existence of an Independent congregation and the ministry of the Rev. William Hopkins, ejected from his living in 1662. By the early 19th century, the traditional stocking trade was in decline, but glove-making was introduced in 1810 and ten years later the Methodist Edward Ensor and his brother Thomas arrived and established a successful business.
The earliest Methodists in the town met at the home of William Pearse, stonemason, on the Sherborne road., where a Sunday School was started in 1820. By 1821 sixteen members on trial were reported at the Sherborne Circuit meeting, but in 1824 this had dropped to nine.
Meetings continued in the home of John Robert, a class leader and local preacher, in Newtown until the first chapel was built in 1829 on the site of two cottages in Cold Harbour; this was largely rebuilt to double the size in 1831. The debt on this chapel was not finally cleared until 1859. Despite the addition of side galleries in 1860, a protracted revival that began at that time among both Methodists and Independents led to the building of a larger chapel designed by Alexander Lauder and opened by Francis Lycett in 1866.. The Circuit Superintendent, from 1861 to 1864, Alexander Puddicombe, led the way in clearing chapel debts and building new chapels.