John Wesley preached in the town for the first time in 1765. Encouraged by his visit to the area, a schoolmaster named Thomas Coleman, a native of St. Nicholas, moved down from London the following year and built a small schoolroom in Love Lane, using it also for preaching. Its location was in Meeting Court, an area then known as Puddle Dock. He also preached at Birchington and St. Nicholas. Disagreement between him and the Canterbury preachers caused the latter to take over the work in Margate and in 1785 they built a chapel in Hawley Square, which was opened by Wesley on 1 December 1785.
Charles Wesley also knew Margate and visited it a number of times, but valued it as a health resort rather than as a place to preach in.
Among the preachers stationed in East Kent in 1810 were the newly-wed Zechariah and Mary Taft. The latter found religion among the Margate society to be 'at a very low ebb indeed', in the face of rivalry from a new chapel belonging to the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion. But better times were to come.
In 1810 Hawley Square chapel was found to be unsafe, land was bought to the east and the chapel rebuilt on a larger scale. Further enlarged in 1844 by the demolition of property in Princes Street, it was reopened by Dr. Robert Newton on 11 July. Further extensions, including new galleries, took place in1896.
In responsee to the expansion of the residential area, new churches were opened, including that at Cliftonville in 1876, and Buckingham Road Mission Hall in 1896.
Originally part of the Canterbury Circuit, a sepaate Margate Circuit was formed in 1808. From this, Ramsgate Circuit was forned in 1885.
John Wesley's Journal:
December 1765: 'A few people here also join in helping each other to work out their salvation. But the minister of the parish earnestly opposes them, and thinks he is doing Gid good service.'
December 1776: 'In the evening I preached at Margate to a very genteel and yet very serious congregation; and I believe (although it blew a storm) near a hundred were present in the morning.'
November 1785: 'Some years since we had a small society here;but a local preacher took them to himself. Only two or three remained , who from time to time pressed our preachers to come again; and to remove the objection that there was no place to preach in, with the help of a few friends they built a convenient preaching-house. [Next day] 'I opened it in the evening. The congregation was large, and perfectly well behaved; and I cannot but hope that, after all the stumbling-blocks, there will be a people here who will uniformly adorn the gospel of Christ.'
October 1787: 'In the evening I preached at Margate. The word was quick and powerful… A good work has been done here since I was here before. Here is now a lively, loving society, who adorn the gospel of God our Saviour.'
November 1788: '…Another storm, with much snow and sleet; however, our house at Margate was well filled, and I was much commforted by the earnestness of the congregation.'
December 1789: 'I preached again at Margate in the evening, till my voice [which had been hoarse] was near as clear as before I began. The Spirit of God was with us of a truth.'
Mary Taft's correspondence:
10 October 1802: '… however, curiosity at this time brought many to attend, and some wept and appeared to feel under the word.'
19 October 1802: 'This people, like many others, too often lose during the week the good they receive on the Sdabbth Day… Some got awakened this visit, and one or two more found peace with God.'
1 April 1803: 'It was an awkening season, but the people here are some of them wise above what is written, while others are too much buried in the world.'