The town was the scene of early preaching by Benjamin Ingham, John Bennet and others, but a permanent society dates only from the 1760s. A chapel was built in 1781 and John Wesley paid three visits in the 1780s. Alexander Kilham spent six weeks there early in 1797 and in August the majority of members joined the newly-formed MNC and retained the chapel. WM never recovered from this secession and the exodus of the followers ofJ.R. Stephens in the 1830s. In 1851 the Religious Census confirmed the MNC as the strongest Methodist body in the town. The MNC Conference met there six times between 1826 and 1906. In 1821 a PM local preacher, Samuel Waller, was imprisoned for preaching in the open air. The IM church dates from 1819 and the IM Conference met there in 1879.
John Wesley's Journal:
4 April 1782: 'I preached at noon in the new preaching-house at Ashton to as many as the house would hold. The inscription over the door is "Can any good come out of Nazareth?" Come and see.'
10 April 1788: 'About noon I preached at Ashton to a loving and lively people.'