Although John Wesley visited the town as early as 1743, the first society was not established until 1762. Its rented room was replaced in 1770 by a chapel in Skinners's Yard, known as the 'Rookery' but described by Wesley as 'one of the neatest in England'. In 1797 Doncaster Circuit was formed (from Sheffield) and by 1828 had 30 preaching places and 1,000 members. Priory Place chapel, seating 1,300 and with its sanctuary modelled on Wesley's Chapel, opened in 1832. In the 1851 Religious Census a morning congregation of 800 and an evening one of 1,200 were recorded. In 1872 a second large town-centre chapel was built at Oxford Place, which became head of a second circuit in 1884.
PM was introduced in 1820 with the first of many camp meetings. Duke Street chapel was bought in 1843 from the MNC, which had only a struggling existence. By 1853 the PM Circuit had 29 preaching places and the following year a large new town chapel was opened in Spring Gardens. A second PM circuit was formed in 1870. In the early twentieth century the South Yorkshire coalfield extended to the Doncaster area and WM responded in 1912 by establishing the South Yorkshire Coalfields Mission under Samuel Chadwick. A UMC South Yorkshire Mission was formed the same year and in 1920 PM followed suit. This work continued for many years, with strong links between chapel, pit and union. Between 1944 and 1974 six separate Doncaster circuits became one. Large and once flourishing urban churches closed, notably Spring Gardens (1955), Oxford Place (1968) and Nether Hall Road (1971). Priory Place remained, with a much reduced membership. About a score of village chapels have closed since 1966, but two suburban churches have prospered.
John Wesley's Journal:
October 1745: 'We lay at Doncaster, nothing pleased with the drunken, cursing, swearing soldiers who surrounded us on every side. Can these wretches succeed in anything they undertake? I fear not, if there be a God that judgeth the earth.'
June 1763: 'I rode to Doncaster, and at ten, standing in an open place, exhorted a wild yet civil multitude to "seek the Lord while He might be found." '
April 1766: ' About two in the afternoon I had another kind of congregation at Doncaster, wild and stupid enough. Yet all were tolerably civil, many attentive, and some affected.'
July 1770: 'I rode to Doncaster, and preached at noon in the new house, one of the neatest in England. It was sufficiently crowded, and (what is more strange) with serious and attentive hearers. What was more unlikely, some years since, than that such a house or such a congregation should be seen here! '
July 1772: 'I preached … about nine at Doncaster. It was the first time I have observed any impression made upon this elegant people.'
July 1776: 'I preached at Doncaster, in one of the most elegant houses in England, and to one of the most elegant congregations. They seemed greatly astonished; and well they might; for I scarce ever spoke so strongly on "Strait is the gate, and narrow the way, that leadeth unto life.'
July 1784: 'At twelve I preached in the elegant house at Doncaster, for once pretty well filled; and spoke more strongly, indeed more roughly, than I am accustomed to do.'