In this circuit the great majority of chapels were originally Wesleyan Methodist. There were few Primitive Methodist chapels (none of which appear in these records) and no Methodist New Connexion chapels in this circuit, the main Bible Christian chapel was at Queen Street, Newton Abbot and the only United Free Methodist Church (formerly Free Methodist) chapel was at Courtenay Street, Newton Abbot (not to be confused with the Wesleyan Chapel in the same street).
The Bible Christian, Methodist New Connexion, and United Methodist Free Churches, united in 1907 to form the United Methodist Church. The Methodist Church Union Act of 1929 (not implemented in this circuit until 1934) grouped together the United, Wesleyan and Primitive Methodist Churches to form the present Methodist Church.
Methodism began in this area around 1770 and the converts met originally in private houses. The first Wesleyan Chapel in Newton Abbot was erected in Mill Lane in 1817. The growth of the Wesleyan Newton Abbot Society necessitated the erection of a larger chapel in Courtenay Street next to the Town Hall in 1848 and its replacement by an even larger one in the same street in 1867. The Sunday School was established in 1826 in the Mill Lane Chapel, in 1848 it was transferred to the Courtenay Street Chapel, and in 1862 to a new Sunday School building on part of the site of the second Courtenay Street Chapel. In 1966 the two societies of Courtenay and Queen Streets combined and moved to a new chapel in the Avenue. The original Mill lane chapel is now a private house, the first Courtenay Street chapel is now part of the town hall, the second Courtenay Street Chapel was demolished and replaced by a new Woolworths, and the Queen Street chapel has also been demolished.
The Wesleyan Circuit covering the area around Newton Abbot has undergone various changes in name and area during its history. For example, the Newton Abbot Wesleyan Society was originally in the Cullompton Circuit, then in the Ashburton Circuit which was formed in 1802, then in the Torquay Circuit which was formed in 1810 and which in 1812 was renamed the Brixham Circuit, then in the Teignmouth Circuit formed in 1819, which in 1867 was renamed the Torquay Circuit, and finally from 1870 onwards in the Newton Abbot Circuit. Fuller details of these circuits, and a list of the chapels mentioned in the records, follows:
I - Moretonhampstead Circuit: up to 1888, North Bovey, Bovey Tracey, Chagford, Hennock, Manaton, Moretonhampstead.
II - Teignmouth (in 1867 renamed Torquay) Circuit: up to 1870 (when split into two - see III and IV below) Barton, Bishopsteignton, Chudleigh, Dawlish, Ipplepen, Kingsteeignton, Newton Abbot, Paignton, Shaldon, Teignmouth and Torquay.
III - Teignmouth Circuit: (excludin IV), 1870 onwards Bishopsteignton, Teignmouth, Shaldon.
IV - Newton Abbot & Torquay Circuit: 1870 onwards Barton, Chudleigh, Ipplepen, Kingsteignton, Newton Abbot, Paignton, Torquay.
V - Newton Abbot Circuit: (excluding Torquay section) up to 1888, Chudleigh, Ipplepen, Newton Abbot.
VI - Newton Abbot Circuit: (including I), 1888 onwards Abbotskerswell, North Bovey, Bovey Tracey, Chagford, Chudleigh, Hennock, Ipplepen, Keyberry in Wolborough, Kingsteignton, Manaton, Moretonhampstead, Newton Abbot.