In its early days, Methodism was an itinerant movement, with preachers travelling from place to place, preaching and leading services in the open air. The first preachers who came to Runcorn in 1781 were not made welcome; 'their advances were repulsed' in a manner which was said to be 'of a violent character'. Despite this, little bands of Methodists did gather to meet, initially in the open air, then in various buildings in the town1 .
John Wesley himself never preached in Runcorn town itself but he was from time to time in the vicinity of the town within the Runcorn parish as he travelled on the road between Chester and Warrington. He did preach in Preston-on-the-Hill in 1781 and again in 1783. He passed through the village on numerous occasions during his itinerant ministry, the first time being in 17602 . There is a record of Wesleyan preaching in nearby Preston Brook from as early as 17743 .
Nationally, Methodism developed in three stages; first there was outdoor preaching by itinerant preachers, then services were held in cottages or houses, and finally purpose-built chapels were established. This process was followed in Runcorn. In 1789 there was a cottage chapel in High Street and around 1790 a chapel was established in Crowther's Cottages in Holloway, probably in the area where the station car park is now. In 1800 the first Methodist Sunday school was established in that cottage. During the following year the first Methodist minister for the town, Rev. William Jones, arrived. At the time of his arrival the membership of the Methodist church in Runcorn was a mere 16 people.
Meanwhile in Halton and Weston, which were then separate villages, Methodism was doing rather better. From the outlying villages of Aston and Preston Brook, men who had been influenced by Wesley came to work in the quarries at Weston, a couple of miles from the centre of Runcorn. For a time from 1790, Joseph Janion, a man who was strongly influential in the spread of Methodism in the North Cheshire area, lived in Weston village, and he invited Methodist travelling preachers to his home where services were held 4 .
In Halton village, open air services were held at the junction of the Main Street and Holt Lane from around 1800. Later, services were held in a cottage in Main Street before a purpose-built chapel-house was built nearby, also on Main Street, in 18185 .
In the town of Runcorn itself, the number of Methodists gradually increased and they moved in 1807-8 to a chapel in Well Lane on the south side of the Bridgewater canal near to the Old Soapery. The chapel was reached by a footbridge which led from Martin's Garden (which later became Nelson Street). When the Rev. Jones left Runcorn around 1808, membership of the movement in the town had risen to 406 . A Sunday school was held in a house in Martin's Garden and later in the Pin Factory7 . From 1792 Runcorn had been included in the Northwich circuit but in 1812 it was transferred to the Warrington circuit.