Whilst no mention can be found of either of the Wesleys ever visiting Somerton,
we know that John was in the area on several occasions - in 1754 he was at Charlton and on another visit he climbed the Tor at Glastonbury.
In 1761 Thomas Connock was born in West Camel and it was Thomas who was appointed a class leader of the Wesleyan Methodist Society by none other than Rev. John Wesley himself - a post he held faithfully for more than 50 years. With Thomas Connock, Methodism came to Somerton; as recorded in his obituary in the Western Gazette of June 1834 "For 29 years he was a local preacher of the Wesleyan Society, having been the first to establish the cause in that town." He is buried in St. Michael's churchyard.
Early meetings are believed to have been in private houses but, from 1814 onwards mention is made of the first Wesleyan Chapel, in a carpenter's yard off West Street. Most likely this would have been a rented room administered by a body of Trustees. In 1813/14 Somerton was transferred from the South Petherton Circuit into the Glastonbury Circuit.
In 1845 the property known as 'The Nags Head' (local legend has that it was a Public House), was purchased for £230 for the purpose of building a Church on the site. The date on the front of the completed building is 1845 and evidently refers to the laying of the foundation stone. Family names such as Barnard, Masters, Talbot, Weech, Vile, Pittard, Haines and Feltham are among those who formed the first Trust.
In 1905 the Glastonbury Circuit was joined by the Castle Cary Circuit to form the Mid Somerset Mission. Further changes occurred in 1932 when the three main Methodist Churches united - this brought together the Wesleyan Mid Somerset Mission, the Glastonbury Primitive Methodist Circuit and the Somerton United Methodist Circuit and the new unit was called THE SOMERSET MISSION. A circuit plan of those days lists 33 Chapels administered by a Superintendent Minister stationed at Glastonbury. Methodism in the area has survived two world wars and all the trauma that went with them. In Somerton today, besides descendants of the earliest Methodist families, there are still members who were evacuees in the 40s, and they have been joined by many newcomers to the enlarged town of post war days.
A brief history of Somerton United Reformed Church
The roots of the Somerton United Reformed Church go back to the middle of the seventeenth century. It was a period when everyone was required by law to attend the Parish Church and worship according to the Anglican pattern. However, there were a growing number of people, like John Bunyan, who believed in the importance of individual liberty in matters of religious belief. Like Bunyan many suffered spells in prison for breaking such harsh laws.
Although records are sketchy there is clear evidence that there were Christians holding these beliefs who were meeting in Somerton as early as 1653. They first began meeting in each other's homes and then in a barn. Making such a stand was risky and at least one of their early ministers found himself in gaol.
In the early part of the next century a 'Meeting House' or Chapel was built, and in spite of many ups and downs the small group grew steadily. During this period they were known as 'Independents' – the forerunners of modern 'Congregationalism'.
During the nineteenth century the congregation saw considerable growth. The present Chapel was built in 1803 and had to be enlarged twice in the next sixty years. A Sunday School was started in the mid 1830s, and Sunday evening congregations reached over 200 by the middle of the century. The Lecture Hall was added in 1879.
In 1936 the Church became one of the founder members of the Mid-Somerset Group of Congregational Churches.
In 1972 the United Reformed Church came into being – a union at a national level of the Congregational and the Presbyterian Churches.