Non-conformist (not Anglican) worship has had a big influence on parts of Gower and especially the more industrialised north east of the area. This may be because Methodism is often associated with immigrant populations, particularly from the south west of England. The more industrial areas will have attracted workers from outside of Gower who will have brought this newer type of religion with them.
Methodism was not the first form of non-conformism in Gower. In the 1650s there was a non-conformist tradition developing in Rhossili when the Congregationalist rector, Daniel Higgs, was replaced in response to the English Civil War. A group of dissenters who didn’t want Higgs replaced went on to form a small congregation, which was finally granted official licence in 1672. The group developed an important local tradition of non-conformity that continued and flourished with Methodism.
In the 1740s Methodist preachers began to visit the area – notably Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Preacher Howell Harris, who only visited for one day but noted the congregation at Rhossili.
John Wesley visited Gower on a number of occasions between 1762 and 1773. He stayed in a cottage in Oxwich. In his diary (1764) he described the local populations as being “the most plain loving people in Wales”. He was pleased to find his audience could understand and speak English, making preaching much easier for him.
There are links between Swansea and the Gower Methodists although a separate circuit was eventually established for Gower. Between 1833-34, Henry Higginson, known as the “Roving Ranter”, had established a primitive Methodist mission in Mumbles. The local Methodist Preaching House was rebuilt to keep up with the expanding congregation and in 1877 the foundation stone for the present Methodist church building were laid.
Hugh Price Hughes, a famous Methodist who went on to become the first President of the West London Methodist Mission, was converted at Mumbles in 1877. Hughes was a famous orator and founded the Methodist Times.