Following the 1689 Toleration Act which permitted freedom of worship to ‘Dissenters’ (Roman Catholics were not included until 1829), premises were appropriated for use as meeting houses, the two earliest being a house in Vicarage Street for Congregationalists, and a barn in South Street for Baptists.
The Society of Friends, or Quakers, had met in Henry Lavor’s house in Yeovil in 1654, and had established a burial ground in Preston Road in 1669.
In 1688 a house and garden in Kingston was purchased for use as a meeting house, on a site now occupied by Yeovil District Hospital.
Prior to its demolition in 1879, it was described as ‘a small square building partially covered with ivy and jasmine, presenting the appearance of an old fashioned country cottage’.
The building in Vicarage Street was rented in 1689 for ‘Independents’ by Henry Butler, described as a ‘Congregational Teacher’ - he was formerly vicar of St. John’s who gave up that living in 1662 by refusing to conform to that year’s Act of Uniformity. The house was replaced with a chapel built in 1809 for the Unitarians, and rebuilt in 1893. Meanwhile, a group of Congregationalists had separated to erect a chapel in Clarence Steet in 1793, which was replaced by a new building, off Princes Street opened in 1878 and now known as the United Reformed Church.
The South Street barn used by the Baptists was purchased for them and continued as their meeting house until 1810, when a chapel was erected on its site. To meet the needs of an increasing congregation, this was replaced only eighteen years later by a larger building, this, too, being extended in 1868 and again in 1891 and 1898.
Although John Wesley passed through Yeovil in 1751, it was not until 1824 that a Wesleyan chapel was built in Middle Street at a cost of £813 5s 4d. Earlier, local preachers journeyed from Sherborne holding Sunday meetings in a thatched cottage close to the site of the present Methodist Church in Vicarage Street, which was built in 1870. The earlier chapel was used for a time as a Sunday school, then sold for £350 in 1873. Finally, it was demolished in 1972.