The founder was William O'Bryan (afterwards Bryant), a Methodist lay preacher of Luxillian, Cornwall.
O'Bryan commenced his labours in north Devon, and in 1815 a small society was formed at Lake Farm, Shebbear.
There were present besides O'Bryan one accepted minister - James Thorne - fourteen ministers on trial and fifteen women preachers, a class that was always conspicuous in the denomination.
In 1829 there was a severance between the larger part of the new body and O'Bryan, who had claimed to be perpetual president, and to have all property vested in him personally.
O'Bryan left England for America, where he remained for the rest of his life, and his contingent (numbering 565 members and 4 ministers) returned to the original conference.
In 1831 agents were sent to Canada and Prince Edward's Island, in 1850 to South Australia, in 1855 to Victoria, in 1866 to Queensland, in 1877 to New Zealand and in 1885 to China, so that the original O'Bryan tradition of fervid evangelism was amply maintained.