The metamorphosis within the Established Church was bound to have significant effects on the Dissenting churches after 1830. But Anglicanism was not the only form of organised religion undergoing fundamental changes in the first half of the nineteenth century. There was a shift within Methodist, Congregational and Baptist communities away from the sect-type religious culture of the eighteenth century towards a new and patently denominational orientation to the wider society. Methodism in particular ceased to be a movement and became an organisation. The term ‘Dissent’ was gradually replaced by ‘Nonconformity’ and ‘dissenters’ by ‘nonconformists.’
The movement towards denominationalism among the nonconformist churches had its origins in the late eighteenth century. It was both organisational and ‘clerical’. Denominational organisation was the result of the need and desire to pursue new goals. It arose out of the evangelical revival in the eighteenth century and was not a reaction to it. The new goal was evangelism -- missionary activities both abroad and at home -- and was possible because of the theological shift away from the Calvinist doctrine of the elect (people are either born to go to heaven or not) that would have rendered such activity pointless. In this situation the church could and should be open to all. The formation of the Northamptonshire Association in 1764 among Particular (Calvinistic) Baptists marked a turning point. In 1797, the (Baptist) Home Mission Society was formed in London. County or Area Associations of Churches were formed among the Independents, but generally later than among Baptist, in Warwickshire in 1793, Wiltshire and East Somerset in 1797, Hampshire in 1797, Lancashire in 1806 and Hertfordshire in 1810. In due course a (Congregational) Home Missionary Society was formed in 1819 working mainly in those areas where County Associations were weak or non-existent. Village preaching depended on support from elsewhere and united action by a number of churches was an obvious way of doing this. Itinerancy challenged isolationism and undenominationalism and, during the second and third decades of the nineteenth century, the freedom enjoyed by the early itinerants succumbed to the process of institutionalisation. Evangelism came increasingly to be seen as a denominational rather than a local responsibility.Despite this positive development, the 1820s saw the first signs of formalism and stagnation, forces that later sapped the dynamic strength and recruiting power of English Nonconformity.
It was possible for the central organisations of the different churches to exert, if they chose, control and discipline. Denominationalism also had expression in an increasingly ‘clerical’ approach. Jabez Bunting and his colleagues gradually strengthened the distinction between travelling and local preachers, not only by developing the doctrine of the ‘pastoral office’ but also by enforcing the commitment to permanent itinerancy and corporate discipline among the travelling preachers. Excessive spontaneity -- too much lay initiative -- was seen as a threat to the integrity of Wesleyanism and a theological basis for the differentiation of roles and functions between ministers and laymen was elaborated. This redirection of the Methodist movement under ministerial initiative imposed immense strains on it and the result was a prolonged period of conflict and schism, beginning with the New Connexion breakaway in 1797 and ending with the major disruptions and realignments between 1849-57. ‘Primitive Methodists’, ‘Bible Christians’, Tent Methodists’ and ‘Wesleyan Reformers’ all contained sectarian overtones in their names and were significant in capturing an element of protest against consolidation and institutionalisation that underpinned the fragmentation of the Methodist strain of evangelical Nonconformity. Other nonconformists lacked both the will and the machinery to sharpen the clerical-lay distinction in this way.
The movement from undenominationalism to denominationalism, from a ‘unity of experience’ to a ‘unity of organisation’, can be seen as a response to the need for some form of social control. In this view, denominationalism has been seen as a failure of Nonconformity to respond to popular religion and of the anxiety and potential dangers to the country if it got out of control. This view seems to draw too stark a distinction between lay/undenominational and clerical/denominational. It seems more likely that the move to denominationalism was occasioned by the need to maintain the constituencies of the different nonconformist groups. Between 1780 and 1815, Nonconformity was marked by its preoccupation with rural society. County associations among Congregationalists and regional bodies among Baptists devoted their energies to the hinterlands rather than the larger centres of population. Even national bodies pursued similar aims. By 1823, the Baptist Western Association numbered 78 member churches, an increase of 44 since 1780. With the spread of urban awareness came recognition of the problems involved in establishing effective contact with urban populations. Neither the individualism of the pioneering preachers or the rudimentary organisation of the regional societies could cope with the scale of the problem. The result was a move to national networks of evangelism under the control of denominational bodies that were, alone, capable of integrating planning and direction. Denominationalism was a consequence of the need to mobilise resources effectively to deal with the urban problem.
The impetus for structural definition stemmed from the need for more efficiency and a growing sense of denominational identity accompanied the return to peace after 1815. There was a increasing demand for religious accommodation, a preoccupation displayed in most of the surviving records, and with the attendant financial problems of their provision and maintenance. By the 1830s this material interest had combined with rising ministerial status to accentuate contemporary concerns for ‘respectability’ and to hasten the change from individual spontaneity to a more formal assumption of responsibility for further expansion. By 1840 the shape of the movement had visibly altered with the old emphasis on free-ranging, outdoor evangelism supplanted by indoor, more controlled, gatherings.
 D.M. Thompson Denominationalism and Dissent 1795-1835: a question of identity, Friends of Dr William’s Library, 1985.
 On itinerancy D.W. Lovegrove Established Church, Sectarian People: Itinerancy and the Transformation of Dissent 1780-1830, CUP, 1988, especially pp. 142-165 is valuable.