In earlier centuries, Coleford was part of the ecclesiastical parish of Newland and did not became a parish in its own right until 1872. Its church, therefore, was considered for many centuries merely a ‘chapel of ease’. Indeed, Newland Church, which dates from the 13th century and is dubbed ‘the Cathedral of the Forest’, owes its magnificence to the size and prestige of this parish.
As was usual in the case of a chapel of ease, Coleford did not have the right to bury its own dead, so for centuries, Coleford men and women were laid to rest at Newland until that churchyard was closed to burials of Coleford residents in 1867 and a local cemetery was opened on Victoria Road. The path to Newland is still known as ‘the Burial Path’.
Chapel-of-ease or not, Coleford’s place of worship seems to have been largely self-governing by the time it was damaged in the Civil Wars and repaired by local people.
By 1821, a new larger, octagonal chapel (similar to the existing church of St Paul in Parkend) was built on the site of the old one in the centre of the town. This in turn was pulled down in 1882 because it had again become too small for the growing congregation and a new imposing church was built on Boxbush Road overlooking the town centre. The tower of the 1821 chapel was left, however, and this is now a feature of the open market place. The new church was built without a tower - it seems one was considered enough for Coleford!
Nonconformism was relatively strong in the Forest of Dean and there were nine protestant dissenters recorded in Newland parish in 1676, all of whom may have been from Coleford. In 1739, George Whitefield preached in the town, and John Wesley visited in 1756 and 1763. The grand Baptist Church on Newland Street was built in 1858.