“The Way It Looks Today: A Camera Tour of Church History Sites in Great Britain,”
Ensign, Dec. 1979, 32
Ensign’s continuing tour of Church history sites, we come to Great Britain, one of the most important mission areas of the Church in early years. James R. Moss, author of “The Kingdom Builders,” p. 26, provided material for the captions. Photographs by John Phillipson of Cleveland, England.
Liverpool Harbor as it now appears. The harbor was the entrance and exit for British Saints and missionaries from 1837, the year of the first mission, until the middle of the twentieth century. Tens of thousands of Saints from Britain and Europe emigrated to Zion from this harbor, the first group leaving 6 June 1840. Liverpool housed the mission office, emigration office, and printing office; now a stake is centered there. The first mission began when Elders Heber C. Kimball, Orson Hyde, Willard Richards, Joseph Fielding, John Goodson, John Snyder, and Isaac Russell stepped ashore 20 July 1837. The second mission of the Twelve began with the arrival of Elders John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff in 11 January 1840, followed in April by other members of the Twelve. Orson Hyde’s return in 1841 meant that nine apostles were laboring there, the largest number ever assembled in any land outside the United States.
A dock completed during the expansion of 1840, the year Elder Brigham Young and other members of the Twelve arrived for their second mission.
In the River Ribble, near Preston, Heber C. Kimball baptized the first converts in England on 30 July 1837, only ten days after the missionaries’ arrival. Between five and seven thousand people watched the baptisms from the park-like banks.
A few feet away from the bridge on the left side of the river is the traditional site for these first baptisms. The missionaries had preached three times in a Protestant chapel, then met with many families in their homes.
In this house on St. Wilfred Street, Preston, evil spirits attacked first Isaac Russell, then Elder Kimball, on the morning before the first baptisms. Later, the Prophet Joseph Smith interpreted it as a sign that the missionaries’ work would be successful.
After being denied permission to preach in churches, the elders chose Market Square, with Elder Russell giving the first sermon 30 July 1837.
On 3 September 1837, the missionaries were able to acquire the Temperance Hall (site marked by plaque), the Saints’ first meeting place in Europe. Quarterly conferences were held from 1837–40. On Christmas Day, over 100 children were blessed, and the Word of Wisdom was first publicly preached in England.
The family of Mathias and Hannah Moon, converted by Heber C. Kimball during the winter of 1837–38, lived in this home in Eccleston, south of Preston. All five sons became missionaries between 1838 and 1840; one son, John, led the first company of Saints across the Atlantic from Liverpool on 6 June 1840.
Elder Kimball preached in Walkerford Chapel at the invitation of Rev. John Richards, whose daughter Jenetta had joined the Church and later married Willard Richards. Most of Rev. Richards’s congregation were baptized.
Elder Kimball visited Ribchester during the fall of 1837, converting a small branch despite efforts of a mob to drive him out. The Romans had a fort here.
The missionaries preached in Ribchester square before this old White Bull Inn.
The Ribble Valley, dotted with small villages, was the site of most of the 1837–38 mission’s proselyting efforts.
Upriver from Preston in the Ribble Valley lie two picturesque villages.
The village of Downham, looking up the hill to the town from the bridge.
Stream near Downham, possibly the location of a pond where Elder Kimball baptized, although the exact spot is not specified.
Chatburn from the air.
Elder Kimball baptized twenty-five on the first night and ultimately almost the whole village, preaching in a tithe barn similar to this one, and later standing on a wall by the barn. When he left the area, accompanied by children singing hymns, he felt such an outpouring of the Spirit that he “pulled off my hat, and felt that I wanted to pull off my shoes.” The Prophet Joseph later explained that he was feeling the influence of ancient prophets who had blessed the area.
From the Herefordshire Beacon, location of this photo, an observer can see the cathedral cities of Herefordshire, Gloucestershire, and Worcestershire. One of the fertile areas of West England with its mild climate, rolling green hills, and excellent soil, it sheltered the United Brethren, among whom Wilford Woodruff had such great success when he came in March 1840.
[Wilford Woodruff] held services here, in Hanley Town Hall, for his converts in the Potteries, a group of villages north of Birmingham. On his birthday, 1 March 1840, while preaching here, he prophesied that he was preaching to them for the last time. The next day, in response to his prayers, he was directed south. A convert, William Benbow, led him to his brother John in Herefordshire.
The comfortable farmhouse of John and Jane Benbow still stands in Herefordshire at Hill Farm. Wilford Woodruff and William Benbow arrived there 4 March 1840 and stayed the week. On the 6th, John and Jane were baptized. A wealthy family, they contributed 250 pounds which helped finance the first publication of the Book of Mormon and the first hymn book in Britain in 1840. The Benbow home, licensed as a house of worship, was the scene of many meetings. Brigham Young and Willard Richards also stayed there.
Castle Frome Church is still the parish church for John Benbow’s area, and three members of his family are buried in its churchyard. It was the vicar of this Church of England parish who sent a constable to arrest Wilford Woodruff for preaching without a license; the constable was baptized instead. The vicar sent two clerks to see if Elder Woodruff were preaching false doctrine; they too were baptized.
The village of Castle Frome snuggles into its hillside, with the parish church to the left and Benbow’s farm up the hill to the right of the village.
In this pond on the Benbow farm, Wilford Woodruff baptized the Benbows, many United Brethren, and many others—possibly hundreds.
Gadfield Elm chapel, now a garage that has stood vacant and neglected for years, was probably the first Latter-day Saint chapel in Europe. John Benbow held its title as the only chapel owned by the United Brethren (they had 45 houses licensed for preaching), and gave it to Elder Woodruff for his use. On 14 June 1840, a United Brethren conference officially changed their name to a conference of the LDS Church, Wilford Woodruff and Willard Richards conducting. Brigham Young preached here twice, once on 17 May 1840 and once on 14 December 1840.
This peaceful pond, Hawcross Pool in Herefordshire, is the site of the only instance of physical abuse suffered by one of the Twelve in Britain. Elder Wilford Woodruff had gone to the village on a referral from one of the United Brethren and had found a mob waiting for him. Still, he preached his sermon and courageously invited those who wished baptism to step forward. Equally courageously, five candidates presented themselves. He baptized them at midnight that night, 9 April 1840, under the pelting stones of the enraged mob. He reported that one stone nearly knocked him down, but that through the mercy of God he was able to complete the ordinance.
This Baptist chapel is located in Ledbury, market town for the area in which the United Brethren lived. Invited by the minister to preach, Elder Woodruff did so on 30 March 1840 to a packed hall, converting many members. Built in 1836, the chapel is similar in style to Vauxhall Chapel in Preston where Elder Kimball and the first missionaries preached in 1837.
Edward Ockey, another of the United Brethren, lived on this farm and, over the protests of his three brothers, sold it at auction and gave the proceeds to the Church, a contribution of several thousand dollars. He helped many poorer members emigrate to Zion. Elder Woodruff stayed with him often; Elder Brigham Young visited him on 20 December 1840.
Top: The choirmaster of this Church of England church in the village of Dymock, William Pitt, was converted. His sister, Mary, had been an invalid for years but was healed by Elder Brigham Young on 18 May 1840, and walked down Dymock’s main street (bottom) the next day, testifying. The outraged vicar led a mob against the Saints’ prayer meeting at the home of Thomas Kington, converted superintendent of the United Brethren, nearly destroying it. Kington had held a feast at his home for over a hundred members, including Elders Young, Woodruff, and Richards.
The Herefordshire Beacon, a prominent local hill, was the site of both a pre-Roman British fortress and a Roman fort. Elder Wilford Woodruff went there to pray, notably on 11 and 22 May 1840. On 20 May 1840, he, Elder Brigham Young, and Elder Willard Richards met there and decided to print the Book of Mormon and a hymn book with funds donated by John Benbow and Thomas Kington.
This marketplace in Ledbury was the scene of missionary activity as well as commerce. Elder Wilford Woodruff visited the town many times to send and receive mail while working with the United Brethren and also preached here. Elder Brigham Young spent a week in the town and directed others to find him from this marketplace.
It took the missionaries till August 1840 to reach London. At Tabernacle Square, George A. Smith preached the first Latter-day Saint open-air sermon heard in London, a tradition continued for many years in London’s parks and squares by hundreds of LDS missionaries.
Here in King’s Square, the missionaries hired Barrett’s Academy and preached there two or three times on Sunday and once or twice during the week in evening services. On February 1841, the London Conference was organized here with young Lorenzo Snow as its new president. The academy has since been replaced by this recreation area for local high-rise apartments.
John Taylor, the first regular missionary in Liverpool, hired Music Hall on Bold Street, the largest meetingplace in the city, for preaching and meetings. Most members of the Twelve preached there; conferences were held there during the 1840s. On 14 April 1841, it was the scene of a gala farewell for Elders Young, Kimball, Richards, Woodruff, Taylor, Orson Pratt, and George A. Smith. Over 200 members attended.
On this Liverpool site once stood the Church mission and emigration offices for all Europe. Tens of thousands of LDS emigrants passed through this site to join Zion-bound companies.
Much modernized, only a few sections of Liverpool harbor recall the scenes the missionaries must have seen as their first impressions of England when arriving in 1837 and 1840–41; or the last scenes that British and European emigrants saw as they embarked for America and the challenges that awaited them after leaving their homelands.