Skenfrith, Monmouthshire: The first LDS baptism in South Wales

By Freda Entwistle & Alan Davies

Stone bridge crosses the river Monnow
Portrait of James Weaver

As members of the church enter the London temple, immediately ahead of them is a reception desk, and to the right of the desk a painting shows a row of buildings in the distance with a bridge in the foreground. The stone bridge crosses the river Monnow and is the way into the little castle town of Skenfrith near Abergavenny.

The river is quite deep in places and the right hand side, looking from the Bell Inn, has steps leading down to the river.

This is the place where the first recorded convert baptism in South Wales – of James W. Palmer - took place on 13 April 1840. The baptism was performed by Wilford Woodruff, one of the Quorum of the Twelve, then serving as a missionary in the British Isles.

James W. Palmer kept a journal while serving as a missionary after his baptism. It includes the following entry in November 1840:

I preached at Skenfrith.” A later journal entry reads “We now visited Skenfrith again… On the Monday following, I baptized John Preece and William Williams in the river Monnow”.

Thus the story comes full circle, as the first convert to be baptised into the LDS Church in Skenfrith is subsequently instrumental in the conversion and baptism of further converts, there in the river Monnow.