Wilford Woodruff’s time in the Alfrick area of Worcestershire in 1840

Wilford Woodruff’s time in the Alfrick area of Worcestershire in 1840

Around ten miles west of the city of Worcester lies an unspoilt rural area known as Alfrick, consisting of small hamlets and a sprinkling of houses along its narrow roads. The Knapp and Papermill Nature Reserve is located here, through which the Leigh Brook meanders as it charts its course from the Malvern Hills into the River Teme at Leigh.

Wilford Woodruff visited this area for six days in 1840, preaching the gospel and baptising twenty three converts during his stay. From Elder Woodruff’s journals and baptismal records, we are able to piece together an idea of how he and his companions spent their missions.

Elder Woodruff concentrated his efforts in three main places: Dunns Close, Tapperdine and Ashfield. All are within a few miles of one another and are located close to the Leigh Brook, which is where the baptisms were most likely performed.

Wilford spent his days walking from place to place, and his evenings preaching, staying the night at members’ homes. He and his companions would have travelled many of the same footpaths as still exist in the area today.

In his journal entry for May 3rd, Elder Woodruff writes: “Sunday I walked to Ridgeway cross & preached to Rough Leasowe & preached to Dunns Close & preached to a large congregation & had the sprit [sic] of God. I spent the night at James Williams. 11m.”

Over the next couple of days Wilford visited the nearby hamlets of Ashfield and Crowcutt and on 5th May enjoyed his first baptisms:

“I preached at Crowcutt & walked to the Bower & baptized 5. One was a preacher. I also confirmed them and spent the night with Edmund Waters [Wattis]. The devil was come. 4 Miles.”

Over the next two days, Elder Woodruff baptised nine more individuals, and from his journal entry it is obvious that his delight was not just in his new converts but in the beautiful countryside in which he found himself:

“This is the dryest spring that has been known in England for many years. The ground is parched yet all nature is covered with verdant green, while the fruit trees send forth their perfumes from the smiling blossoms with which they are clothed.”

Nine further baptisms followed, after which Wilford left the area to serve in London. He returned seven months later to bid farewell to the Saints prior to his return to Nauvoo. It appears that during his absence ill feeling had developed in the area towards the Church and its new converts. Elder Woodruff records in his entry for March 19th 1841:

“I walked to Dunns close visiting many Saints by the way laying hands upon the sick. All appeared happy to see me, as I had baptized most of them about a year since. I preached at Dunns close at the home of Edward J. Jenkins to a crowded congregation. A wicked rabble disturbed the meeting much. I felt constrained to sharply reprove them in the power of God.”

Wilford returned to Nauvoo in October 1841 and was eventually sustained as President of the Church in April 1889, but we will always be grateful for the time he spent as a missionary in the British Isles.

Reference -Wilford Woodruff’s Journal (Transcript by Scott G. Kenney)

For the days May 3rd to 6th 1840, May 24th and 25th 1840 and March 19th 1841.