Ledbury, Herefordshire, England
Ledbury is a market town in the region of southern Herefordshire, UK. It is located about seven miles from the farm of John and Jane Benbow, where so much conversion to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was centered during the mission of the Quorum of the Twelve in 1840-1841. Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff and Willard Richards served in Ledbury for a time during that mission. In Ledbury, the missionaries experienced opposition as well as success, both in the town and as they passed through when they journeyed to other sites in the region. It was there that Elder Wilford Woodruff obtained a license allowing him to preach the gospel. There is a tradition that a store in present-day Ledbury is where Brigham Young bought a hat, but that tradition is not a documented certainty.
The quaintness of the town’s streets and buildings give one a glimpse back in time, as it were. Some of the present-day structures had been there for several centuries by the time those missionaries lived and labored there. These include black and white half-timbered houses and hotels and the elevated Market House, an extant structure built sometime around 1617. It is supported by 16 oak pillars that are part of the original structure. The building is still used for civic and other purposes.
During the time Elder Wilford Woodruff labored as a missionary in the town of Ledbury, he recorded the following story, dated April 30, 1840: “I walked to Ledbury and had not been in town an hour before many flocked around to see me and gave me the hand of fellowship. The Baptist minister opened his chapel for me to preach in and he went into the pulpit with me and opened the meeting by reading the 35th chapter of Isaiah and praying mightily for me. I then arose and preached to the largest congregation (it was said) that ever met in the chapel. The minister was believing and bid me Godspeed. After the meeting many offered themselves for baptism.” The chapel where that story unfolded is still standing and in use today (2021).
A published sketch of the life of James Palmer notes this from his history: “It was now the month of April, 1840, and it was announced to our people that a man of God had come from the United States of America with the word of the Lord to the nation of Great Britain, and that he would preach in the town of Ledbury at a given time. We knew from a study of the scriptures that the true Church of God must have in its organization apostles and prophets. . . . My family, with many others responded to the invitation.” Brother Palmer was subsequently converted and baptized on April 13, 1840. He became a great missionary himself and later, skilled in the art of stone-cutting, worked on the Salt Lake Temple. Brother Palmer stayed faithful in the Church for the rest of his life.
Address and Directions
Ledbury is a small but vibrant town in Herefordshire on the western side of the Malvern Hills. There are no particular sites of significance to students of Latter-day Saint history per se, but the town itself is where apostles and future prophets walked and labored. It is open for any and all to see and experience.
Articles & Resources
Thomas G. Alexander, Things in Heaven and Earth: The Life and Times of Wilford Woodruff, a Mormon Prophet, 90-95.
V. Ben Bloxham, James R. Moss, Larry C. Porter, Truth Will Prevail: The Rise of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the British Isles, 1837-1987, 138-140.
Fannie Palmer Gleave, James Palmer’s Travels and Ministry in the Gospel (The Journal of James Palmer), 3, 4, 146.