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Visits to Herefordshire by Methodist leaders

Information taken from "A Sketch of the Rise of Methodism in the County and City of Hereford", a pamphlet written by Mr. Parlby as a historical souvenir to mark the centenary of the Wesleyan Methodist Church, Bridge Street, Hereford, 1829-1929.

George Whitfield - Letter of 29 April 1743, concerning his preaching tour of Wales

"Between eight and nine at night we set out for Leominster, and reached there between two and three in the morning. At eleven and three I preached. It was quite fallow ground. The Lord broke it up and gave me a blessed entrance into Herefordshire. All glory to His great name! The same night I lay at Hereford. Even there some of our Lord's disciples were to be found, as also at Ross, where we baited yesterday. In both places I would have preached had time permitted; but I was hastening to Gloucester, where the good Shepherd of Israel brought us in peace and safety, after having in about three weeks travelled about 400 English Miles, spent three days in attending two associations, preached about 40 times, visited about 13 towns, and passed through seven counties."

John Wesley - Journal entry 13 August 1746

"At three in the afternoon, I preached at Builth designing to go from thence to Carmarthen, but notice having been given by mistake of my preaching at Leominster in Herefordshire, I altered my design, and going to Llanzufried that night, the next day rode to Leominster.

"At six in the evening I began preaching on a tombstone close to the south side of the church. The multitude roared on every side; but my voice soon prevailed, and more and more of the people melted down, till they began ringing the bells; but neither thus did they gain their point for my voice prevailed still. Then the organs began to play amain. Mr. C. the curate went into the church and endeavoured to stop them, but in vain. So I thought it best to remove into the Corn Market. The whole congregation followed, to whom many more were joined, who would not have come to the churchyard. Here we had a quiet time; and I showed what that sect is which is 'everywhere spoken against'. I walked with a large train to our inn; but none that I heard, gave us an ill word. A Quaker followed me in and told me, 'I was much displeased with thee, because of the last "Appeal" but my displeasure is gone: I heard thee speak and my heart clave to thee.'"

The next day John Wesley preached at five in the morning to "A willing band of hearers".

On 15 August 1746 John Wesley set out for Kington, "three hours ride from Leominster".

Journal entry:

" I preached at one end of the town. The congregation divided itself into two parts, one half stood near, the other half remained a little way off and lowered defiance; but the bridle from above was in their mouth so they made no disturbance at all."

On 16 February 1749 John Wesley visited Ross, and on 29 March 1762 he passed through Herefordshire again, staying at the Swan and Falcon Inn in Hereford, now the City Arms.

Charles Wesley - Journal Entry, June 1749

"At three thirty, my beloved Sally [his wife] with Mrs Gwynne [his mother-in-law] and her sister Peggy, found me at the Falcon. We sang, rejoiced and gave thanks till Mr and Mrs Hervey came. After dinner we drank tea at their house and went to see the Cathedral. I wanted work, but there was no door opened."

Thursday 8 June 1749

"I preached at the Market place in Leominster. All appeared quite eager to hear."

Charles Wesley then visited Ludlow but returned to Leominster the next day.

Visit by Rev Rodda:

In 1770 Hereford was visited by the Reverend Richard Rodda, minister of the Brecon Methodist Circuit.

He decided to preach out of doors by St. Nicholas Church (which at this time was in King Street). He was accosted by a baker who said he had come to preach against the Lord. After this someone made an attempt to throw a pail of milk over him. Another man called Bacon gathered dirt from the kennel and threw it in his face causing him to stop.

Richard Rodda went to the local Justice of the Peace's house to have the man punished under the 1689 Act of Toleration. The JP was loathe to arrest him as he had a wife and children and Rev. Rodda said that he did not want him arrested, just warned against making a disturbance again for all the Reverend wanted to do was to be able to preach in peace.

(Hereford Record Office, L59/1-2 )

Visit to the county by American Missionaries - March 1840

In the spring of 1840 Herefordshire was visited by two important Missionaries from America; Wilford Woodruff and Brigham Young from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

They arrived in Ledbury where they were well received and asked to preach in the area. Within two years about 2,000 locals had been converted and packed up all their belongings to emigrate to America to settle in the West. They settled towns and cities such as Salt Lake City, Las Vegas and Phoenix under the leadership of Brigham Young.

In 1997 the Western State of Utah celebrated 150 years since it was first settled by pioneers from Ledbury. William Carter of Ledbury went on to be one of the first pioneers to reach the Great Salt Lake valley, the first to plough ground in Utah and the first Anglo-Saxon to irrigate on the American continent.

What made so many people from the area decide to go west for a new life we cannot say for sure, but life at this time was not easy for many. The winter of 1840 had been a particularly hard one; harvests were poor and many crops had failed, people were struggling to feed their families and keep warm. The American Missionaries with their lessons of Jesus' love and new hope must have been the very thing that these people in their desperate situation were needing. The promise of a new life and a chance at success in America would have been an added incentive, and one not easily ignored when faced with the everyday poverty in England.

The Gadfield Elm Chapel in Ledbury, from where many people were converted and emigrated, has now been turned into a small museum to these brave pioneers.

[Original author: Miranda Greene, 2003]