River Ribble | Following Wilford Woodruff's Steps in England

Videographer: James Dalrymple

Speaker: Peter Fagg

Producer: Smith Family Foundation



I'm walking alongside the River Ribble just outside the city of Preston. And it's here that the very first British baptisms took place. Nine people from Reverend Fielding's congregation up on the hill there had decided they wanted to accept this new restored gospel. 

We have a lovely event, which kind of shows their excitement. Two of the men, George Watt and Henry Clegg, both wanted to be the first person to say I was the first person baptized in Britain. So they have a foot race to the water's edge. George Watt is 20 years younger than Henry, so he gets there first and becomes the very first British baptism.

Over the next few weeks and months. This serves as the baptismal font in miles in either direction. Just around the corner behind us, William Clayton, the author of Come Come, Ye Saints was baptized. Up this valley you come to numerous little villages where people use the river as their baptism site. They even gave us the nickname as "the dippers," because we had full immersion.

But what I quite love about this first set of baptisms is Heber C. Kimball's account of this and he says that between 7-9,000 people witness those first baptisms, that's a huge number, even though it's a guesstimation on his part, but you can imagine the people on the banks on the bridge, up the terraces here, all watching those first people take this commitment to the restored gospel.



When Wilford Woodruff returned to this area three years after the first baptisms, he said:

I never saw a more lovely people in my travels in the vineyard…

I did not wonder Elder Kimball cried when he left for I was so overwhelmed with the spirit & power of God & the simplicity of the people I could scarcely speak…many bore their testimony of the work of God…

I cannot express my feelings while among this people…the flowing tears bespoke the feelings of the heart as I parted with them.

- Wilford Woodruff