Following a six-year effort, more than 250 Church members here witnessed the rededication of England's oldest LDS chapel April 23.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve dedicated the newly-renovated Gadfield Elm Chapel — constructed by members of the United Brethren in 1836 and given to the LDS Church in 1840 after 600 members of that faith joined the Church en masse, largely as a result of Wilford Woodruff's missionary efforts.
A capacity congregation of 100 watched the redicatory service from inside the building on Easter, while another 150 gathered on the grounds outside the chapel.
This little country church building is one of the oldest chapels owned by the Church. On May 17, 1840, Brigham Young and Willard Richards addressed early Church members in the chapel; a month later the first conference of the British Mission, convened by Wilford Woodruff, was held in the building.
In 1842, the chapel was sold to assist the new British converts who were immigrating to America and during the next 152 years the building fell into disrepair.
Six years ago a group of members from the Cheltenham England Stake, spearheaded by Bishop Wayne Gardner of the Hereford Ward, Cheltenham England Stake, formed a charitable trust, hoping to purchase this historic site and restore it. With the help of private donors, the reconstruction of the stone walls, slate roof and wooden floors — plus the installation of windows and rough-hewn wooden pews — were recently completed.
Bishop Gardner said the chapel represents "a significant piece of our Church history." He hopes hundreds of Church members visit the site each year and learn more about the Church's rich English history. "This is where Wilford Woodruff preached," he said. "This is where Brigham Young preached."
And in the future, he added, many more Church leaders will have the opportunity to preach from the pulpit in the small building. Numerous firesides and smaller Church gatherings will be held in the building, he said.