The Rev. Woodfin Board

TAKEN FROM THE COLLECTION OF THE ANTIQUE BREADBOARD MUSEUM, PUTNEY:

A personalised Christian board, crisply incised with a quotation from the Saint James Bible prominently filling the central roundel; ‘I have planted Apollos watered but God gave the increase 1Car. 9c. 6v.’ The inconvenient position of the Gothic lettering, lack of cut marks and 3 small nail holes on the reverse indicate it was a celebratory piece, used as a decorative stand. In the bible reference, ‘1Car.9c.6v.’, the carver has spelled the abbreviation of Corinthians ‘Car’, instead of ‘Cor’, and carved a 9 instead of a 3, a surprising oversight given that his work was to be presented to a man of the church. Around the border appears in manuscript-style, as if with a quill, ‘Rev R Woodfin’, and a bumpy bark effect, possibly a humorous reference to his surname. The ear of wheat echoes the ‘planting’ of a crop which is Paul’s agricultural metaphor for establishing a church. The choice of a presentational breadboard instead of a multitude of other commemorative items points to the popularity of breadboards and their connection with the religious symbolism of bread and Communion.

A Reverend Richard Woodfin shows up in various Wesleyan Methodist records. He studied at a Wesleyan Theological Institution in Manchester in 1844, ministered in Woodbridge, Suffolk in 1852-3 and Walsall, Birmingham in 1854. Coincidentally, on the reverse are a number of pencilled annotations, mostly illegible, except for ‘1854’ and possibly ‘Walsall’. Methodism in Walsall was flourishing during this period, to the extent that a large new chapel was build in 1859. The bible quotation refers to two ministers, Paul and Apollos, the former the founder of the Church in Corinth, the latter his successor. These lines may commemorate an official milestone in the Reverend’s career in Walsall or may be a token of appreciation from an adoring flock, comparing him to Apollos. He later appears on the Melbourne West circuit in 1856; Brompton, Kent in 1873 and finally Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire in 1874-5. His death is noted as 1878. Ancestry websites indicate a number of Methodist Woodfins in Alabama and it would be interesting to know if they are related.

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