The perilous voyage of the Mayflower pilgrims of 1620

12 May and 10 June 2013

While we were in London, we had visited the Mayflower Pub in Rotherhithe Village. This is the oldest pub on the River Thames, having been established in 1621. 

The Mayflower Pub in Rotherhithe overlooks the River Thames
The Mayflower Pub in Rotherhithe overlooks the River Thames

We went inside to have a bite to eat, and it was a very nice and cosy pub. From the outside deck, you had an excellent view of the Thames.

The menu - yummy!
The menu – yummy!

“Have you heard about the Mayflower pilgrims of 1620, Flat Kathy?” asked Paula, as we nibbled our food.

I hadn’t, so Paula told me their sad story.

“Even as far back as the early 17th century, London was a very important city. Not only was this the seat of government, but it was also a prosperous centre of trade and commerce. The river made it easy to transport goods from the coast into the city centre.”

Welcome to Plymouth on the southwest coast of England
Welcome to Plymouth on the southwest coast of England

“However, it was also a time of religious intolerance, with people being tortured or killed if they did not agree with the official views of the Church. In the parish of Rotherhithe, there lived a well-travelled and experienced sea captain by the name of Christopher Jones, who had a ship called ‘The Mayflower’.

He decided to make his ship available to a group of 102 English Pilgrims, who were determined to sail across the Atlantic Ocean to America, and to make new lives for themselves in the area known as ‘New England’.”

This is a view of the harbour with the red-and-white lighthouse
This is a view of the harbour at Plymouth with its red-and-white lighthouse

“They departed from here in mid-July of 1620, proceeded down the Thames into the English Channel, sailed past Southampton and onwards to Plymouth. They had to stop here for a while. As a result of many problems and delays, they only departed from here in September 1620. Life onboard ship was challenging – cabins were cramped, there weren’t enough supplies, and the seas were rough.”

These are the steps from which the Pilgrims departed on the Mayflower
These are the steps from which the Pilgrims departed on the Mayflower

“By the time they finally reached America in November 1620, it was winter, and the weather was freezing cold. Unable to survive on the land under such hard conditions, they remained onboard the ship, while it over-wintered in New Plymouth harbour. By spring, about half of the pilgrims and half of the crew of sailors had died from various contagious illnesses. The surviving pilgrims finally disembarked, and the Mayflower was able to sail back to England.”

This plaque marks the actual spot
This plaque marks the actual spot

Towards the end of our visit to England, my friends and I drove to Plymouth harbour on the south coast. And we saw the harbour from which the Mayflower Pilgrims had departed on their long and arduous voyage to New England.

It must have been a very emotional experience for them to bid farewell to the country where they had been born, and to wonder whether they would ever return to these shores. I confess that I had quite a lump in my throat myself.


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