The Mayflower was the ship that transported European (mainly English and Dutch) settlers, later referred to as the Pilgrim Fathers, to America in 1620. She was probably a 180-ton, three-masted, square-rigged carrack, which, before she was hired for a year by the pilgrims, had been engaged in cargo runs between England and the continent (mainly France). Her exact dimensions are not known but based on other 180-ton vessels of the time it is likely she was between 90 to 110 feet long and about 25 feet in width. She had a crew of about 25 to 30 seamen.

On July 29th 1620 the Mayflower, having sailed from London under Captain Christopher Jones, anchored off the West Quay to await the arrival of its companion ship the Speedwell which had gone to Holland to pick up more pilgrims. The Speedwell arrived on the 5th August, but the captain reported that she had sprung a leak and the departure of the two vessels was delayed for a further 10 days while repairs were carried out. On the 15th August the two vessels with 120 pilgrims on board set sail for America. Unfortunately, the Speedwell sprang another leak and put in first at Dartmouth and then at Plymouth where she was declared unseaworthy. Most of the Speedwell’s passengers switched to the Mayflower, which left Plymouth on 16th September with 102 pilgrims on board. After a voyage of 67 days they arrived at their destination and set up a settlement which they named New Plymouth. Captain Jones sailed the ship back to England, arriving in May 1621. The Mayflower was broken up three or four years later.

Mayflower II

Mayflower II (image 2) is a replica of the original, built in 1955-56 in Brixham by Warwick Charlton in collaboration with the Plimouth Plantation, an American museum. In April 1957 Mayflower II undertook her only transatlantic voyage, although to avoid ice and bad weather she took a more southerly route than the original. She was subsequently laid up near Boston and became a popular tourist attraction. There are plans to restore her to pristine condition in readiness for the 400th anniversary celebrations in 2020.

1. Model of the Mayflower on top of the Mayflower Memorial

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Photograph, c.2000

2. Mayflower II

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Photographed in Plymouth, Massachusetts, 2006

See also

Mayflower Memorial

Further reading:

The Mayflower at Southampton, by The Seaman’s Chapel, St Mary’s Church. (HS/h)
Mayflower Remembered, by Crispin Gill. (HS/h)
The Mayflower Miracle, by Jonathan King. (HS/h)
‘The Mayflower – John Alden’, by Elizabeth Rothery in Southampton Local History Forum Journal No. 3, Spring 1992 p14-16. (HS/h)


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