Mayflower 400 Commemorations

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    2020 marks the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower from Plymouth UK to Plymouth Massachusetts

    A sailing ship moored in Plymouth harbour, the starting point for The Mayflower's famous voyage. Credit: Visit Britain
    A sailing ship moored in Plymouth harbour, the starting point for The Mayflower’s famous voyage. Credit: Visit Britain

    With 35 million descendants from the passengers and crew of this famous voyage across the Atlantic, the upcoming anniversary will offer people the chance to explore villages, towns and cities across England, which are connected to this story.  Preparations have already begun to mark the historic event in two years time and it’s set to be special for all involved. 

    What was the Mayflower?

    The Mayflower was a 17th century English ship, which famously transported the first English Puritans, known today as the Pilgrims, from Plymouth, England to The New World. The voyage became a cultural icon in the history of the United States, with its story of death and survival in the harsh New England winter environment. 

    On 6 September, 1620, Captain Jones, along with 102 passengers and approximately 30 crew members, set sail from Plymouth on the south coast of England, on what William Bradford, a passenger who went on to serve as Governor of the Plymouth Colony, described as “a prosperous wind”.

    After sighting land on 11 November, 1620, strong winter seas forced Captain Jones to anchor at Cape Cod, much further North than the original destination of Virginia.

    Why did so few survive the voyage of the Mayflower?

    During the bitterly cold winter of 1620/21, the passengers remained on board the Mayflower, suffering an outbreak of a contagious disease described as a mixture of scurvy, pneumonia, and tuberculosis. When it ended, only 53 passengers remained—just over half. Half of the crew also died.

    To establish legal order in their new homeland the settlers agreed, whilst on-board, to write and sign “The Mayflower Compact”; the first written framework of government in what is now the United States.

    In the spring, they built huts ashore, and the passengers disembarked from the Mayflower on 21 March, 1621.

    How will the Mayflower’s 400th anniversary be commemorated?

    Commemorations are planned across the country to commemorate the legacy of the passengers and crew who undertook the journey and to highlight their stories and heritage, which is embedded in communities across the UK, US and Netherlands.

    The Mayflower 400 programme has been created to recognise the over 20 million US citizens descended from the Mayflower. Events will include local events in villages and churches and large scale festivals in cities and towns across the UK, the US and the Netherlands.

    What is the Legacy of the Mayflower

    Mayflower 400 hopes to ‘champion the values of freedom, faith and personal liberty that informed the original journey, and which continue to be articulated in the special relationship between the UK, US and Netherlands’. 

    There is a more serious side as it also plans to, ‘recognise the impact of the Mayflower’s journey on Native American communities and address themes of colonialism and migration, providing an accurate, inclusive account of the Mayflower’s legacy’.

    Watch the video below to find out how to follow the Mayflower Trail around Britain

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