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The Pilgrim Fathers

The Pilgrims were the English settlers who founded Plymouth Colony, the first permanent European settlement in New England, America. They were originally known as the Forefathers and occasionally Founders; the term Pilgrim was first used to describe them in the writings of colonist William Bradford.

The Mayflower (alternative for Hawthorne plant) was the name of the the ship captained by Christopher Jones that brought the pilgrims from Plymouth in England to North America in 1620. A second ship called the Speedwell also attempted the journey but started leaking and returned to Plymouth (England) - leading to its passengers traveling on the now crowded Mayflower. The ship headed towards Virginia, where the colonists had been authorized to settle. Unfortunately as a result of stormy weather and navigational errors, the vessel failed to make good its course, and on November 21 the Mayflower rounded the end of Cape Cod and dropped anchor off the site of present-day Provincetown, Massachusetts.


The Pilgrims faced starvation in 1621, within months after arriving in America. Fortunately friendly native Americans showed them how to fish, grown corn and quash (pumpkin) and they survived. In celebration of this they had a feast with the Native Americans - this is now called Thanksgiving day and is celebrated on the forth Thursday of November.

The Mayflower's link to Leigh-on-sea are certain, to a point? It is agreed that a Mayflower picked up the Pilgrim Fathers during June 1620 to escape religious persecution from the Puritan's. Some of the Pilgrim Father's boarded the ship in Plymouth, most at Rotherhithe and a few in on the Thames estuary in Leigh-on-sea in Essex. Under question is the location of where the Mayflower was built,  some "evidence" suggests Leigh-on-sea, other evidence suggest Harwich. The answer to this question may simply be another question... which Mayflower?   


On initial inspection there is some evidence that a Mayflower has a strong tie to Leigh in that one of her owners, John Vassall of Stepney moved to Leigh-on-Sea in 1591. Three years prior to this, in 1588, a Mayflower commanded by Edward Banks helped to drive the Spanish armada up the channel. The Mayflower (a) of Leigh appears in the London port journals of 1606, some 14 years before the Pilgrim fathers left for the safety of American soil. The Mayflower (a) at this time was a cargo carrier, taking goods to Middelburg in Holland, her master at this time a Mr. Robert Bonner of Leigh-on-sea.  So, we have a Mayflower (a) ship which derived from Leigh and had connections with people from Leigh - cool!   


However in 1607 a Mayflower (b) of London appeared on the scene, again a cargo carrier, delivering cloth and skins to Bordeaux and La Rochelle and returning to England with wine. We now have two registered Mayflowers!?   According to research the agents of the Pilgrims, Weston and Crushman hired the Mayflower (b) for the historic journey of the Pilgrims but allegedly ended up with a small ship we will call the Mayflower (c) of unknown origin!  Ref:


Other resources at indicates that the Mayflower (b) was indeed the vessel that carried the pilgrims to America and a Mayflower (c) did not exist: -


R.G. Marsden was able to demonstrate in 1904 that the Mayflower in question was out of Harwich and later of London, Christopher Jones, master. Marsden searched the English High Court of Admiralty Records looking for a matching vessel which could have traveled from London between July, 1620 and May, 1621. This proved to be a lengthy operation as "Mayflower" was a popular ship's name; but, he eventually reduced the number to six, and finally to one, the Mayflower of Harwich, whose master was Christopher Jones. It was Christopher Jones who had witnessed the will of William Mullins, which was discovered in the public records at Somerset House in London, aboard the ship in 1621.

The Mayflower that brought the Pilgrims to Plymouth was probably built before 1606. Christopher Jones of Harwich, Essex, was in command of the vessel as of August, 1609, and was part owner in 1612. Jones moved in 1611 to Rotherhithe, a shipping center on the south bank of the Thames near London. It was from there that his ship went to Southampton to make the historic voyage. Notations in the Port Books indicate that the Mayflower went on at least one voyage to Norway, carrying hats, hemp, Spanish salt, hops, vinegar and Gascon wine, returning with tar, deals (pine planks), and herring. More frequently, she traveled to Rochelle and Bordeaux with cloth and returned with wine. In the summer of 1620 she was hired to transport a group of colonists to the "northern parts of Virginia" (around the mouth of the Hudson River).

One thing is for certain there were MANY Mayflower ships at this time and a distinct lack of formal documented evidence that would enable guaranteed tracking of this most important historic event. Leigh-on-sea has prominence, even if it is just to add interest and intrigue to an important event in American history.