The Mayflower Story

The History of the Mayflower

Mayflower 400 will take place in 2020 in destinations all over the country, and overseas, including Dartmouth. In preparation for this monumental occasion there will be lots of great events leading up to it. This is a truly significant event for Dartmouth and the other towns/cities involved as it marks the 400 year anniversary of when the Mayflower set sail from Plymouth, UK to Plymouth, Massachusetts.

For more information on the events taking place throughout the town in 2020 click here. Or visit our Dartmouth Mayflower 400 page to find out about the special projects being planned for Dartmouth to help commemorate this unique occasion.

In 2020 Dartmouth is expected to be greeted with many visitors from the UK, America as well as the rest of the world to help celebrate this successful past voyage. Read on to learn more about the history of the Mayflower…

Henry VIII created the Church of England in the 1500’s as the Pope would not grant him a divorce from his first wife Catherine of Aragon, this causing him to be expelled. Following King Henry VIII’s expulsion by the Pope, the reformation of English churches began. Many different religious groups were formed, one being called the Separatists. Sadly, those who did not follow the Church of England were subject to prosecution. Many of the Separatists endured persecution and decided to move to Holland to live a more peaceful life.

Close to 12 years later, after discussing with the congregation that remained in England, the Separatists agreed they would move once again to Virginia, America and with an agreement with the Virginia Company, the Separatists sold up their belongings to buy a ship called the Speedwell. The Virginia Company offered investment for those who wished to help set up colonies on the North Coast of America in return for establishing trade links. The Separatists that were still living in England hired a ship called the Mayflower.

In 1620 the Speedwell set sail from Delfshaven, Holland to England to meet the Mayflower in Southampton. From the start there were concerns about the Speedwell as it had already needed repairs after acquiring a leak; regardless of this, on the 15th August both ships set sail. It did not take long for the Speedwell to begin taking on water again and the ships were diverted to Bayards Cove in Dartmouth. Following further repairs on the Speedwell, the two boats set sail once more, but unfortunately this second attempt was scuppered, 300 miles clear of Land’s End, the Speedwell started leaking again, causing the boats to turn back and head for Plymouth.

Eventually the Speedwell was deemed unfit for the voyage, and finally, on the 16th September, the Mayflower began its journey to America. The ship was blown off course by winter storms and instead of landing in New Virginia, it laid anchor on 21st November in Cape Harbour, now known as Provincetown. After realising this area was not going to be a suitable place to settle, the ship and those on board changed route and discovered land that had been left uninhabited after an outbreak of plague, deciding this to be the place to set up home, they had finally ended their voyage in Plymouth Bay, Massachusetts.

The Colony settled well, forming relationships with Native Americans and following their first plentiful harvest, had a three day celebration which has become widely known as the first Thanksgiving.