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HISTORY PiLGRiMS GO ACROSS The SeA


IN 1620 A veRY speCIAL pAIR OF sHIps vIsITeD DARTMOuTH FOR A FeW sHORT DAYs. THese sHIps LINKeD THe TOWN AND THe RIveR DART FOReveR TO THe CReATION OF ONe OF THe WORLD’s GReATesT supeRpOWeRs, AMeRICA.


carried a group of religious refugees, making a bid to create their perfect community in the New World. The group of 120 men and women,


T


who would later become known as the Pilgrim Fathers, had endured prejudice and persecution in Britain for years. They had decided the best chance to preserve their community was a dangerous journey across the sea. The group were risking everything but were strong in faith. Despite what many books will tell


you, the group were nOT Puritans: they would have called themselves “Separatists”. The word ‘Puritan’ had been first used in the 1560s to describe (negatively) a group of religious zealots. By and large those we now see as ‘Puritans’ would never have described themselves as such, and most wanted to stay within the Church of England. Not so those who were aboard the


Speedwell and the Mayflower. The journey to America was so


he Speedwell and the Mayflower were no ordinary ships – they


perilous and life on board so hard, it’s difficult to imagine what it must have been like to embark on such a voyage. They spent more than 60 days in dangerous seas with a high risk of contracting disease or simply disappearing under the waves in stormy weather. To go was often a one-way ticket, almost akin to travelling to live on Mars today. It took courage to get on those ships.


So who were these ‘Separatists’? The group had its origins in the village of Scrooby, nottinghamshire. They began by worshipping secretly in the country home of one William Brewster. They


To go was often a one-way ticket: almost akin to travelling to live on Mars today.


rejected many of the teachings of all the established religious groups and elected their church leaders democratically. They were a group of intelligent, strong and fiercely independent people who simply wanted to be allowed to worship in the way they wished.


This was not a time of tolerance and


they found themselves attacked from every side.


Being most closely linked to the


strict Calvinists - followers of French Theologian John Calvin – the group joined the burgeoning Calvinist community in Leiden in the Netherlands. But tough conditions economically and a fear that the group was losing its identity, inspired a plan to found a new community overseas where there was less chance of interference and


Mayflower II, a replica of the original at Brixham in 1957 shortly before sailing to America via Dartmouth and Plymouth


persecution. A few backers with funds offered


support to a small group to establish a new base overseas. They considered Guiana, where there was already a Dutch colony, but eventually settled on America. However, this was not a simple case of getting supplies, buying a boat and setting sail. The British Crown had already claimed the majority of the Eastern coast of America, so the group had to negotiate a contract to take some of it into their control.


This was made more difficult when William Brewster was implicated in cases of religious dissent in Scotland. Pamphlets he had printed in Leiden were one of the causes of his troubles and a warrant was duly issued for his arrest. He avoided incarceration but one of the trip’s financers was arrested and imprisoned for 14 years.


Despite these problems a contract for land in New England was secured and the


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