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24 MAYFLOWER 400


In 1620, the Mayflower and the Speedwell set sail from Southampton for the New World with Pilgrims, passengers and crew onboard but they were forced to put into Dartmouth to repair the leaking Speedwell. Dartmouth was a thriving port at that time, with several shipyards that employed skilled shipwrights that could undertake the repair work.The ship was “thorowly searcht from steme to steme [and] some leaks were found & mended”; and then they waited several days for a fair wind. When they set sail again the Speedwell continued to leak, so they returned to Plymouth. “No spetiall leake could be founde”, but the Speedwell was abandoned, and the Mayflower set off alone. According to William Bradford’s account, the Speedwell’s master and crew “ploted this strategem to free themselves”.


During 2020, in common with 11 other destinations throughout the UK, Netherlands and the US, Dartmouth commemorated 400 years since the Pilgrims set sail for America, and the part our town played in that story. The commemoration included a programme of activities, much disrupted by Covid, that were designed to leave a long-lasting legacy reminding present-day audiences of our connections that stretch long into the past. The successful 2020 projects include the publication of ‘Stories of the Mayflower’, a book written by children for children, with funds from the sales supporting students in our local schools to go and explore our area. The town also saw the opening of the Mayflower Heritage Trail (see opposite). The town was decorated with 5300+ pennants in the summer of 2020, of which some will be seen again in the summer of 2021, so look out for these! You can find the ‘Stories of the Mayflower’ book for sale at the Dartmouth Visitor Centre.


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