Mayflower

The Mayflower carried the Pilgrim Fathers across the Atlantic to Plymouth in 1620

On the death of Queen Elizabeth 1st, James 1st became king and immediately installed the Protestant faith as the one true religion for England and Scotland; all other religions were discouraged or barred.

In Nottinghamshire, members of the Puritan Separatist Church became increasingly concerned that they were unable to practice their religion and, to avoid fines and persecution, members of the church left England in secrecy and set up a community in Holland. The 'separatists' as they became known found it difficult to settle due to cultural and language differences and yearned for a home of their own.

The answer to their problem came via an English stock company that offered to pay for settlers to found a new colony in Virginia to protect their interests in North America.

On the 16th September 1620, 102 men and women including 35 Puritan separatists sailed from Plymouth in Devon on a ship called the Mayflower captained by Myles Standish.

Conditions on board the Mayflower were harsh with very little food or water and cramped living quarters. The Pilgrim Fathers faced violent storms that led many of the pilgrims to become overcome by seasickness. Despite the harrowing conditions there was only one death, William Butten of Austerfield, perhaps even more surprising was there was also one birth aboard, a boy Oceanus Hopkins.

In addition to the harsh conditions the 35 Puritan separatists clashed with the other passengers on board due to their religious differences but to avert further problems the Mayflower Compact was signed establishing the rights of non-Puritans, this document formed the basis for government of the new colony.

The Mayflower was blown off course by a violent storm and failed to reach Virginia but they finally, after 66 days at sea, dropped anchor in Plymouth Sound on November 21st, 1620.

In December, the Pilgrim Fathers landed at Cape Cod and decided that they would stay, by the 21st December they had established their own government in the New Plymouth colony.

Life in the new colony that first winter was severe with over half of the original settlers dying from a combination of poor food, illness and the severe weather. The remainder survived mainly due to their own perseverance and help from local Indians.

The following year in November 1621 the established community celebrated its first Thanksgiving, a tradition that still takes place in the USA to this day, almost 400 years later.