From November 2019, a year-long commemoration marks the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower’s epic journey in bringing pilgrims to the New World.
Towns and cities across the UK will mark this historic voyage with a series of events, from large scale festivals to art installations and community-driven activities. There will also be a series of events in Leiden, the Netherlands where a number of pilgrims settled before heading to America on the Mayflower’s sister ship, the Speedwell. The Mayflower’s legacy shines bright in our collective history, seen in the 30 million people across the world descended from 102 pioneering pilgrims and crew who risked everything in the name of freedom.
The 400th anniversary kicks off in participating towns and cities with Illuminate, a light festival connecting all of the “Mayflower 400” destinations in the UK and abroad, between 28 November - 01 December 2019.
In the early 1600s, Leiden was known for its free-thinking and religious tolerance, which is why the pilgrims sought refuge here before going to America, when their own religious freedoms were condemned in England. Leiden is dotted with historic nods to the pilgrims, including the Vrouwekerk (Walloon Church) and the American Pilgrim Museum. For the Mayflower celebrations, Leiden is hosting a year-long “Meet Your Pilgrim Relative” booth in 2020, inviting visitors to explore their pilgrim heritage, and a pilgrim walking tour through the city’s historic streets.
Not to be confused with Boston “Beantown”, USA, it’s here in this Lincolnshire town that in a group of English Separatists, known as pilgrims, were thrown in jail when they were caught trying to escape across the North Sea in search of religious freedom. Today, visitors can walk through the old jail cells that held these rebel pilgrims in the town’s Guildhall. Aside from its very own Illuminate Parade on 21 November 2019, Boston is also hosting a marathon in tandem with the American Boston Marathon on 19 April 2020, as well as a reenactment of the 1607 Separatists’ story on the same day.
Edward Winslow, one of the 102 founding fathers who sailed from Plymouth to America, was born and schooled in Worcester, and went on to become Governor at Plymouth Colony in the USA. Worcester is hosting a Living History Weekend 15-16 February 2020 featuring historical reenactments and also curating a Mayflower exhibition 11 January-14 November 2020 at the Worcester City Art Gallery and Museum, detailing Edward Winslow’s story.
Southampton is where, in August 1620, the Mayflower joined the Speedwell coming from Leiden, before continuing on to Plymouth and then America. To commemorate its place in the Mayflower’s history, Southampton is putting on a series of events throughout 2020, including a Musical Odyssey at the Mayflower Theatre featuring 600 young musicians (5-6 March 2020) and a Maritime Festival (14-16 August 2020) that will include the unveiling of a renovated Mayflower memorial, a boat parade and city-wide Mayflower exhibitions.
London, Greater London
London’s Southwark docks have a long and rich seafaring history, including being a stopover for the Mayflower before it left Plymouth for the New World. Rotherhithe, in Southwark, is where the Mayflower’s captain, Christopher Jones, and many of his crew lived. Visitors can soak up some history and a few pints at The Mayflower pub in Rotherhithe, located on the site where the Mayflower took on board additional pilgrims before sailing to Plymouth. London’s Mayflower 400 events include Splash 2020, a concert at the Royal Festival Hall featuring 500 Southwark children on 24 June 2020 and a Mayflower walking tour on 29 July 2020.
Plymouth was the final English departure point for the Mayflower and is hosting an array of events In honour of the city’s close ties with the pilgrim voyagers. These include the opening of the Mayflower walking trail 1 April 2020, Mayflower History Festival 8-31 May 2020 and Mayflower week 14-20 September 2020, featuring a special celebratory ceremony on 16 September, the day the Mayflower finally set sail for America.
Further Mayflower anniversary events will take place in Scrooby and Babworth, Nottinghamshire; Austerfield, Doncaster; Dartmouth, Devon; Gainsborough, Lincolnshire; Harwich, Essex; Immingham, Lincolnshire; Dorking, Surrey and Chorley, Lancashire. See Mayflower 400 for further details.
Image credits top to bottom: Rigging on old sailing ship iStock ©pgaborphotos, the Galgewater in Leiden iStock ©Borisb17, Worcester Cathedral iStock ©Johnnieb, Mayflower plaque Flickr Commons ©Matt Brown