The one hundred and two passengers and crew, setting out from their last port of call at Plymouth, on the 6th September 1620, were embarking on a journey which would appear to be the most daunting and perilous by modern nautical standards. Their sailing vessel, already past its prime, and which was to be their home for the next 106 days, was about ninety feet long, twenty five feet across the beam, and twelve and a half feet deep. The weather was going to worsen as winter approached and the cramped, unhygienic living accommodation was accompanied by a deadly virus for which there was no immediate cure or medication, save only perhaps, for their undying commitment to the Bible, the power or prayer, and their fervent belief in God.
Why did they go?
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London in the early seventeenth century was not only the seat of government and religious authority; it was a very important centre for trade and commerce as well as being a flourishing port. The interflow of people in this post-Reformation upheaval, both here, and on the continent, led to an interchange of ideas and communication between those non-conformists who were finding it increasingly more difficult to live by their religious convictions, and still become accepted as members of the community. They were at a time when anyone with maverick views on a biblical interpretation could quite easily become subject to torture, incarceration for a long period of time, or even death at the stake by burning.
A microcosm of seventeenth century life - both spiritual and temporal- was to be found in the adjoining boroughs of Southward and Rotherhithe. Southwark Church was quite important and influential at this time, but it also attracted many outspoken dissenters within its parochial boundary, who could not attempt the official line of the Anglican church.
The everyday hustle of ships and travellers on the Thames must have caused some of those ecclesiastical 'outcasts' to reach the conclusion that their better prospects lay in transmigration to the New World. Their opportunity for the implementation of this dream lay within the adjoining parish of Rotherhithe where there lived a very experienced sea captain - and no doubt spiritual sympathiser to boot- called Christopher Jones. Christopher Jones is buried at Saint Mary's church adjacent to The Mayflower. He selected his crew, again from local mariners, and this amalgamation of professional seafarers, and spiritual idealists resulted in the 'pilgrimage by the sea' of the 'Mayflower', a story of an adventure about bravery, total commitment and religious stoicism.
Rumour has it, to avoid paying mooring taxes Christopher Jones tied up alongside the Mayflower pub and the passengers boarded the ship, which then sailed to Plymouth to pick up the remaining passengers before their voyage to America.