Explore the Mayflower Trail

Refuge in Leiden

On 12 February 1609 the city government of Leiden granted 100 English religious refugees permission to settle in Leiden. In 1620 a group of these radical refugees left for America as Pilgrims and founded Plymouth Colony there. Most of the roughly hundred Pilgrims who found refuge in Leiden had previously lived off small-scale agriculture in England. Upon arrival in Leiden, they could immediately start working in the city’s textile industry – among the largest in Europe at the time.

A colony of their own

Most Pilgrims had little trouble integrating into this dynamic, multicultural society, and as a result their leaders feared that the group would eventually lose its religious and cultural identity. The establishment of a private colony to which they could retreat and where they could sustain their pure faith community became an increasingly enticing solution. Moreover it was economically attractive for many to leave the arduous textile industry, and build up a new life and home by cultivating new lands in the wilderness of North America.


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  • mayflowerRoute.png Route of Mayflower
  • Pilgrim & Crew Hometowns
  • Mayflower & Speedwell Destinations
  • Route of Speedwell
  • Route of Mayflower

Mayflower Highlights

Leiden, Holland

Leiden, Holland

Leiden in Holland was a city of free-thinkers, relative religious tolerance, and a long tradition of offering shelter to the dispossessed. Following their escape from England, the Mayflower Pilgrims carved new lives here, bought land near Pieterskerk and built houses that became known as the Engelse poort (English Alley). Living here for 12 years, Leiden had a profound influence on the lives of the Pilgrims - even after their departure. 'Civil marriage' was one innovation that the Pilgrims took with them to the new world. Led by John Robinson, the group of refugees were granted leave to settle in the city - the request was answered with... “No honest persons will be refused free and unconstrained entry to the city to take up residence”. From 1620 some of the Pilgrim community emigrated from Leiden to North America.

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