Plymouth, England

The Mayflower and Speedwell were 300 miles clear of Land's End when the smaller ship once more began leaking badly and couldn't risk continuing. They turned about for Plymouth.

By this time, the cramped, damp and miserable passengers had already spent up to six weeks at sea basically getting nowhere, with a fair wind and good fortune they would have hoped to be closing on their destination by then. The Speedwell was finally declared unfit for the journey. Some of the Pilgrims dropped out; the remainder crowded onto the Mayflower, which required re-provisioning, despite funds running low.

She left on 16 September with up to 30 crew and 102 passengers on board. Just under half of them were Separatists, the rest were 'economic migrants' - skilled tradespeople sent by the investors to help build the new colony.

It is believed the Pilgrims received a warm welcome in Plymouth. Those that did not live on board ship probably stayed in or visited houses around the quay such as Island House and the Elizabethan House. These buildings still stand today.

Island House, situated on Southside Street, dates from between 1572 and 1600 and is reputed to be one of the houses the Pilgrims were entertained in prior their departure for the New World.

The Elizabethan House, situated on New Street, was called London House when it was built in the 1580s. It may have been the Plymouth offices of the London Company of Virginia. Today it is called the Elizabethan House because it was built in the time of Queen Elizabeth I.

The Protestant community were also sympathetic to the Pilgrims cause. Plymouth had a long Protestant tradition and the port had been previously used as a base for fighting Protestant England's war against Catholic Europe.

Furthermore, Plymouth people were deeply interested in the Pilgrims destination. When the Speedwell and Mayflower anchored in Plymouth, many families in the town had seen their men sail off to fishing grounds in New England and Newfoundland. They were probably aware too that the end of August was too late to set sail across the Atlantic and their men were due to return home.

The ship-builders in Plymouth said the Speedwell was unfit to cross the Atlantic, the Mayflower would therefore have to travel alone. There was not enough room for everyone on board one ship but, by then, some Pilgrims had already lost heart or were simply too weak and sick to continue the journey by sea

Visiting Plymouth

Plymouth - Britain's Ocean City

Plymouth has a reputation as a centre for voyage, discovery and military importance. For more than a thousand years the spectacular waterfront has been a port of call or point of departure for adventurers, emigrants, merchant traders, soldiers and sailors. Including of course the departure point of the Mayflower, marked by the Mayflower Steps.

The stunning views over Plymouth Sound from the Hoe will literally take your breath away. Take a boat trip our into the Sound - as the Pilgrims did - for amazing views back over the city.

Plymouth today is a melting pot of historical sites, memorials and museums - alongside a vibrant cultural scene, stunning places to eat and some of England's finest beaches are never far away!

Sightseeing in Plymouth is easily done of foot - explore the Barbican, Sutton Harbour, Royal William Yard and the Hoe. Volunteer tour guides 'One Small Candle' offer a friendly meet and greet service and act as Pilgrim Ambassadors.  

When in Devon - a cream tea is a must!

Also, visitors should head over the Tamar Bridge into Poldark's Cornwall - for more fabulous coastline, great seafood restaurants and attractions including the Eden Project.


Plymouth Mayflower Highlights

  • Mayflower Events
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  • Accommodation
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