Monday, May 6, 2013

English Towns Clash Over Mayflower History

Mayflower II - Replica of the original ship
According to the UK newspaper the Telegraph, as the 400 year anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower from England to Massachusetts approaches in 2020, two English towns are clashing over exactly which can claim to be the place from where the famous ship originated. Although the city of Plymouth has generally been more associated with the Mayflower and its 1620 voyage to New England, the town of Harwich in Essex also asserts to have significant historical ties to the ship and voyage.

In fact, supporters of the Harwich claim to the Mayflower state that their town was the ship’s original home port, the place where she was constructed, and the home town of her captain. However, Plymouth’s connection to the ship came when the Speedwell, the second ship hired to make the trans-Atlantic trip, sprung a leek. The Mayflower and the Speedwell then needed to backtrack to Plymouth to transfer the passengers onto the Mayflower. From there the vessel set sail in September of 1620 to ultimately etablish one of the seminal American colonies. Hence, some claim that Plymouth’s only historical connection to the ship and the voyage came about due to an unlucky accident.

Furthermore, a charity called the Harwich Mayflower Project has set the multi-million dollar goal of building a replica of the ship which would sail from Essex to New England in time for the 400 year anniversary. Funders of this project have made the claim that their efforts have been hindered by the unfortunate fact that most people only associate the city of Plymouth with the Mayflower.

The whole conflict has motivated funders of the Harwich Mayflower claim to attempt to assert legal ownership of the first voyage of any new Mayflower replica. This would hinder the ability of the city of Plymouth to cash in on what is expected to be a high exposure anniversary event. The Harwich project is declaring their right to both the name and any merchandise associated with the upcoming celebration.

I found the article and the conflict highly entertaining. I suppose Plymouth really gets connected to the Mayflower because the settlers named their colony after the city they left from. Most people probably just assume that’s the whole story. I guess I would not find the fight as entertaining if I were from either Plymouth or Harwich. Although the 2020 anniversary of the Mayflower and Plymouth colony may not be on everyone’s minds quite yet, I will certainly be looking forward to it and any other further developments in this battle to claim a piece of New England history.


  1. I was recently lucky enough to be one of twelve people to tour the Mayflower II in drydock in Fairhaven. It is undergoing major, unplanned repairs and hopes to be back in its spot in Plymouth, Massachusetts harbor soon for the summer tourist season. Without these repairs it will not last until 2020. One of the other members of my tour was Joe Meany. He was a 17 year old cabin boy during the 1957 voyage from England to Massachusetts. I spotted him in your film above. He is still spry, and enjoyed the tour.

    1. Well, I am happy the Mayflower II is being repaired. I had not even considered that plans were already underway for the 2020 celebration, but I'm glad they are. That's very interesting about the man on your tour. I hope I am still going out of my way to experience and interact with history when I'm in my 70's.