The Mayflower

We have been studying the history of the Pilgrims in England in previous years leading up to Thanksgiving.  This year, in the six weeks leading up to Thanksgiving we will take a look at the Mayflower voyage and landing.

We will begin by actually looking at the ship, The Mayflower.

The Mayflower was the ship that transported those early Puritans to the New World in 1620.

painting of the Mayflower by William Halsall {1882}

We are not sure why it was called the Mayflower, but it is believed that a mayflower was carved on the stern of the ship. A mayflower is a popular hawthorn flower, popular in England.

The Mayflower is described as “a typical English merchant ship of the early 17th Century.” By 1620, she was nearing the end of her life on the sea after fifteen years.

The Mayflower was designated as being “of Harwich.” While it’s unknown exactly where she was built, it is believed likely that she launched in Harwich.

The vessel had three mast, known as the mizzen {aft], main {midship} and fore {spiritsail} in the bow area.

The ship also featured three primary levels, the main deck, gun deck and cargo hold.

The Mayflower was a vessel that typically transported as it’s cargo, wine, and dry goods. The Mayflower could freight about 180 tons of cargo.

Captain Christopher Jones became the master of The Mayflower eleven years before the Pilgrim’s made their voyage. Before purchasing The Mayflower, he owned a ship named Josian, after his wife.

picture of Mayflower II, a replica of the original ship

The first records documenting Christopher Jones as the owner of the Mayflower date back to August 1609. It is believed that he bought the vessel in 1607. The first documented voyage of the vessel was to Trondheim, Normway in 1609. The ship mainly made voyages after this to Bordeaux, France, but occasional voyages are known to have been made to Malaga, Spain and Hamburg, Germany.

By 1620, Jones owned a quarter share of the ship, along with three other men {Christopher Nichols, Robert Child, and Thomas Short}.

In the Port Books of England, during the reign of James I, there are actually twenty-six vessels bearing the name Mayflower. To identify The Mayflower that transported the Pilgrims, the master, Captain Jones, is used to identify the vessel.

The Mayflower does not appear in records again until May 4, 1624. This is two years after the death of Christopher Jones and the ship is lying in The Thames in disrepair. Common belief holds that the ship has not sailed since the death of it’s master. The ship is appraised for Captain Jones estate.

What happened to the Mayflower is unknown for sure, as the records do not tell us. However, tradition claims it was dismantled and used to construct a barn in South Buckinghamshire in 1624. This barn is known as the Mayflower Barn and while at one time open to the public, it is not privately owned and not open to the public. This is based on oral tradition and no documentation has ever been found to support or deny this claim.

A second ship named Mayflower, which was not the same vessel used in 1620, transported numerous early settlers from London to the Plymouth Colony from 1629 until a disposition was made in England in 1642 regarding its loss at sea.

Mayflower II, a replica of the ship, is available to tour at Plimoth Plantation. This reproduction took about two years to build.

Harwich is also working on a replica of the ship that they hope to raise enough money to finish building and retrace the journey across the Atlantic Ocean for the 400th Anniversary of the voyage in 2020.


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