Funds awarded for project to commemorate 400th anniversary of the Mayflower


More than half of a £140,000 fund for projects to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower’s pioneering voyage has been awarded.

The ship’s captain, Christopher Jones, and many of its crew lived in Rotherhithe before they took the Pilgrims to the New World via Plymouth in 1620.

Southwark is one of 13 places across Britain, the Netherlands and the USA set to hold a year-long series of events from November 2019 marking the stories surrounding the Mayflower.

Eight projects have been given funding, including a photojournalism initiative for young people by Club Herop, interactive theatre events from London Bubble and the Illuminate Rotherhithe festival.

Naomi N Dibum, project manager at Club Herop, said the grant will help young people ‘understand the relevance of the Mayflower narrative today and the difficulties faced by the migrants during their journey’.

Illuminate Rotherhithe’s artistic director Annabel Stockman said the money ensured the festival could go ahead through 2019 and 2020 and get a number of other initiatives to encourage community interaction off the ground.

 The Measuring – the first public event took place in September 2018 and saw exactly 132 people adopt a passenger and board a footprint of the Mayflower along with goats, sheep and a shanty choir. Top, Some of the recipients of Mayflower 400 funds

The group will host a mass flotilla of paper boats at the Canada Water lake, a home-made lantern procession and an evening at the Rotherhithe Picture Research Library for locals to share family histories of migration patterns, among other things.

London Bubble will bring together professional artists and volunteers for ‘The Mayflower Inquiry’, a programme of indoor and outdoor performances, including interactive pieces and dramatisations of historical events.

President of the Rotherhithe and Bermondsey Local History Society, Michael Daniels, said he was “delighted” to go ahead with a series of walks and talks about the Mayflower in Rotherhithe in the summer of 2020.

The fund is run in partnership with Southwark council, British Land and the United St Saviour’s Charity. Cllr Rebecca Lury, deputy leader of Southwark council, said the applicants so far were “impressive” but there is still £60,000 left to be awarded.

“I would encourage any local group, school or other interested party who have a project which is connected to the Mayflower, and use the application process on the council’s website to apply for a grant.”

The Mayflower set sail from London in July 1920. After a pause in Plymouth it took off, now groaning under the weight of passengers from a sister ship which had sprung a leak.

The ship famously carried separatist Puritans fleeing religious persecution, but a number of servants, maids and skilled tradespeople known as the ‘Strangers’ would also help build the new colony in modern-day Massachusetts.

After the arduous journey to America and a brutal winter, the ship and surviving crew returned to Southwark in 1621.

A worn-out Capt Jones died just a year later and was buried at St Mary’s Church, Rotherhithe, where there is a commemorative sculpture by Jamie Sargeant.

The Mayflower lay idle by the River Thames, reportedly a “rotting hulk”, for at least two more years before it was decided to be of no more use as a ship and fell to an unknown fate.

Rotherhithe men John Clark, the pilot and Master’s Mate, had Clark’s Island named after him, the Master Christopher Jones had the Jones River named after him and crewman Samuel Ellis had Ellis Island named after him.

John Beauchamp and James Sherley, from Clapham, were two of the original financiers of the Mayflower, Sherley being one of the two treasurers.

In 1626, they were two of the four who took over the financing of the settlers in return for a six-year monopoly of the fur trade with the Native Americans, and the responsibility for procuring the goods that the settlers still needed from England.

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