Serving the communities of Bures St Mary and Bures Hamlet



History of the Mayflower



History of the "MayFlower"

We all take for granted the Mayflower carried the Pilgrims to the New World, but it would appear this name was used on many vessels working in the UK.
Over 26 vessels of that name, have been listed in Port documents between 1550 and 1620.
The name "May Flower" was chosen, as it was considered a lucky plant to 16th & 17th century Mariners.

Out of all these vessels, which was the genuine one which set sail from Plymouth ?

The name 'Mayflower' was, in fact, very common in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Besides Scottish and Irish 'Mayflowers,' of which there were several, there were 'Mayflowers' belonging to almost every port in England
There were MayFlowers of Aldeburgh, Brightlingsea, Bristol, Chester, Dover, Grimsby, Looe, Lyme, Lynn, Maidstone, Millbrook, Newcastle, Plymouth, Portland, Rye, St. Ives, Sandwich, Scarborough, Shoreham, Southwold, Stockton, Stonehouse, Swansea, York, Weymouth, and Whitby. (total 26)
Although the same ship is not always described as belonging to the same port, some of the larger ports such as Ipswich, London, Newcastle, and Yarmouth, possessed two or even several 'Mayflowers' apiece.
There may well have been forty or fifty 'Mayflowers' existing between 1550 and 1700.

The same ship is frequently described as belonging to different ports. Christopher Jones's 'Mayflower' is described some times as 'of London' and twice as 'of Harwich.' She may nevertheless have been owned in Aldeburgh, Ipswich, or elsewhere.

As regards her connection with Harwich, the port is frequently used by ships bound either to Ipswich or to Aldeburgh.
It`s located at the entrance to the River Orwell which flows onwards to the Port of Ipswich
Likewise, vessels wait at Harwich until the high tide, when they can cross the sand bank at Orford Haven on route to the River Alde and into Aldeburgh.

R.G.Marsden in his book, mentions that "Master Jones and his ship were Whaling at Cherrie Island". He also states, there were other indications pointing to the conclusion that Jones`s Mayflower may have been a "Whaler" before 1610.
Other documents revealed that the Mayflower was purchased from the "Greenland Whale Fishery Company", who had used Harwich as its home base during the Whaling season.

So we can safely conclude, that the "Mayflower" was most likely a Whaler before she was acquired by Christopher Jones, to work from the Port of Harwich.

Master of the MayFlower
Now let us turn to the Master of the ship, Christopher Jones.
The Harwich Society publishes this report of his wedding:-

Few of the guests gathered for the wedding at St Nicholas Church, Harwich on December 23rd 1593 would have had any inkling that the bridegroom was to become a figure of international and historical importance. The young mariner was Christopher Jones and his bride to be Sara Twitt, the 17 year old daughter of his neighbour across the street

Admiralty records indicate on 14 Jan. 1610, Christopher Jones is described as of Harwich, and his ship is called the 'Mayflower' of Harwich.
In 1613 the 'Mayflower,' Christopher Jones as Master, was twice in the Thames, once in July and again in October and November.
Again the Admiralty Court records in 1620 documents, Christopher Jones as "Master" and his 'Mayflower.'

So in conclusion, we have the MayFlower documented as a Harwich Vessel with its Master also living in Harwich.

Christopher Jones instead of carrying wine and other goods, on this journey would be fare paying passengers.
The responsibility was enormous and little did he know, how important the journey ahead would be for generations to come.
Indeed, just one wrong decision and the course of History would have been changed for ever.

Researched Alan Beales
This information has been supplied courtesy of:-

Download:- The Genuine MayFlower by R.G.Marsden

The Mayflower of Harwich by Paul Simmons
Christopher Jones courtesy of the Harwich Society

USA Connections with acknowledgment to Michelle Coughlin
Boston ( Mass) Globe Newspaper 2013
Plymouth 2020
Plimoth Plantation

Published 07/12/2016
updated 11/12/2016, Project on hold
Update 17/08/2017 Harwich Project appears abandoned