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The Pilgrim’s Passage

the pilgrim's passage

The Pilgrim’s Passage of 1620

At this time of year it is traditional to cast our thoughts to the colonists who founded America. Although the story of pilgrims leaving Britain is well known it is sometimes difficult to imagine. However, in the county of Devon in the South West of England lies a beautiful small town called Dartmouth. Dartmouth nestles close to the open sea amongst the wooded green hills alongside the delightful River Dart. It remains a small but significant historic town of England and was an important trading port for nearly 900 years. In times gone by traders and sailors left Dartmouth to travel and explore the world.

It was here, in 1620, that the Mayflower and her sister ship the Speedwell put in for repairs after the latter took on leaks. The ships sheltered in Bayards Cove, which was the location of the working port on the river Dart at the time.


the pilgrims passage

The Historic frontage of Bayards Cove in Dartmouth, Devon showing where the Mayflower put in for repairs before her historic journey to America in 1620.


What is remarkable is that today little here has changed since the reign of Henry VIII. Alongside Dartmouth’s distinctive sea frontage some of the houses, riverside pubs and establishments look the same as they did in the 17th Century. Somehow, one can be transported back to a time when one hundred and two Puritans who became known as ‘the Pilgrim Fathers’ boarded the Mayflower.


the pilglrim's passage

Cross Section of the Mayflower


The Pilgrim’s Passage

After leaving Dartmouth the Mayflower made one final call at the dock in Plymouth and then set sail from there alone on 16th September 1620 bound for the New World and America. The 90-foot Mayflower encountered rough seas and storms and was blown more than 500 miles off course. The ship was headed for Virginia, but was forced further North along the eastern seaboard. After a 66-day voyage, the ship landed on 21st November on the tip of Cape Cod. This is now Provincetown, Massachusetts and it was here that the survivors founded the first permanent European settlement in New England.


the pilgrims passage

Bayards Cove with its cobbled quay and its own fort looks out onto the River Dart and the open sea beyond.


When I look out to sea from the cobbled streets of Bayards Cove and I smell the sea air, a tiny part of that incredible story becomes somehow more tangible. In only 5 years time the 400th anniversary of that historic event will be celebrated in Dartmouth.


Copyright Cap’n Redders (Ian Redwood 23rd November 2016)

Main Image of the Mayflower and Speedwell PaulBarclayDesigns


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