15 August 1620

Edward Moran (1829 -1901), Embarkation of the Pilgrims from Southhampton 1620

It was 400 years ago today that two ships sailed from Southampton (UK) for America – Mayflower and Speedwell. The ships that left Southampton carried the Separatists and the Strangers.

Leaving Leiden, July 22, 1620

The Separatists had left UK because of religious persecution in 1608, and had settled in Leiden, Netherlands. After 12 years they were disillusioned by their life and their ability to practice religion freely and decided to move to America. They sold all their belongings, bought the Speedwell and sailed from Leiden for Southampton on July 22, 1620.

Pilgrim memorial Southampton, UK

They met up with more Separatists, and people who were moving for non-religious reasons, known as Strangers, in Southampton. The Speedwell had developed a leak in its journey from Leiden and needed repairs. While the repairs happened, the Speparatists lived on what is now known as Pilgrim Hill. They stocked up necessary supplies from merchants in Southampton before leaving on this long and unknown journey.

Arthur Welling Fowles (1815- 1883), Mayflower leaving Southampton 1881

It was on August 15, 1620, after Speedwell was fixed that both ships sailed. The journey, however, was cut short when Speedwell developed another leak after sailing for about 300 miles into the ocean. She was considered unsafe, and both ships turned around and headed towards Plymouth, UK.

Speedwell cannot make the journey

Speedwell had already been repaired, and at this point was considered not safe to make the transatlantic journey. Some Separatists abandoned the idea completely and returned to Leiden, other remained in Plymouth, and the rest got on board the iconic Mayflower which sailed into the ocean and into history a month later.

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