The Mayflower story and Southwark’s role in that historic voyage are deeply intertwined. Rotherhithe has a long seafaring and ship building history and was the place where Christopher Jones, the captain and part owner of the ship, and many of the crew lived.
In July 1620 the Mayflower sailed from Rotherhithe to join another ship, the Speedwell, coming from Holland in Southampton. When the Speedwell sprang a serious leak the ships were forced to stop in Plymouth where passengers and provisions were crowded onto the Mayflower. Carrying something like 150 passengers and crew she set off again on 6 September 1620.
The Mayflower carried not only those escaping religious persecution (the “Saints”) but also other people who are perhaps less familiar in the popular imagination.
The majority of passengers were going for non-religious reasons and were making the journey because they were servants, merchant adventurers or traders, known as the “Strangers”. All of them were counted as Pilgrims. In addition there was the crew, a few of whom we know for certain were from Rotherhithe but it is likely others were too.
After an arduous journey to America, a terrible winter, sickness and hardship the ship and surviving crew returned to Rotherhithe.
Jones died, worn out by the hardships and was buried at St Mary’s church. The Mayflower may also have ended her life in Rotherhithe too and was most likely broken up a few years later as Rotherhithe was also a ship breaking port.