Those Places Thursday: Plymouth England, the Mayflower & the Pilgrims

Click to view the articleI was recently asked by Heather Rojo, a member of the Society of Mayflower Descendants in the State of New Hampshire, if I'd write an article about my home town of Plymouth, England, for their newsletter, The Shallop. I'm no historian but I was very happy to oblige. The full newsletter is available at their website and the article can be viewed by clicking the image on the right. I've also reproduced it below with additional photographs...

There are many references to the Mayflower and the Pilgrims here in Plymouth, England. Our local football team (that's soccer to you) is called Plymouth Argyle but its nickname is the Pilgrims, and the local sports centre is known as The Mayflower Leisure Centre.

The Mayflower Steps Memorial is situated on the Barbican, one of the oldest parts of Plymouth, much of the city having been heavily bombed during WWII. The actual steps that the Pilgrims departed from no longer exist. A granite block set in the pavement was the original memorial, although this was previously set in the roadway. A plaque commemorating the voyage was erected alongside in 1891 and the Doric portico was added in 1934. This in turn is flanked by the American and British flags. Taking a couple of steps through the portico leads to a mini-balcony, built in 2000, which has views out towards Plymouth Sound, the city's vast natural harbour, and to the sea beyond.

The Mayflower Steps
The Mayflower Steps
The Barbican is a popular attraction for tourists with its Tudor buildings and cobbled streets, and the Plymouth Gin Distillery, then a monastery, is said to have been where some of the Pilgrim Fathers spent their last night before leaving on the Mayflower. Others stayed at Island House where there is a plaque on the wall listing the names of the passengers who sailed on the voyage.
Mayflower II was constructed a few miles up the coast from here, in a town called Brixham. It's a pretty little ship but the original must have been very cramped for the Pilgrims. There was an idea mooted a few years ago to build another replica and have her moored here in Plymouth, at Sutton Harbour where the Mayflower Memorial is located, but it didn't come to anything. Another venture was put forward last year and it remains to be seen if this bears fruit. A similar scheme is underway in Harwich in Essex.

part of Plymouth's Modern City Centre
Part of Plymouth's Modern City Centre

Plymouth, with its population of more than 250,000, has been a historic maritime city for centuries and continues to accommodate the Royal Navy at Devonport Dockyard. I was born in Plymouth and have always lived here. There have been numerous apartments built around Sutton Harbour, and the waterfront in general, in the last 20 to 30 years, making Plymouth appear more built-up than I remember as a child.

Despite it's modern day architecture, which in places in my opinion leaves a lot to be desired, the city has some wonderful natural assets on its doorstep; the rugged Dartmoor National Park to the north and north east; the River Tamar to the west separating Devon from Cornwall; numerous beaches and the typical lush green rolling hills of the Devon countryside to the east; and of course the English Channel to the south.

Dartmoor National Park
Part of Dartmoor National Park on a sunny January afternoon

My interest in history has increased since I began researching my family four years ago. Since then, a number of distant cousins have contacted me through my website ( My Plymouth connections date back to the mid 19th century on my mother's side. My 2 x great-grandfather was a stoker in Her Majesty's Royal Navy (Her Majesty Queen Victoria, that is). On my father's side in the early 20th century, one great-grandfather was a coastguard based locally for a time and the other had a dental practice in the city.

Any American family associations are less prolific although I can lay claim to a 5 x great-uncle who emigrated to New York in 1785 and kept a hat store near Broadway. This Stephen Dando evidently met the radical propagandist and pamphleteer, Thomas Paine, shortly before Paine died in 1809.

The rolling hills of the South Hams in South Devon
The rolling hills of the South Hams in South Devon

For those who may be interested, more photographs of the locality are available at my photography website: Britain In Focus

[Why Those Places Thursday? This phrase has been included in the title in order to take part in Daily Blogging Prompts at Geneabloggers]

Category: General

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