On 23 August 1620, an iconic ship on a momentous journey docked in the picturesque English harbour town of Dartmouth, Devon. The ship was the Mayflower, and the dozens of passengers it carried were preparing to establish a new colony in the New World, America.
Dartmouth boasted deep waters and a strong tradition of shipbuilding and repairs (the name of one of its oldest thoroughfares, Smith Street, was inspired by the talented local smiths and shipwrights). The town – specifically Bayard's Cove – was therefore an ideal place for the 180-ton Mayflower and her smaller companion, the Speedwell, to drop anchor when the latter required urgent maintenance. As a result, Dartmouth is distinguished as one of the last places in England the colonists ever saw.
The Speedwell had recently brought a small number of English separatist Puritans home from the Netherlands, where they'd fled to escape religious persecution only to face severe financial and social struggles. Now they and others like them were convinced their destiny was to create a new religious community in America, living simply and worshipping devotedly. The group ultimately founded Plymouth Colony, the first permanent settlement by Europeans in New England. Its 40 or so members are celebrated as the Pilgrim Fathers. Dartmouth's Pilgrim Hill is a reminder of the town's connection with these historic figures.
When they arrived in Dartmouth, the odds were stacked against the Pilgrims and their fellow colonists reaching their destination, as the Speedwell's condition was deteriorating rapidly. One of the organisers of the ambitious voyage, Robert Cushman, lamented that the vessel was 'as open, and leaky as a sieve'. That certainly didn't bode well for crossing the Atlantic. Dartmouth's industrious workmen carried out repairs during a make-or-break period for the colonists. At the end of August, the Speedwell was pronounced seaworthy again and set off for America with the Mayflower.
A mystery associated with the Speedwell could challenge even private detective Hercule Poirot's 'little grey cells' (the holiday home of Poirot's creator, Agatha Christie, was Greenway House, several miles up the River Dart from Dartmouth). Despite its robust repairs, the ship began leaking again before it had left the English coast behind. Pilgrim William Bradford, who later earned the title of Governor of the Plymouth Colony, suspected that the crew were sabotaging the vessel. Bradford believed that they 'ploted this strategem to free themselves' from the struggles of travelling to the New World.
There was no choice but to leave the Speedwell behind. Many of its passengers joined those on the Mayflower and continued to sail to America, now in cramped conditions. After a treacherous journey, the Mayflower reached Cape Cod, Massachusetts, on 21 November, and a crucial chapter in Anglo-American history began.
The first area of southeast Massachusetts to be settled was named after Dartmouth.
On display in Bayard's Cove is a plaque presented to Dartmouth in 1955 by descendants of the Mayflower's passengers, commemorating the period the ship was moored there. Referring to the Mayflower Compact (the colonists' rules for self-governance that paved the way for the United States Constitution), the plaque emphasises, 'Dartmouth took part in establishing civil and religious liberty'.
The town will play a leading role in the Mayflower 400, a series of exciting events planned to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the famous vessel's voyage in 2020. Dartmouth's residents and visitors will witness the 'return' of the Mayflower when a stunning replica drops anchor in Bayard's Cove.
The replica Mayflower is set to be joined by around 100 other vessels, highlighting the town's rich seafaring heritage and creating an unforgettable spectacle.
In the run-up to 2020 and beyond, Dartmouth's profile is bound to grow and grow. What's more, the Mayflower's anniversary will undoubtedly strengthen the bonds between the UK and US. As the team behind the Mayflower 400 celebrations in Dartmouth points out, around 1.5 million Americans are interested in visiting the UK as a result of the anniversary.
Now is the ideal time to purchase a presumed title with a small parcel of land (20 cm x 20 cm) in Devon's historic harbour town. Thanks to our Seated Titles, you'll not only be legally able to call yourself Lord and Lady (or another title of your choice – there are 15 title options) but also own a piece of Anglo-American history. Treating yourself to a Seated Title, with its close connection to Dartmouth, is a fantastic way to enhance your social status.
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Another advantage of Seated Titles is that the land parcel is inheritable so can be passed on to your children or anyone else you choose in your Will.
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"Just wanted to thank you for organising this gift. I love that you dated the Certificate (for the party date)! Such a nice idea. And xxx and xxx loved the gift. They thought it quintessentially English, a great memory of their 15 years in the UK and something that would be a hit in America. Good luck with your business.
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