On the 16th of September 1620, the pilgrims set sail from Plymouth in Devon to establish a colony in North America. Landing at Cape Cod close to Boston, Massachusetts, they called the spot they came ashore, Plymouth Bay; today, it is marked with a stone known as Plymouth Rock.
Now, 400 years later in 2020, events to mark the occasion are taking place all the way across Devon and the rest of the UK at a number of destinations. Our helpful guide of highlights will give you an insight into the variety and scope of activities being organised in Devon to commemorate this significant chapter in British, Dutch and American History.
Why not coincide a visit to Devon with one or more of the events, so you can experience first-hand the Mayflower story? We have self-catering cottages all over Devon from dog-friendly cottages, coastal accommodation and atmospheric townhouses tucked away in fishing villages. Visit our collection of holiday homes in Devon today.
Step back in time
The ship that took the settlers across the Atlantic to the New World was called the Mayflower. The 120 seafarers consisted of those who were seeking religious expression and a new beginning far away from home. It’s a fascinating reality that over 30 million of today’s Americans can trace their lineage back to those that arrived aboard the Mayflower back in 1620.
The impact the British and Dutch colonists would go on to have on the New World would change the course of history and impact the lives of the Native Americans who had lived on the sub-continent for hundreds of years. Plymouth Bay was not the first colony in North American, however, their story is the basis for the American holiday Thanksgiving, when ties were formed between the local Native American Wampanoag tribe when the latter helped the pilgrims through their first harsh winter.
What became of the Mayflower though? It’s an enduring mystery, as there’s so little written about the ship’s retirement. Scholars have yet to verify whether or not some of the ship's timber may have been re-used to construct the Mayflower Barn at Old Jordans in Hertfordshire. The story to uncover the true course of the ship's demise continues.
1 April – Brixham
The Mayflower II is a replica of the original ship built in the 1950s. Seaworthy and built to scale, the ship was built in Brixham, Devon and spent much of its life in New York and Boston. It has been back and forth to Devon on a few occasions between 2014 and present. You can buy limited tickets for a tour on 1st April 2020.
May 2020 - onwards
Located at Plymouth’s new cultural hub, The Box (opening in May 2020), there will be an exhibition and displays to illustrate the Mayflower’s story. The colonists’ cultural impact will be explored via exhibits collected from archives all around the world. Co-curated with the Wampanoag Advisory Committee to Plymouth 400 in the USA, it will feature 300 items. These include the very first Bible printed in America, the last known record of the Mayflower and the first piece of Wampanoag art commissioned by the city.
The focal point of the exhibition will be a 3:2 scale replica of the vessel that sailed to North America in 1620 - together with the lifelines of the 102 passengers on board. The life stories of up to 1,200 living Mayflower descendants will be displayed in the gallery.
27th – 28th June 2020
Love boating? To celebrate the anniversary of the Mayflower’s departure, you can watch (or even take part in if you have a classic yacht) the regatta on the River Dart in Dartmouth. Two days of events can be enjoyed that includes races for classic and traditional boats designed before 1975. The weekend is organised by the Royal Dart Yacht Club.
30th August 2020
This boating event will signify the transition between the Dartmouth Royal Regatta 2020 and a full week of Mayflower commemorations. Witness the Matthew of Bristol, in the role part of the Mayflower, which will be the star piece of the armada. The Brixham Trawler Pilgrim will accompany the Matthew in a supporting turn as the Speedwell.
29th August – Great Torrington near Bideford
Every 4 years, at the end of August, the citizens of Great Torrington burn something big. In 2016 they burnt a life-size version of the Trumpton (a children’s TV show from the 1970s). In 2020, they have constructed a replica of the Mayflower and they are to set it aflame. Entry is free and it’s a great excuse to head to North Devon to mark the 400th anniversary. This event is organised by the Torrington Cavaliers.
14th to 20th September – Plymouth
The Mayflower Week in Plymouth heralds an awesome programme of events put together to mark the occasion. A high point is a visit from the Matthew, which is a replica 15th-century tall ship. The Royal Marines Rehabilitation Triathlon, and the double headlining events, the Mayflower Ceremony and the Muster.
16th September - Plymouth
The ceremony, which will take place on the 16th of September is a four-nation ceremony commemorating the ship's journey and legacy. It will be attended by representatives from the UK, US, Netherlands and the Wampanoag Nation. There will be schools and mass participation elements, it’s a great day out for residents and visitors alike.
19th to 20th September
The Navy celebrates Plymouth's heritage as one of the world's foremost Naval bases - with a heritage dating back to 1691. In partnership with American and Dutch Armed Forces, this fantastic event includes live demonstrations and marches, so visitors can see the navy at their most dashing. Witness a spectacular gathering of military warships out in Plymouth Sound.
Keep an eye on local press because more details, itineraries and programme information are added as the event dates get closer. Most of the events are listed on the Mayflower 400 organisation. More Mayflower events are being introduced all the time. All event details are subject to change and many are weather dependent. In all cases check local press and websites for details.
Why not stay in a holiday cottage in Devon close to one of these fabulous Mayflower events? We have cosy accommodation for couples and larger properties for family groups and friend reunions. Visit our collection of self-catering holiday homes today to find your perfect place to stay in Devon.
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Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing,
please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.