Meet the Mayflower

The year 2020 marks the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower from Plymouth UK to its namesake in Massachusetts USA. With a gallery situated in the historic Barbican quarter of the city, here at Whistlefish we have taken a keen interest in this unique legacy of the passengers and crew who undertook this ground breaking voyage.

We thought this was a fantastic opportunity to delve a bit deeper into the history of this famous ship.


More than 30 million people can trace their ancestry to the people aboard the Mayflower when it landed in Plymouth Bay, Massachusetts, in the harsh winter of 1620.

The origins of these passengers can be traced across England and in the Netherlands – as illustrated by the interactive map below.


Importantly, the Pilgrims were not the first to land in America, nor did they discover it. There were already established colonies at the time, not least Jamestown – founded in 1607. But the Mayflower story is renowned for its themes of freedom and humanity – including the relationships first formed between the Native American Wampanoag tribe and the colonists and the first Thanksgiving.

The Mayflower was an English Ship that transported the first pilgrims from Plymouth to the New World of what would become the United States of America in September 1620. 

The journey was due to start a month earlier, with the Mayflower initially setting sail alongside a sister ship, the Speedwell around August 5th having picked up passengers in London in July. Sadly the Speedwell sprang a leak on 2 separate occasions and the Mayflower had no choice but to make the voyage on her own.

After taking on board a number of the passengers from the stricken Speedwell, the Mayflower finally left Plymouth with 102 passengers plus a crew of 25 to 30 officers and men. 

The passage was a miserable one, with huge waves constantly crashing against the ship's topside deck, fracturing a key structural support timber. The passengers had already suffered agonising delays, shortages of food, and other shortages, and they were now called upon to provide assistance to the ship's carpenter in repairing the ship as the amount of damaged areas increased. 


After 2 months at sea, on November 9, 1620, they sighted present-day Cape Cod. They spent several days trying to sail south to their planned destination of the Colony of Virginia, where they had obtained permission to settle from the Company of Merchant Adventurers.

However, strong winter seas forced them to return to the harbour at Cape Cod hook, well north of the intended area, where they anchored on November 11. The settlers wrote and signed the Mayflower Compact after the ship dropped anchor at Cape Cod, in what is now Provincetown Harbour.

The Pilgrim ship Mayflower has a famous place in American history as a symbol of early European colonisation of the future United States. You can find out more about the planned celebrations in the Plymouth area from the Mayflower 400 website.  

We are delighted to announce we have created a set of prints, cards and gifts that celebrate this momentous voyage. The 2 art prints and cards are already available to purchase through Whistlefish and will be followed by a selection of Mayflower themed gifts, due to launch in the coming months. 

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