About the Map

Welcome to our Mayflower Map: a visual portrayal of the cultural afterlife of the Pilgrims in Britain over the last two centuries.

Historical Overview

Artistic and commemorative interest in the Mayflower really began in the early nineteenth century, after Felicia Hemans penned her hugely popular poem 'The Landing of the Pilgrim Fathers' (1825). Over the next two centuries, many other writers and artists followed suit and used the Mayflower as an inspiration, such as Charles West Cope (who painted a fresco of the Pilgrim Fathers in the new Houses of Parliament in the 1850s) or G.K. Chesterton (who wrote a Pilgrim Fathers poem in 1897). Artistic output like this also encouraged the creation of tourist guides, aimed not just at Americans but Britons too. Using these beautifully-illustrated books, people in the past could trace the Pilgrim sights around the country. One of the earliest was William Henry Bartlett's in 1854, and another nice example was Marcus Huish's in the early 1900s.

Religious communities in Britain, and nonconformists in particular, took the lead in commemoration by the mid-nineteenth century. Encouraged by their brethren across the Atlantic, Congregationalists especially erected churches to honour their connection to the beliefs of the Pilgrims. Southwark's 'Memorial Church of the Pilgrim Fathers' came first in the 1850s, and was joined by Gainsborough's 'John Robinson Memorial Church' in the 1890s. On a smaller scale, lots of churches – and some civic buildings, too – raised money to put in special stained-glass windows that depicted the Pilgrims. One of the earliest was donated to the Plymouth Guildhall in 1874 by the Congregationalist mayor; the latest (that we know about!) was installed in the 1990s in the Church of St Helena, where William Bradford was baptised.

Into the 1890s, with popular enthusiasm in the Pilgrims bubbling up in both Britain and the USA, commemorative plaques and monuments started to be erected all over England. Those on the former homes and churches of the best-known Pilgrims, like William Brewster, came first. Later in the twentieth century, and continuing to the present day, lesser-known Pilgrims, like the Fuller's, have also had their own dedicated tablets. Much of the money for these memorials, especially since the 1950s, has flowed home from Mayflower descendants in the USA. When it comes to monuments, the large ports from whence the Pilgrims sailed have shown the most ambition: the white-stone monument in Southampton (1913) and an even more Classic Doric arch in Plymouth (1934) remain the biggest in Britain. In both cases, they were the result of the enthusiasm of municipal councils and local elites working together to promote pride in their towns.

Widespread interest in the Pilgrims in Britain reached a climax in 1920: the 300th anniversary, or 'Tercentenary', of the voyage. At this moment, all of the groups that had been encouraging the memory of the Pilgrims – religious communities, American descendants, and civic elites – came together for one great celebration. Special religious services or celebrations took place across the country, from small churches like the Ebenezer Methodist Church in Newcastle-under-Lyme, to huge events like the Mayflower Tercentenary Celebration in the Albert Hall. Some of the most fun imagining of the Pilgrim story came in 1920, too. Largescale historical pageants, a form of amateur re-enactment that could involve casts of hundreds or even thousands, toured across the country; Hugh Parry's 'Historical Mayflower Pageant' was the most successful.

Nothing on the scale of the 1920 commemoration has been seen since, but, in 1970, many towns and cities again held celebrations. This time, though, the religious element was downplayed in favour of a more general enthusiasm for local history and, above all, having fun. In recent years, local places have continued to acknowledge the heritage of the Pilgrims, like through the statue of Edward Winslow erected in Droitwich Spa in 2009.

Many of these evocations of popular memory – plaques, monuments and pageants – are classic examples of commemoration. But the weird and wonderful has been a part of how the Pilgrims have been remembered, too. James Rendel Harris's 'discovery' of the Mayflower timbers in an old barn in Buckinghamshire is one famous example; Warwick Charlton's project to build and sail a 'Mayflower II' replica in 1957 is another. On a much smaller scale, lots of naming and renaming has been inspired by the Pilgrims – from Rotherhithe's 'Mayflower Pub' in the 1950s to Coventry's Mayflower housing estate in the 1970s.

How to use the Item Map

There are many ways to use the map to find what you are interested in. To see whether there is any Pilgrim memory in a particular place – like a town or church – you can either click on the Item Map to zoom into a particular region, or put its name into the search bar. If you want to find out about some of the themes that have been present in many different commemorations, you can click on the Tags – this is the quickest way to find out what the most common reasons for commemoration have been (from Anglo-American enthusiasm to particular commemorations, like 1920 or 1970). Another way to search is to look at the Types of commemoration we have used to categorise entries on the map (monument, novels and poems, religious services, etc). Most simply, you can scan through the Item List to see if anything piques your interest!

When you click on an item, you will be taken to an individual page containing a description of the event or monument, and archival material (newspaper clippings, photographs, film). Some entries will also have hyperlinks to other similar items that you might be interested in.

Get Involved

We hope that our Mayflower Map will be a starting point for people interested in tracing how the Pilgrims have been commemorated in Britain. But we would love to hear from you, too. You can leave your comments on individual items, and you can contact us to show us your own photos or memorabilia of the Pilgrims – we'd be happy to host them on our map! If you know about commemorations or monuments (or anything!) that we have forgotten, we'd be grateful to hear from you: as the commemorative year continues, and especially under the current Covid-19 circumstances, it is even more important that we 'virtually' recreate the Mayflower landscape for those of us that cannot see it in person.