Rotherhithe, July 1620
Men women and children clamouring excitedly waiting to board ship, their usual demeanour forgotten in the face of persecution and the opportunity for a new beginning.
What few possessions they owned were already loaded and as the tide rose, the ship creaked and rocked in the water and a few goodbyes were made as the last of the 65 passengers boarded.
Rotherhithe was the Mayflower’s home port and she had been carrying wine from the continent but, curiously and unusual for a ship trading to London, there was no record of any voyages of Captain Jones’s Mayflower from 1616. Such a ship would not usually disappear from the records for such a long time and one wonders what cargo she had been running but in any event, Captain Jones found time to take these Pilgrims to the New World.
Other ships lined the wharves, loading and unloading cargo and the noise of men and carts and horses, oaths shouted, orders given and the smell of the Thames would almost be the last that these people would remember of their capital, although they would have a final stop at Plymouth before fleeing England.
Next to where the Mayflower lay was The Shippe, a beer house, ignored by the Brethren for they did not drink, but much enjoyed by sailors and traders. Deals were done in the small dark candlelit rooms, buying and selling who knows what in this remote wharf, downstream from London Bridge and the city. Beyond the few houses that made up Rotherhithe were streams and marshes that drained into the great river and it would not be until the end of the century that great man-made docks would begin to be built that would transform the riverside.
Eventually, after being rebuilt in the 18th and 20th centuries and renamed The Mayflower, the pub remains a lure for regulars and visitors and for walkers along the Thames Path and 1066 Harold’s Way.
There are still small rooms, wooden floors and tables were the day’s events can be readily discussed but now the sunlight streams through the windows and those dark days can only be imagined.
Walk 1066 Harold’s Way to one of London’s great pubs and share in its history.