In 1620 the Pilgrims chartered the Mayflower to sail to the New World to escape religious oppression in England. They also bought a smaller boat the Speedwell, which was originally built in Southampton, to use permanently when they reached America.
Southampton was chosen as the rendezvous point for the voyage to America. The Mayflower sailed from London with about 70 people on board and arrived in Southampton about the 29th July where others joined her.
The Speedwell was being refitted in Holland and began its journey on 1st August from Delft Haven near Rotterdam with less than 50 passengers aboard. On arrival at Southampton the ship had to have another refit at West Quay with money the Pilgrims could ill afford. As a result the group had to sell some of their belongings, food and stores, to pay Southampton its harbour and other dues.
The party from both ships spent nearly two weeks in Southampton. At least one Southampton resident, John Alden, joined the emigrants as a cooper and it is possible that other Southampton families joined the Pilgrims at this time.
The Speedwell and the Mayflower eventually sailed from Southampton for the New World on the 15th August 1620. However The Speedwell begun to leak, and put into first Dartmouth and then Plymouth for repairs. She was finally deemed too unreliable to attempt the crossing; personnel and stores were transferred to Mayflower, which then completed the passage alone.
The Mayflower left England on September 6, 1620 with 102 passengers, as well as at least two dogs. Two people died during the trip and one baby was born and was named Oceanus Hopkins. After a gruelling 66-day journey landed in Cape Cod on November 9, 1620.
Southampton looks forward to commemorating the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrim Fathers leaving the city in 2020.