Front Page







World Summary

On Air


Talking Point


Low Graphics


Site Map

Sunday, January 18, 1998 Published at 10:10 GMT


Why the Pilgrim Fathers left England
image: [ The pilgrimage of the Pilgrim Fathers ]
The pilgrimage of the Pilgrim Fathers

The Pilgrim Fathers were traitors, a band of renegades defying the authority of King James I. That was the official version.

The pilgrims believed that they were true Christians, determined to "purify" the Christian church and return to a scripture-based service. These "Puritans" were not satisfied with the reforms introduced after the separation of the English church from the Catholic Holy See in Rome.

Nevertheless, the Puritans were seen both as seditious and heretical for their beliefs. The King's agents persecuted them.

In 1593, the English parliament outlawed independent congregations. Attendance of English (Anglican) church services was made obligatory. But across the country, groups of Puritans continued to gather.

[ image: Where it all began ... Scrooby church]
Where it all began ... Scrooby church
One of these small renegade congregations began to meet in 1606 in the village of Scrooby in Nottinghamshire - living under the constant threat of imprisonment or even execution. After three years, they were forced to flee. Several attempts to settle in other parts of England failed. They had to emigrate, via Amsterdam to Leiden in the Netherlands, where their religious views were tolerated.

But in 1618, after less than a decade, they decided to move again. They had economic problems and wanted to preserve their heritage. Furthermore they feared another Spanish Catholic invasion of the Netherlands, which would have threatened their newly found religious freedom.

The pilgrims resolved to settle in the English colony in North America, hoping that in this remote outpost the King's officials would leave them undisturbed.

Their emigration was financed by a group of so-called "merchant adventurers", who in return were promised a share of the fruits of the pilgrims' labour in the new colony.

In the summer of 1620, they crossed the channel to England. There, joined by a group of colonists recruited by the merchants, they embarked on the ship Mayflower. In September they finally left England.

There were 102 passengers on board, about half of them Puritans. After a stormy 66-day crossing they dropped anchor off Cape Cod (near today's Provincetown, Massachusetts), on November 11, 1620.

From there they explored the coast for five weeks, until they found a favourable place where they decided to establish "Plimoth plantation", one of the first English settlements in North America.


Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage


  Relevant Stories

17 Jan 98 | UK
The cradle of US democracy: Scrooby, Notts.

17 Jan 98 | UK
The Mayflower Compact

  Internet Links

Pilgrim Monument and Museum, Provincetown

Caleb Johnson's Mayflower Web Pages

Plimoth Plantation - History of the Pilgrim Fathers

Virtual Tour of "Plimoth Plantation"

General Society of Mayflower Descendants

Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth Massachusetts

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.
In this section

Next steps for peace

Blairs' surprise over baby

Bowled over by Lord's

Beef row 'compromise' under fire

Hamilton 'would sell mother'

Industry misses new trains target

From Sport
Quins fightback shocks Cardiff

From Business
Vodafone takeover battle heats up

IRA ceasefire challenge rejected

Thousands celebrate Asian culture

From Sport
Christie could get two-year ban

From Entertainment
Colleagues remember Compo

Mother pleads for baby's return

Toys withdrawn in E.coli health scare

From Health
Nurses role set to expand

Israeli PM's plane in accident

More lottery cash for grassroots

Pro-lifers plan shock launch

Double killer gets life

From Health
Cold 'cure' comes one step closer

From UK Politics
Straw on trial over jury reform

Tatchell calls for rights probe into Mugabe

Ex-spy stays out in the cold

From UK Politics
Blair warns Livingstone

From Health
Smear equipment `misses cancers'

From Entertainment
Boyzone star gets in Christmas spirit

Fake bubbly warning

Murder jury hears dead girl's diary

From UK Politics
Germ warfare fiasco revealed

Blair babe triggers tabloid frenzy

Tourists shot by mistake

A new look for News Online

UK Contents

Northern Ireland