From Norfolk to the USA via the Mayflower
- Credit: Richard Bennett
Harleston will be rolling back the centuries this weekend to mark the 401st anniversary of the Mayflower taking the pilgrim fathers to America
A community play will tell the story of the Harleston family who Norfolk for the New World.
After 10 gruelling weeks the Mayflower reached Cape Cod in Massachusetts but by the end of a harsh winter almost half of the new arrivals were dead. However, the colony survived and around 38 million Americans can trace their ancestors back to the Mayflower - many to an orphaned Harleston boy.
1620: A New World Odyssey, specially written for the Harleston Players by Eileen Ryan, brings to life the stories of Edward Fuller, his wife Ann, their 12-year-old son, and Edward’s brother Samuel as well as their fellow travellers and the Native Americans they lived alongside.
Edward and Samuel were two of the 41 signatories of the Mayflower Compact, in which the settlers agreed to work together for the greater good. It established how the new community would be governed and influenced the concept of the American Constitution.
Edward and Ann did not survive that first year, leaving young Samuel to be brought up by the uncle he had been named for. Samuel junior went on to become a freeman of Plymouth, Massachusetts. He and his wife, Jane, had nine children and today thousands of Americans trace their roots back to the baby born in Redenall, near Harleston in 1608.
The Harleston Mayflower celebrations have already included a living history weekend, a children’s boat race, historical talks and walks and a booklet about some of the residents of early 17th century Harleston, researched by 13 local volunteers.
1620: A New World Odyssey, by Eileen Ryan, will be performed by the Harleston Players with more than 30 local actors and musicians the Hoxne Windbags outdoors on Harleston Recreation Ground at 2.30 and 7pm on Saturday and Sunday July 17 and 18 in a specially created theatre space with tiered seating. Tickets from Robinson’s Traditional Stationers, Harleston or Harleston Players.
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More Norfolk Mayflower links include John Robinson, who became known as the Pastor to the Pilgrims. He was a clergyman at St Andrews Church, Norwich, in 1604, but wanted the Church of England to move away from Roman Catholic influences. His views were too radical for church authorities and he fled to Holland to avoid persecution. Here his congregation grew to several hundred people, many originally from Norfolk. Wanting more freedom, John helped plan the pioneering journey of the Mayflower. Fifty of his congregation made the first journey and more followed, including one of his sons, but John died before he could join his flock in America. Members of his congregation who travelled on the Mayflower include Thomas Williams of Great Yarmouth, and apprentice tailor John Hooke, also of Yarmouth,. Like many of the pilgrims, both died soon after arriving in America. However Francis Cooke of Norwich travelled with his eldest son and was later joined by his wife and their remaining five children, and survived until he was 80.