History of The Pilgrim Fathers in Lincolnshire

Although it is widely known that the Pilgrim Fathers set sail on the Mayflower in 1620 from Plymouth in search of a better life in America, how many know of the role both Boston and Gainsborough played in this important event?

The Pilgrim Fathers in Lincolnshire

During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, Protestant non-conformist religious beliefs flourished in England. One such belief was that of the Separatists, a group of Puritans with strong Lincolnshire links – Gainsborough was at the heart of the Lincolnshire Separatist movement, and another group was based just over the border at Scrooby in Nottinghamshire.

Separatists wanted the freedom to worship God away from the constraints of the Church of England. When Elizabeth was succeeded by King James I, there was a clampdown on such groups, it became illegal not to attend church and the Separatist Movement was banned in 1604.

Wanting to escape persecution, The Separatists decided to flee to The Netherlands, a far more tolerant Protestant country. In 1607, both the Gainsborough Separatists and the Scrooby Separatists travelled to Boston where boats were waiting to take them to Holland.

The Gainsborough Separatists successfully completed their journey and joined other English Separatists known as the Ancient Brethren in Leiden.

Unfortunately, The Scrooby Separatists were betrayed by their boat’s captain. Shortly after setting sail, they were intercepted at Scotia Creek, a few miles down river from Boston.  They were arrested and all their goods seized.

The Scrooby Separatists were brought to Boston Guildhall where they remained in the cells whilst awaiting trial at Lincoln. After several months in prison, they were released and returned home to Scrooby penniless. Sympathisers eventually raised enough money to fund a second escape attempt, which this time was successful.

After living peacefully in Leiden for several years, the Ancient Brethren decided to sail for America in search of a better life in 1620. They hired two ships, the Speedwell, which was to transport passengers, and the larger Mayflower, which was to carry supplies, for this very hazardous journey across the Atlantic.

Unfortunately, the Speedwell started to take in water off the coast of Devon and it became obvious that the ship would be incapable of crossing the Atlantic. The passengers transferred to the Mayflower, which set sail from Plymouth on 6th September 1620 and landed in Massachusetts after an arduous two month voyage.

This small group of people became known as The Pilgrim Fathers, the founding fathers of America.

In the 1630s, another group of Lincolnshire Puritans left Boston for America. They founded a new settlement in Massachusetts and named it after their home town – Boston.

One of the most important of these settlers was The Reverend John Cotton, who was the very controversial Vicar of St. Botolphs’ Church in Boston. The Reverend Cotton made many enemies by preaching his non-conformist views and regularly found himself prosecuted at Lincoln’s Law Courts. In 1633, he sailed across the Atlantic to Boston, Massachusetts, and soon became spiritual leader of this church-dominated state.  His influence increased further when he helped to draft the fundamental laws for the colony that are still applicable today.

Pilgrim Fathers’ Trail

Gainsborough

Boston