From November 2019 the London Borough of Southwark will be involved in a year-long commemoration marking the 400th anniversary of the voyage of the Mayflower. This ship sailed from England to America in 1620 carrying a range of passengers, some of whom were English puritans fleeing religious persecution. As well as being a touchstone of American history, this story resonates with contemporary themes of migration, tolerance and religious freedom.
If you walk around the northern part of this borough you will encounter numerous buildings, names and locations that are connected to the Mayflower story. Historian Graham Taylor has thoroughly researched and mapped all of these links and we will be sharing his findings with you in the coming weeks as we start the countdown to Mayflower 400.
Clink Street used to be part of the Bishop of Winchester’s Palace and the preserved remains of the palace’s Great Hall are still to be seen. The Clink Prison, dating back to 1144, was also part of the Palace. Several prominent members of the Brownist movement (followers of Puritan church leader Robert Browne) were imprisoned here for their beliefs. These included John Greenwood, Henry Borrowe, Francis Johnson and Henry Jacob. It was Jacob whose reformed church in Southwark was so crucial in facilitating the voyage of the Mayflower.
In 1961 the US Consul General, Donald Smith, unveiled a Plaque of Remembrance at Clink Street. The inscription read:
‘Fifty yards eastwards of this spot there stood the Clink Prison where in the years 1576 to 1593 JOHN GREENWOOD and HENRY BORROWE founded a church (today the Pilgrim Fathers Memorial Church) from those imprisoned for refusal to obey the Act of Uniformity of Worship. They, with John Penry, a member of the Church, were Martyred for Religious Liberty. Francis Johnson was the first Minister. This Church helped to secure the sailing of the Mayflower in 1620 and a number of its members were among the ship’s company. ‘Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is Liberty’.
This memorial was the gift of Americans in London, some of whom were descendants of the Mayflower Pilgrims.
Deadman’s Place, Thrale Street
This was the site of Southwark’s Pilgrim Church from around 1640 to 1788. It consisted of a meeting-house and burial-ground just south of Park Street and adjacent to the original Globe Theatre. Here was buried Alexander Cruden, author of the Bible Concordance, useful ever since to Christians of all denominations. This Pilgrim church, stood in the premises later occupied by Barclay’s Brewery. It was included in Southwark Council’s 1970 Pilgrim Trail, and at present the remains lie under the Southwark Bridge car park in Thrale Street.
The Anchor Tavern
This pub is a surviving remnant of the huge Barclay Perkins Brewery, which covered the area from the Thames down to Southwark Street. In 1781 Robert Barclay bought the Anchor brewery for £135,000 from the Thrale family. The Barclays were themselves Nonconformists and the surviving Pilgrim Church therefore flourished in the cooperage of the Barclay Brewery.
The Globe Theatre
In Park Street there is a plaque marking the site of the original Globe Theatre, built in 1599 by William Shakespeare’s playing company. This plaque was formerly on the wall of the Barclay brewery and close to the Pilgrim Church. Shakespeare was clearly aware of the Brownist Pilgrims and undertakings across the Atlantic. In Twelfth Night one of his characters. Andrew Aguecheek says, “I had as lief be a Brownist as a politician.”
The Earl of Southampton, Shakespeare’s patron, was active in the Virginia Company (a joint-stock company that established settlements on the coast of North America). An account was sent to the company when one of their ships bound for Bermuda was dramatically wrecked. This text clearly influenced Shakespeare’s play, The Tempest, and probably King Lear.
Next week: Bermondsey