The background to the Mayflower story began when James I and his Bishops drew up a list of rules in 1604, which all clergy were obliged to conform to. However, many Anglican clergy refused, and were stripped of their positions and lost their living within the established Church of England.
Many of the Pilgrims came from villages in Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire – they received summonses for non-attendance at their local churches, and one by one they fled the country. Some settled in Leiden, in the Netherlands and lived there for a few years before eventually leaving on their momentous voyage to start a colony in the USA.
The Leiden Separatists bought a small ship, the Speedwell, in The Netherlands. They embarked from Delftshaven on 22 July 1620, and sailed to Southampton, England to meet the Mayflower, which had been chartered by their English investors. There, other Separatists and additional colonists joined them.
On 15 August, the Mayflower and Speedwell set sail for America. The Speedwell leaked so badly that both ships turned back to England, putting in first at Dartmouth and then at Plymouth. Finally, on 16 September 1620, the Mayflower set sail, alone, for America.
All the Mayflower locations in the UK, The Netherlands and USA co-operating in the the Mayflower 400 Project are known as the “Mayflower Compact Partners“. The “Mayflower Compact” was signed on 21 November 1620 in Provincetown, Massachusetts, USA.
More information about the Mayflower, Speedwell and the separatists can be found here.