Harwich, Essex

The Mayflower is believed to have been built in Harwich sometime before 1600, and was commanded and part-owned by her Master, Captain Christopher Jones, whose house still stands on Kings Head Street near the Waterfront.

Existing records show that Jones sailed the original Mayflower to Norway, the Mediterranean and France, exporting woollen cloth and importing wine - although he had never made the transatlantic crossing before.

In about 1611, Jones decided to leaver Harwich, and move south to Rotherhithe in London, a mile downstream on the Thames from the Tower of London.

Harwich is a coastal port in the county of Essex. The Harwich Mayflower project is a volunteer led project to recreate the Mayflower ship. Based in the ship yard, using traditional ship building skills the project includes a visitor centre and tours.

 

Jones connection with the Mayflower, as her Master and part owner, dates from 1609 and she was designated as “of Harwich” in the Port Books of 1609. Confirmation beyond doubt is assured from an Admiralty document dated January 1611, when Jones was involved in a salvage claim. Here he is identified as Christopher Jones of Harwich, Master of the Mayflower of the same place. This unequivocal coupling of Jones and the Mayflower with Harwich gives the town its special place in this particular history. Although Jones had moved to Rotherhithe in that same year, he was clearly identified as a citizen of Harwich and his ship Mayflower would become famous for its transatlantic expedition bearing the Pilgrims.

Jones married Sara Twitt at St. Nicholas Church, Harwich, on 27 December 1593. She was age 17 and had been born around 1576. Sara was Jones neighbour, living opposite each other on Kings Head Street, Harwich; and both residences still existing as visitor attractions. Sara’s home is now a local hostelry, the Alma. Sara had a wealthy father, Thomas Twitt, who had strong shipping interests. At her father’s death, he provided considerable funds for her and a half share in his ship Apollo. The two families combined their shipping interests to mutual advantage.

Within a year of his marriage to Sara they had a boy named Thomas, named after Sara’s father but sadly, per the Church Burial Register, it records the infant’s death on 17 April 1596 at the age of 3. Sara had no more children and died at age 27. She was buried in Harwich on 23 May 1603.

Visiting Harwich, Essex

Harwich is the UK's second busiest passenger ferry port. Its large harbour was created by a storm surge in the 1100s - a quirk of fate that gave rise to the area’s long and fascinating seafaring history.

The attractive old town was built on a grid pattern, in the 13th Century, by the Earl of Norfolk, to exploit its strategic position at the mouth of the Stour/Orwell estuary. The famous seafarers Hawkins, Drake and Frobisher all sailed from Harwich during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I on various expeditions.

Visit Harwich to explore the early home town of Christopher Jones and the Mayflower Ship. Follow the Maritime trail and see the Ha'Penny Pier and Visitor Centre, the Low Lighthouse Maritime Museum and the Lifeboat museum - where you can get on board a life boat.

Thames Sailing barges were built in Harwich until 1930. Unique to Britain is the Treadwheel Crane, built in 1667 the crane was worked by men walking in the interior of two large wheels to raise and lower goods materials.

Follow the quaint streets past the Electric Palace Cinema, built in 1911 and now the oldest unaltered purpose built cinema in Britain. St Nicholas Church which was rebuilt 1821 and The Redoubt Fort which was built in 1808 as a large circular fort to protect the harbour from a Napoleonic invasion.

The Harwich Society offer excellent guided tours, also available for groups.

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