Thousands of Mayflower pennants decorate Dartmouth

Aug 20, 2020

Thousands of hand-crafted pennants decorated the historic Devon town of Dartmouth, in a unique stitchery project where people from around the world contributed crafty creations linked to the Mayflower story.

The Mayflower and the Speedwell made what was hoped to be the final stop in Dartmouth before its Atlantic crossing, only to have to return to Plymouth where the leaking Speedwell was left behind.

More than 5,000 hand–made pennants, made by 152 people from across the globe, were hung around Dartmouth as part of the commemoration of the sailing of the Mayflower – a blaze of colourful bunting that transformed the town.

Project Lead Marilyn Bird said: “What started over coffee with Rose Williams of the Stitchery Group as an exciting idea to involve the Dartmouth community has now become a international explosion of pennant-making magnificence which now adorns our town with imagination and colour.”

The idea was the brainchild of Rose Williams, who leads an enthusiast team of around 200 with a core of six volunteers at the heart of the operation, Dartmouth Stitchery Group. The pennants all followed three basic rules – to keep the colours of predominately red, white and blue, link the design to the Mayflower and keep the pennant to an A4-sized template.

The whole team included makers, hangers and a pinning-on team who all battled 2,250 metres of hanging tape and 50,000 metres of thread. The project was launched with finance from Cllr Jonathon Hawkin’s Community fund and the pennants were strung together on binding supplied by Michael Madigan of Appeal Blinds.

Many of the fabrics used were repurposed and included tea towels, tablecloths, shirts, and even the handkerchiefs of the late husband of one member of the core team. The first pennant was made in February 2018, so the display was the result of hours of work over two-and-a-half years.

Pennants were also donated from far and wide, people responded to the Mayflower story by sending pennants from the USA, New Zealand, Japan, Ireland, Europe, Eire, Africa and Australia, as well as throughout the UK.

In May 2019 a group of Mayflower descendants from the US visited Dartmouth and presented six beautiful pennants to hang alongside the collection. There are now 5,315 in total.

Rose said: “Our original target was 4,000 Pennants, but the display is now even more spectacular than we could have dreamed. Makers aged from 92 years to our youngest, a ten-year-old girl from Melbourne in Australia called Annabel who heard about the project whilst on holiday here in Dartmouth and then joined in with one of our workshops. The support we’ve had from the community, around 65 local businesses and organisations, including The Flavel Arts Centre, the Royal Castle Hotel, and Alf Resco who kindly donated their facilities and our Town and District Councils, has been wonderful.

“One unforeseen aspect of the project is the way we have now made friends with strangers around the world through crafting. At a Craft Exhibition in Exeter, we met a Mayflower descendant and were able to show her a pennant made by another American descendant of the very same Pilgrim.”

After their tours of Dartmouth, many of the Pennants were available for purchase, with proceeds going to Rowcroft Hospice in Torquay. Some of the Pennants also remained in Dartmouth on permanent display showcasing the wonderful efforts of the crafting community as part of lasting legacy for the town.

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