Category: Background

An update from a Harwich Mayflower Project Trustee.

This will be my last blog for a little while, although I’ll still be contactable via email and the “contact author” section, I will be unable to update any posts while I’m away. I’ve several things lined up before shortly heading off to the USA, travelling coast to coast over 12 weeks or so for research for a novel, as well as securing funds for MS and diabetes charities.

There was a comment on my last blog from a reader which stated “An opportunity to come clean now, surely. It would take just one Trustee, one honest person to take advantage of JK’s busy schedule and write the truth. By August?”

It seems someone was listening and a Mr Tony Elliston, a trustee and Vice Chairperson of the HMP has contacted me on behalf of the Project. We’ve been in conversation for a few days and he said that he’d like to put forward some HMP info for inclusion on the blog. So after a Trustee meeting today, I have been sent the following info and with the permission of Mr Elliston I am passing it on. I have placed my thoughts in brackets.

We intend to ask people in Harwich what they think and the way this process is starting is via the consultation meetings, the first of which was held last month. We are planning the next one and will announce the date shortly.

[Yes! Better late than never, this is so very badly needed. Not only do the people of Harwich need to know what is happening, they deserve a say in the future of their town. If these consultations are properly arranged and managed, they will be a great platform for the people of Harwich.]

Following today’s (Friday 16th June) Trustees meeting, we can tell you that, while we will continue to try to secure funds for the USA 2020 trip until we literally run out of time (March 2018) we have now committed to also build a shore based replica of the Mayflower which will remain in Harwich. This means that whether the USA trip happens or not, the Mayflower will be the centrepiece of Harwich celebrations in 2020.

[The original cut off date was announced as May 2018, it seems to have moved forward. I did state in an earlier post that I thought that the build would become a static visitor attraction, seems I was on the button with that one. I also stated that I saw the Project moving more in the direction of a heritage centre and moving away from a build. In my personal opinion I think that too is looking extremely probable. I feel that the HMP will become a central focus point for all things related to Harwich, but I can’t get rid of that nagging doubt that the dream of building a replica ship and sailing it to the US has died.]

We have drafted a volunteer policy for the organisation and we see this as the first step in enhancing the status of volunteers. In the next week or so, we will be seeking to re-establish the volunteers team and appoint a co-ordinator. We will be writing to those people who have volunteered in the past and undertaking a general advertising campaign.

An article in the Standard today talked about our new initiative. The station was not being used for training so, in collaboration with a local collector, we are establishing a transport heritage centre there. The station is being put back to the 1920s. One room is completed so far and volunteers are pressing ahead with four more. We should be able to announce an opening date soon. The Hazelton collection is also going to be properly curated and displayed, this includes a 1620’s showcase.

[Does this mean that the “temporarily closed” Training Centre is now permanently closed?]

The Trustees agreed today to re-establish the supporters group and (from the consultation meetings and wider) establish an advisory group so that Harwich people have a direct input into the project.

[Again, a very positive step in the right direction]

Looking ahead, we have invited the Military Wives Choir to perform at St Nicholas Church on 7th October. Tickets are available now at £15 and already in demand.  [OK, I’ll let you get a free plug in 😉 ]

We are widening the vision but I think that is the way to make a difference here in Harwich.

[in my opinion, build or no build, anything that improves Harwich for the residents and promotes tourism and the wonderful town of Harwich can only be a good thing]

I had sent a mail to Mr Elliston ending with this paragraph.. “..So, let me state one thing for the record and you can quote me on this. If the Harwich Mayflower Project builds a seagoing replica ready to set sail to the US on 6th September 2020, I will stand on that ship while it’s in Harwich pier, walk the plank naked, and jump into the sea!”

 Re the final paragraph of your last email, perhaps it would be kinder not to build the ship, is Harwich ready for you naked!

A vice chair with a sense of humour, things are definitely looking up at the Project!!

Well that’s it from me for now. Huge thanks to Tony Elliston at the HMP for reaching out and allowing me access to info from the Trustees meeting.

Harwich and the Mayflower

OK, let’s get this straight right from the start…

The Mayflower DID NOT sail from Harwich to America.

Now a little about me before I give you the concrete information that disputes this.

I lived in Harwich for three years and was a volunteer at the Harwich Mayflower Project for 18 months. During that time and before it, I read as many books on the Mayflower as I could get my hands on. During my time at the Project, one of the many things I did was to give guided tours, and I was regularly praised on my knowledge and “bringing the voyage to life”.  In the time since I moved out of Harwich and back to London I have retained my interest and have visited Holland, Rotherhithe, Plymouth and Southampton over the last 8 months, gathering information and research for a novel to be published in late November 2019. At the end of this year I will be spending two months in the USA, which will culminate with my visiting Boston, Plimoth Plantation, and surrounding areas. Again for research.

The following appeared in the local Harwich newspaper on 12th May:

“In the 17th century the Pilgrim ship the Mayflower set sail from Harwich to America.”

I have no idea where the newspaper got this information, but at best they have been misinformed and at worst they have been lied to.

I also received an email a while ago stating that I should be “proud of a town such as Harwich that sent the Pilgrims to America”. First off, Harwich is a wonderful town, but it definitely played no part in sending the pilgrims to America, apart from the Mayflower Captain Christopher Jones being born there. The Ship itself cannot be traced to a shipyard where it was built. Records from 1609 show Jones as being the Captain of the Mayflower.  In port books of 1609 to 11 the Mayflower is said to be “Of Harwich”. While this means the Mayflower was definitely in Harwich, there is no proof to show she was built there, but then again, there is no proof to show she wasn’t.

In 1611 Jones (and the Mayflower) left Harwich and moved to Rotherhithe. This was to be his home until his death in 1622. Various records in the years after Jones arrived in Rotherhithe show his ship on the Thames. Rotherhithe was her home port and it was where she returned to in 1621 when returning from America.

In William Bradford’s Of Plimoth Plantation, he states “A small ship was bought and fitted in Holland..” (The Speedwell) and “Another was hired in London and things were made ready” (The Mayflower).  The Mayflower was hired at Rotherhithe and went on to meet the Speedwell in Southampton where they left for the new world before having to return due to issues with Speedwell. They then carried on their journey in the Mayflower as the speedwell was deemed unseaworthy.

The Pilgrims journey to America started from Rotherhithe, making their way to Southampton, but their final port of call in the UK was Plymouth.

If I drove my car from Harwich to London and lived in London driving to work every day and sometimes going further afield, then 9 years later I drove a family from London to the coast in that same car, would you say my journey to the coast started from Harwich?



I have received the following from  Mr. Paul Simmons:

I was the official Internet researcher for the Mayflower Project and found out lots of information that has never come to light before.

One of those snippets was that Christopher Jones, before the recognised sailing from Redruthe to Southampton, brought his wife, who was pregnant, and his children to Harwich, to stay with their relatives. At the same time the extra crew he required for the journey were hired and were mainly Harwich Peninsula men. Thus it can be argued that the Mayflower set sail to the New World from Harwich, via Southampton, Dartmouth and Plymouth.

The salient remark here is “argued”.  While we definitely know from parish records that Jones’ youngest was baptised in Harwich and that his wife was there during his voyage, even if it could be proved beyond any shadow of a doubt that the ship was in Harwich a day before being chartered in London, (which it cannot as far as I’m aware) it would not have had any passengers on it. The pilgrims boarded the two vessels in Holland and London. That is (unarguably) where their voyage started.  Where does one draw the line?  Before it was in London the Mayflower was trading in Europe, do we therefore say the journey to the US started in France? I’m afraid I cannot, nor I believe would anyone else, (apart from maybe from someone with a vested interest) say that the Pilgrims voyage started in Harwich.

New Year snippet

The first post of the New Year and hopefully a year which will see the Harwich Mayflower Project start the ship build.

I received an email from a Harwich resident over the Christmas period which advised me that I should have  mentioned the ‘positives’ of the Harwich Mayflower Project in the last year while making my End of Year Post. Specifically the fact that the Project won tens of thousands of pounds in funding from the local council to build their new visitor centre.

I am of course happy to put the record straight and would like to use this post to congratulate the Harwich Mayflower project on securing the funds from the local council, which I’m sure were hotly contested with other well deserving charities in the area.

I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate the latest December appointments to the Mayflower Project board of directors. Mr. Fred Nicholls, who was previously chairman of the local council and Mr Robert Day, who was also a member of the local council.

I hope these new additions to the board of directors will help steer the project to much prosperity and the multiple millions of funding that one would assume is needed to progress the build.

Finally, a belated Happy New Year to all my readers. Once again thank you for all your kind words and supportive mail over 2016. It’s much appreciated.

A quick update

As a rainy British summer gives way to a rainy British autumn, work on the build of the Mayflower seems to have slowed down. But of course it hasn’t, while the build itself may not seem to have changed too much over several weeks, the shipwrights have been busy behind the scenes preparing to make a start on the transom (the rear of the ship). So I thought I’d take this opportunity to give you a pic of the build as it is at the moment, as well as the latest in a series of murals which will decorate the walls of the Mayflower Project.


IMG_4041-small IMG_4038-smallFor anyone reading this that has visited the project, if you take a close look at the second mural, you may recognise several of the shipwrights/carpenters that are currently working on the Mayflower (Chris, Brett, Natasha and Tony). The murals contain several lines of a poem by John Masefield and were made possible thanks to various volunteers and organisations. Further information on the murals is available on the Project’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Photography and content: James Kelly.

It’s not just about the ship…..

While the shipwrights and carpenters work on a few projects that wont affect the look of the build, I’m continuing to update you with a little background information…


The Harwich Mayflower project was set up in 2009 with the express purpose of using the building of the iconic Mayflower ship in Harwich to achieve major benefits for the local area. Harwich has, for more than five hundred years, been crucial in British maritime history. It has been central to the major events in making Britain what it is today: building ships in the time of the Spanish Armada and playing a role in the two World wars. However it has lost its shipbuilding heritage and even more importantly, there have been no apprenticeships in shipbuilding or marine engineering in this town for decades.

The Project has in a very short time become a registered charity in the UK and the US. It is a training organisation and is accredited by NCFE and City and Guilds. We already provide level 2 and 3 apprenticeship programs in Marine Engineering and Construction. We have very well attended pre-apprentice courses and have an enviable record in finding permanent positions of work for many of the youngsters who complete our courses. It is very well thought of by the local schools, Colchester Institute, Anglia Ruskin College and the Job Centre, amongst others.

We are constantly providing new courses- many related to safety of workers who will be employed by the Wind farm projects in the North Sea. This is part of the Energise initiative. We also repair smaller wooden craft as part of the apprenticeship process.

The ship (and its build) will also act as a tourist hub for a part of NE Essex that has been recognised as one of the most deprived in the South of England. When the vessel is built, it will be used to train young people in all aspects of sailing and safety at sea and at work. Navigation and Seamanship will be central to this phase of the project.

After the Mayflower is complete, we plan to continue building other wooden boats and ships. There are tentative plans for a replica Viking longship to be built. In this way we can continue to provide apprenticeships and training for youngsters.

We are also passing on skills from an experienced older generation to young people. Many of these skills have been in danger of being lost completely.


Many thanks to Sean Day of  the Harwich Mayflower Project for providing the above.


As I wander around the yard at The Mayflower Project, I’m forever taking pictures. At the moment I think I have about 800 or so. Most of them don’t make the blog, simply due to space limitations and the fact that I’ll take a dozen shots to get one good enough for the blog. So, every so often I’ll put up a few pics that didn’t make a post, but are still worth a look.  With that in mind and as something for you before the next sections of the build (the inner sternpost and the knee), here are a few pictures. Photography and content: James Kelly.


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Harwich Mayflower Project wins the cup!

Today the Harwich Mayflower project had a stand at the local county fair. The Tendring show is an agricultural event that takes place every year and attracts in the region of 25,000 visitors in a day.  The Mayflower Project was promoting itself and trying to raise awareness within the local community about what it does. Several of the staff as well as trustees and the Chairman, Tom Daly, were there.  The shipwrights were working on a piece of oak, while everyone else was handing out leaflets and talking to visitors about the Project. There were various competitions run throughout the day  and lots of ribbons were awarded. In fact, the Mayflower Project won first prize in the ‘Best Charity Stand’ category. Apart from a ribbon, they got a cup, which Tom Daly received on behalf of everyone at the Project. As usual I took hundreds of photos  and a small sample are below.

The images under the main photograph are a gallery, clicking on any one of them will open a slideshow for you. Photography and content: James Kelly.


Tom Daly receives the Ford Cup from Tendring Show president, Judy King.


Visitors to the Mayflower

The Harwich Mayflower Project  always welcomes visitors, in fact they are positively enthusiastic about showing people around and updating them on what’s happening.  While I’d recommend making an appointment to be shown around, most times there will always be someone available to take you around the site if you show up between 9am and 5pm weekdays.

They’ve had several such visitors in the past few days. Today a group that included a  couple from North Carolina arrived and were shown around. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to get any pictures, but I did get some a few  days ago when a group from Holland arrived on their own boat, The Rosetta, which was berthed at the Harwich Quay. Photography and content: James Kelly.

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Now that I’m up to date on the happenings at the Project, I thought I’d take some time to post a few extra pics and a little info. For those of you interested, and I know there’s at least one, all the photographs in this blog were taken on  a Canon EOS 600D with an 18-135 EFS lens.  I try to take pictures that give you a feel for the project and the people working on it. Hopefully I’ve managed that and you’re enjoying the blog and the hard work of all those involved at the Project. That reminds me, I really need to get a group shot of all the staff for you.

I also want to thank everyone at the Harwich Mayflower Project for their help and for giving me complete access to all the areas of the project so I can get pictures for you. I was expecting a few murmurs of discontent as I wandered around the yard, poking my camera in peoples faces and asking if I could take pics, but everyone was happy to help out and no one  objected to my snapping away. I did expect a few people to moan about not having their makeup on (and that was only the shipwrights!) but they are all fantastic and always willing to help in whatever way they can. The shipwrights will always take time to explain to me exactly what they are doing and go over any shipbuilding terms that I’m not familiar with. Thanks guys (and girls) without your co-operation and good natured help, I wouldn’t be able to do this blog.

If you’re a photographer, you’ll know that you may need to take dozens of pictures to get that one special photograph. I’ve taken hundreds of photographs at the Project and while they’re more snapshots than anything else, I’ve decided to put a few up here that haven’t made previous posts.

The images below are a gallery, clicking any one will open a slideshow. Photography and content: James Kelly.



Visitors and Lofting.

Today I took a look around the Mayflower project and thought it would be nice to give you a little look at a few things surrounding the actual build.

When I first arrived at the Project, the one thing to catch my eye was an old builders hut. It looked derelict and I assumed it was probably waiting to be pulled down  (before it fell down). On closer inspection I saw a sign in one of the cracked windows “Visitor centre. Coming soon”. Visitor centre? It looked like the only thing holding it together were the cobwebs! It had no electricity to it and I had no camera to take photos. But a few weeks later I managed take a few pics. A few days ago when it had been cleaned up a little, I took the latest photo. As you can see, it’s well on the way to becoming a multimedia visitor centre for the Mayflower Project.


not ready for visitors yet



Getting there


After a walk around the yard and a few more pics of the dozens of English oak trees laying around, I met a gentleman called Sean Day, who told me that for every single tree cut down, they plant approx. 100 in its place. I was invited to have a look inside the main building. There were several  models of the Mayflower around and I was also shown the lofting floor. If you’re unsure of what ‘lofting’ is, it’s a drafting technique and is basically the transfer of a scaled down drawing of a plan to a life size version.  The picture below shows the lofting floor of the Mayflower Project, with several life-sized plywood templates laid out on it.  These templates will allow the shipwright to get the correct size and dimensions when cutting the timber for the ship.


Although Sean is a very busy man, he spent as much time as he could, showing me around the project and answering all my questions.  If a boat could be floated just on pure energy and enthusiasm, I have no doubt that Sean would have the Mayflower in the water tomorrow.  As it is, when he says the Mayflower will be ready by 2016, it will.  I’ll hopefully be able to be there most of the way (if they’ll allow me) and give those of you who cannot come along to see this wonderful ship being built, a glimpse of the Mayflower as she  rises from the old English Oak in the disused railway yard that houses the project. Photography and content: James Kelly.