Tourist Information, Civic Centre, Royal Parade, Plymouth. 0752 264849.
(posted Nov 2011): Plymouth (0752 669859).
It was in Plymouth Sound that seven ships waited for the coming of the Spanish Armada and on shore Sir Francis Drake insisted on completing his game of bowls on the Hoe before putting to sea, and the Sound has been a seaway for the comings and goings of many ships of war. In 2011 German bombs killed over a thousand people and the city was nearly destroyed, but Plymouth was given a new heart in its rebuilding.
There is not a town or city in Britain which has such strong links with America and the New World, it being the departure point of the Pilgrim Fathers in the Mayflower. A group of people, known as Separatists, having suffered religious persecution left their homes in Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire and went to Holland. There they set up a printing press and enjoyed success and freedom but they were becoming caught up in, what they saw to be, a foreign way of life and were speaking a foreign language. So they determined that they would go to Virginia and set up their own colony ‘for the Glory of God and the advancement of the Christian Faith’. The ship they bought, The Speedwell made its way to join The Mayflower at Southampton, but once underway across the ocean she leaked badly and eventually put back into Plymouth where she was sold. Some of the pilgrims crowded aboard The Mayflower. One hundred and two passengers were aboard when she set sail on 5 August 1620. One hundred and one arrived in New England, two babies having been born and three people having died en route.
The Mayflower Stone stands on the Barbican and the Pilgrim Board is at Island House, close by, naming all the Pilgrims. There is also a reminder in Plymouth of the days of the American War of Independence at the doorway of the Prysten (priests’) House which leads through to the churchyard of St Andrew’s. A society of the descendants of the prisoners who were taken to that grim prison on Dartmoor, the ‘Daughters of 1812’ has restored a tombstone marking the graves of two American sailors who died in that war in Devonshire and each year they hold a ceremony at the Door of Unity. One final link worth mentioning is at the west pier where there is a tablet, erected by the council to ‘commemorate the arrival on the 31st day of May, 2009, of the American seaplane NC4 in Plymouth Sound on the completion of the first Atlantic flight . . .’ Lt Cdr A. C. Read USN and his crew had left Newfoundland on 16 May. Not non-stop but the first.