Thu 22 Feb 18
Many people know the story of the Mayflower, the ship that sailed from Plymouth, into the New World. What many people don’t know is that the homeport of the Mayflower was Harwich, 18 miles from our Colchester Campus.
Two of our students, Jake Millar and Sarah Mott, researched Harwich’s link to the Mayflower history as their basis for their dissertation. Multimedia Journalism student, Shakiyah Branch, sat down with Jake and Sarah to learn more about the town and their research process.
The idea for studying Harwich came about when Tendring District Council asked for research in preparations for a new museum opening in Harwich in 2020 to mark the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the historic ship.
Jake and Sarah, both MA History students, jumped at the chance to learn more about the local area they both grew up in.
Sarah said: “It was a great opportunity for me to get involved locally and it’s nice to know that the hard work we’ve put into the research and writing the dissertation will be seen and will hopefully be helpful to the museum.”
“It was a great opportunity for me to get involved locally and it’s nice to know that the hard work we’ve put into the research and writing the dissertation will be seen and will hopefully be helpful to the museum.”
Jake wrote his dissertation on 'Harwich, Religion, and the Mayflower.’ He said: “I was very interested to understand how the religious changes which preceded the Mayflower’s departure affected the lives of Harwich residents, and more specifically, to understand the extent to which local people actually engaged with these issues.”
His research won him the John S Appleby Prize for the best MA dissertation on an Essex History theme. He is also currently editing his research to be made public later this year.
Meanwhile Sarah is still writing her dissertation on the Captain of the Mayflower, Christopher Jones. Her research is focused on his life before and during his voyage. Jones is believed to have been born in Harwich; however Sarah found no church records to confirm where he was born.
“It’s difficult to find documents from over 400 years ago, sometimes they just don’t survive.” She added: “It is really important to look hard for any records because sometimes we’ll find something that contradicts what most people believe so we need the evidence to back us up."
“The people of Harwich are so passionate about their history, so I felt a responsibility to get everything right. What we write could potentially have a massive impact on the town.”
“The people of Harwich are so passionate about their history, so I felt a responsibility to get everything right. What we write could potentially have a massive impact on the town.” Jake added.
Harwich is hoping to increase tourism and become better known for its role in the Mayflower’s voyage. The National Mayflower Compact 400 was created in preparation for the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower sailing from Plymouth England to Plymouth Massachusetts.
The Compact is planning celebrations in all the Mayflower’s destinations, including Harwich, Southampton and Leiden, Holland. Jake and Sarah, alongside history lecturer, Dr Amanda Flather, recently attended the Compact’s civic function in Harwich to discuss the town’s historic influence and how the town would celebrate.