Author Archives: Tom Hulme

For ‘Anglo-American Friendship’: Commemorating the Pilgrim Fathers at Immingham, 1920-1925

*Guest post by Dr Sam Edwards, Manchester Metropolitan University*

As I found out later, the weather was much the same as the day, over 90 years previous, that the monument had been dedicated. The sky was grey, the breeze fresh, and rain threatened. I’d spent the morning cycling around some of the old airfields that still mark the Lincolnshire Wolds, an obsession that’s been with me since I was a teenager. But that day, and largely on a whim, I decided to head home (to family in Grimsby) via a detour to the Humber. I’d been told of a monument in the village of Immingham that might be of interest.

At Immingham I aimed – by instinct – for the church tower, and it was as I neared St. Andrews (fifteenth century in origins) that I saw it: a tall pillar of granite, weathered by decades of coastal storms. Dedicated to the ‘Pilgrim Fathers’ who had set sail from ‘this creek’ in 1608, the pillar was clearly the result of some concerted effort. But it was the name of the organisation responsible that drew my attention – the Sulgrave Institution. I’d only recently completed some research at Sulgrave Manor in deepest Northamptonshire and so the question soon arrived: why had those responsible for establishing the Manor as a memorial to George Washington (it was his ancestral home) also erected this pillar near the Humber? What was the connection? Cycling home in the last of the autumn light I decided to resolve the quandary.  As I was to learn, the answer lay in a variety of factors which, when combined, ensured that in the post-First World War period Immingham became an attractive location in which – as at Sulgrave – to celebrate the Anglo-American ties of history and memory.

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The memorial today (photo by author)

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Kate Thompson Sizer, Mayflower Pilgrims, (1898)

Kate Thompson Sizer (1857-1909) was a popular Victorian author who published a number of illustrated children’s books often with a historical setting in the late nineteenth century. Mayflower Pilgrims combines history, illustration, and narrative fiction to create an engaging narrative of escape from persecution. The story focuses on twin sisters named Grace and Annis, their lives in Leiden, Holland, and their adjustment to the fraught early years of New Plymouth. The children come close to starvation, though they ultimately endure such hardships to help create a prosperous community.

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Great Western Railway, Devon, The Lovely Land of the Mayflower (1923)

Sold at Paddington Station in 1923, this is a beautifully illustrated travel guide to Mayflower sites of interest in Devon and other tourist attractions in the area. Produced by the Great Western Railway, the text capitalised on the growth of domestic and American interest regarding the 1920 tercentenary celebration which centred around Plymouth. The guide demonstrates a growing association between the Mayflower voyage, tourism and popular history. As well as a detailed map the guide comes replete with a number of photographs of the region giving a glimpse into life in Devon in the 1920s.

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Anne Lydia Bond, Three Gems in One Setting (1860)

Anne Lydia Bond (1822-1881) was an artist and photographic colourist from Southsea, Hampshire who produced illustrated editions of popular poetry in the nineteenth-century including Alfred Lord Tennyson’s ‘The Lady of Shallot’ (1852) as well as writing and illustrating her own children’s books such as The Child’s Natural History (1867). The Gems in One Setting (1860) provides illustrations to accompany Felica Hemans’ ‘The Landing of the Pilgrim Fathers in New England’ alongside Alfred Lloyd Tennyson’s ‘The Poets Song’ and Thomas Campbell’s ‘The Field Flowers’.

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Mother Plymouth, A Souvenir of the Mayflower Tercentenary Together with the Story of the Pilgrim Fathers 1620-1920 (1920)

Priced at three shillings Mother Plymouth: A Souvenir of the Mayflower Tercentenary Together with the Story of the Pilgrim Fathers 1620-1920 is a large, high-value souvenir pamphlet that contains many photographs and reproductions of artworks relating to the Mayflower. A seventeenth-century style woodcut adorns the front cover with the caption ‘The Mayflower sets out from Plymouth 1620’. As the forward reveals, this is a modern creation by Frederick R Hiorns ‘a decorate scheme on the lines of a 17th-century print’ that gives the souvenir a sense of authenticity for a departure that did not leave a visual record. This is an original artwork created specifically for the pamphlet – and a good example of historical culture generated for the tercentenary.

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Albert Christopher Addison, The Romantic Story of the Mayflower Pilgrims And Its Place in the Life of Today (1911)

A beautifully illustrated work, Addison’s The Romantic Story of the Mayflower describes the ‘early trials, concerted plans of escape, and stormy emigration’ of the separatists. The work contains numerous original photographs, paintings, and engravings relating to the locations and narrative of the Mayflower pilgrims. A contemporary review in the Boston based Journal of Education praised the work’s presentation: ‘this volume is put together so that it is far more attractive than many of our holiday books, with its thick rough cut paper, bordered pages, excellent sepia illustrations’.

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Marcus Bourne Huish, The American Pilgrim’s Way in England (1907)

A significant document in the growth of Mayflower tourist literature in Britain is Marcus Bourne Huish’s The American Pilgrim’s Way in England (1907). Huish was a barrister, writer and director of the Fine Arts Society with links to the Pre-Raphaelite movement. Following in the footsteps of Bartlett, Huish’s writing provides descriptions of Mayflower tourist sites across England. The star of the show, however, are the sumptuous watercolour illustrations by Mary Chettle  b.1858). The American Pilgrim’s Way in England combines elements of popular history and tourist guidebooks with the addition of a map of England with notable sites connected to the colonisation of New England, Virginia, and Pennsylvania.

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William Henry Bartlett, The Pilgrim Fathers, or, The founders of New England in the Reign of James the First (1854).

William Henry Bartlett (1809-1854) was a London-based artist and engraver, who become one of the leading topographic illustrators of his generation. He travelled widely and produced works providing history and illustrations of the Balkans, the Middle East, and North America, of which The Pilgrim Fathers, or, The Founders of New England in the Reign of James the First (1854) is a product. Bartlett died of fever on-board ship in the Mediterranean off the coast of Malta returning from a tour of Palestine shortly after publication, making this one of his last works.[1]

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J. N. Ruffin, Sound Film of Governor William Bradford (1938)

This small publication is a remarkable document that details one of the earliest British Mayflower films. Produced in 1938 Sound Film of Governor William Bradford  (later retitled to simply The Mayflower) was written with reference to the rise of fascism in Europe and portrays the Pilgrim Fathers as the progenitors of modern liberal democracy. Featuring a full script and multiple stills from the scenes of the film this works shows how the myth of the Mayflower has been repurposed for remarkably different political contexts; presenting the story of the Mayflower as one of pacifism and the importance of religious tolerance.

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Christmas on the Mayflower

In 1900 the British and American children’s periodical St Nicolas published a short story by leading women’s suffragist and author Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902). Entitled ‘Christmas on the Mayflower’, it included an illustration of the interior of the ship decked out with festive decorations as the Pilgrims sit down to a sumptuous Christmas dinner. Stanton’s story was also rich in details of yule-tide cheer and festivities:

Then the mothers decorated their tables and spread out a grand Christmas dinner. Among other things, they brought a box of plum-puddings. It is an English custom to make a large number of plum-puddings at Christmas-time, and shut them up tight in small tin pails and hang them on hooks on the kitchen wall, where they keep for months. You see them in English kitchens to this day. With their plum-puddings, gooseberry-tarts, Brussels sprouts, salt fish, and bacon, the Pilgrims had quite a sumptuous dinner. Then they sang “God Save the King,” and went on deck to watch the sun go down and the moon rise in all her glory.[1]

Illustration from Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s story ‘Christmas on the Mayflower’ in ‘St Nicolas’ (1900)

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The Mayflower and children’s literature

The nineteenth century witnessed a proliferation of literature written for children which sought to both entertain and offer moral instruction for the young. A revolution in cheap printing and childhood literacy rates meant that suddenly new readerships were forming. As Ruth Jenkins comments:

The Victorian convergence of advancing technologies, greater leisure time for emerging middles classes, and increasing literacy rates propelled narratives written for children into a recognisable genre and a bourgeoning industry. Heralded as a ‘golden age’ of children’s literature, this period invites continued study of these texts as cultural responses that give insight not only in what concerned Victorians but why they remain viable narratives today.[1]

This was coupled with a growing concern over childhood, child welfare, and children’s education. The result was literature produced for children like never before, and the story of the Mayflower played a central role.

The Victorians had a fascination for the Mayflower story. Felicia Hemans’ well-known 1825 poem had helped create a market for songs, plays, novels, and poetry that featured the ‘Pilgrim Fathers’ as they founded a New England colony in dire conditions in the winter of 1620. Many of these Mayflower products were aimed at children and adolescents; a great volume of children’s novels, poems, and illustrated gift books were produced that retold the story of the Pilgrims. These were popular texts that were sold throughout the nineteenth century (and indeed, into the present day). In this feature, we take a look at some examples published in Britain from the 1850s to the 1890s.

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Singing the Pilgrims’ song in a strange land

Guest post: vocal ensemble Stile Antico introduce their unique music-drama

It was some years back that we spotted, on the horizon, the anniversary of the sailing of the ‘Mayflower’. As a vocal ensemble specialising in music of the 16th and 17th centuries, we knew plenty about the music of the time of the Pilgrims, but perhaps rather less of the context in which it was created. As a group that crosses the Atlantic several times a year for extended concert tours, we were particularly drawn to their story!

1620 was something of a high point for music in England. Many of the finest composers ever to have worked here were at their compositional peak. In Italy and elsewhere in Europe, composers such as Monteverdi were laying the groundwork for the musical Baroque and the development of a new musical form – Opera – but the musical style on these shores was rather more reserved. The masterpieces of the so-called ‘Golden Age of English Music’ have a restrained beauty, and a uniquely introspective quality. It seemed to us there might be the basis of an interesting programme, exploring the story of the Mayflower’s voyage using music from the time.

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