Southampton, England. We’ve been at this port several times, usually getting on or off a cruise, but we’ve never spent time in the city. This time tho we had a mission: We dedicated the first week of our European adventure to explore pre-voyage locales of my Mayflower ancestors.
Southampton was a perfect beginning. The Mayflower and the Speedwell, the two ships hired to transport the Pilgrims to the new world, docked at the old West Quay just about three blocks from our ship’s berth. They arrived 15 August 1620, to provision and repair the ships. The 120 passengers lived on board during the two week stop in Southampton.
Our plan was to visit the spot where the ships docked, now marked by a Mayflower memorial. And we did. But, to our delight, we discovered a side of Southampton that most travelers miss.
The memorial stands just outside the ancient massive stone walls of the ancient port. Behind them, in the old city, were buildings that would have been familiar to those about to set sail for a new life and ultimately change the world. We visited 11th-century St Michael’s Church, where the Pilgrims likely worshiped, and today houses an outstanding model of the Mayflower. Other highlights were the creaky timbered Tudor House museum and gardens, a Medieval home where Jane Austen once lived, and long well-preserved stretches of the old city walls and gates.
Our adventure in Southhampton whetted our appetite for upcoming Mayflower explorations. We leave our ship tomorrow morning in Rotterdam for a short ride to Leiden, the town where the Pilgrims sought sanctuary for a decade before their historic voyage.