Events to mark 401st anniversary of Shropshire children on the Mayflower voyage

History buffs are hoping that a glorious phoenix will rise from the ashes of attempts to make a serious tourist attraction out of south Shropshire's links with the Mayflower.

Samuel More, who packed off four Shropshire children on the Mayflower. Right; a modern replica of the Mayflower
Samuel More, who packed off four Shropshire children on the Mayflower. Right; a modern replica of the Mayflower

The Mayflower sailed across the Atlantic in 1620 to what would become the United States with its human payload including four Shropshire children who were banished to a life thousands of miles away by their own father.

Serious attempts to make a tourist attraction for the Much Wenlock area out of the 400th anniversary of the perilous voyage were scuppered by the pandemic.

Mike Cavendish, the chairman of Shropshire’s Mayflower Children, recalled the devastation of having everything called off. They had organised a huge public relations effort around a series of events but had to scrap most of it, and plans for a plinth in Much Wenlock were put on hold at least.

"It was devastating but the phoenix can arise," said Mike. "But we will need to try and find the kind of support that is most likely to come from the United States, where the Mayflower is much more important."

He revealed that he is in contact with a society in the states which has 400,000 members with links to the Mayflower. And if only a small percentage can make it to Shropshire it would bring tourist dollars into the patch.

"We have put a marker down about Shropshire's role in the Mayflower," he added.

"What I am 100 per cent for is the return of tourism but EU flight restrictions have dealt a blow to that. I already get emails from people in the States who want to find out more information.

"It is an extraordinary story, they could make a film out of it. The area deserves some way of marking this contribution to the Mayflower."

A special walk and a commemorative church service are being planned in the next few days to make a scaled down something out of the 400th-plus-one anniversary.

The mother of the four children, Katharine More, had been accused of adultery by her younger husband - and cousin - Samuel More who banished Elinor, Jasper, Richard and Mary to the perilous Atlantic voyage in 1620.

Only Richard made it to a ripe old 84 years old after being sent off at just aged six.

He is the only known Mayflower passenger to have a marked grave, in the Charter Street Cemetery, Salem, Massachusetts where his inscription says he was a captain.

Richard's unfortunate siblings perished before reaching their teens.

The family were from Shipton parish, between Bridgnorth and Church Stretton.

Katherine, from Larden Hall, and Samuel, from Linley Hall, were required to marry by their fathers so that the two estates could be amalgamated. Katharine later claimed a pre-contract (betrothal) with Jacob Blakeway.

The Mayflower walk will be held this Saturday (September 4). It will be a circular, guided walk, starting at Brockton, where Katherine's lover Jacob Blakeway lived. It will proceed via Larden Hall, the ancestral home of the Mores.

A refreshment stop at Shipton Church gives an opportunity to see the plaque to the four young children who were all baptised in the church.

The plaque was donated by the Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants. The walk then picks up the route of the old Rowe Lane and returns to Brockton.

On Sunday, September 12 there will be a commemorative Service at Shipton Church led by the Rev Matthew Stafford, the rector, and priests from Much Wenlock Catholic Church

The children had all been baptised in the font at Shipton Church, which is still there today.

Email mark.cavendish@icloud.com to secure a place at the walk, which comes with a £5-a-head charge. The church service will be free.

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