WHEN the Mayflower sailed from Southampton in 1620 aboard was Hampshire born Stephen Hopkins unique amongst the passengers in that he had already been to North America and had lived in Jamestown for six years.

Stephen was born in Upper Clatford, Hampshire in 1581 and following the birth of his sister the family moved to Winchester. It is in Hursley that Stephen next appears where his daughter Elizabeth was baptised in 1604. Stephen's wife is believed to have been Mary Machell and they went on to have daughter Constance and a son Giles. In 1608 Stephen lost the lease to the land that supplied the family's income and it was at this time that he met colonists who were bound for the newly established settlement of Jamestown.

On 2nd June 1609 Stephen joined the Sea Venture, the flag ship of a fleet bound for Jamestown. Mary and the children were left in Hursley to join him later. On July 24th when only a week away from Jamestown the ship was caught in a terrible storm and blown onto rocks off Bermuda then known as the Devil's Island. All 150 passengers survived and for ten months they lived well on the food found there. Tools and timber were rescued from the shipwreck and with local timber two small ships were built. The plan was to sail for Jamestown but not everybody wished to leave Bermuda for the climate was good and food was abundant. Stephen claimed that the settlers were freed from the governance of any man once they were shipwrecked and he undermined the Governor's authority for which he was tried and sentenced to death. Others pleaded on his behalf and he was reprieved and in May, 1610 everyone sailed for Jamestown.

When they arrived in Jamestown they discovered that few settlers had survived the winter and were starving. Many had been killed in conflicts with native Americans. Difficult years followed and it was in 1613 that news reached Stephen of Mary's death. Stephen arrived back in England in 1616 and two years later married Elizabeth Fisher at Whitechapel. A year later they had a son Damaris.

Once more Stephen came into contact with settlers planning to settle North America and in July of 1620 he sailed from Rotherhithe on the Mayflower with his wife Elizabeth and his children Constance, Giles and Damaris. During the crossing Stephen's wife Elizabeth gave birth to a son named Oceanus.

Once settled in Plymouth, New England Stephen was given the respectful title Mr and served as Assistant Governor but that didn't stop him getting into mischief. He operated an ale house and was fined for selling beer, wine and strong waters at excessive rates. He also assaulted John Tisdale and was fined. He was also fined for many other misdemeanours including contempt of court.

After a full and adventurous life Stephen died in July 1644. William Shakespeare's play The Tempest first performed in 1611 is said to be based upon the Sea Venture's shipwreck and features a character called Stephano.