ON this day exactly 400 years ago, the Mayflower sailed up Southampton Water and anchored near Westquay where she remained for just over two weeks.

Her destination was the Hudson River on the east coast of North America but she had called into Southampton to take on board additional passengers and most importantly extra supplies.

She was also awaiting the arrival of a second ship, the Speedwell, which was sailing from Holland. The two ships planned to cross the Atlantic together.

There was nothing unusual about this as ships regularly called into Southampton for supplies at that time.

The Mayflower, however, is one of the most important ships in American history as it took settlers to Massachusetts during the 17th century Puritan migration.

These people were some of the first settlers to America and their journey made the Mayflower an icon of European colonisation. Unfortunately this colonisation was a disaster for the indigenous people who lost most of their land in the process and were decimated by disease and war.

Waiting in Southampton to greet the Mayflower were two men, John Carver and Christopher Martin.

They had been in Southampton for several weeks purchasing supplies for the journey and the first few months in America. These supplies were on the quayside ready to be loaded.

Carver was eager to be reacquainted with his old friends Robert Cushman and William Bradford who had joined the Mayflower at Rotherhithe in London. All three were members of a group of religious Separatists who had made their home in Holland to avoid persecution for their religious beliefs and they were to be joined by other Separatists including friends and family who would arrive from Holland later on the Speedwell.

Martin’s wife was aboard the Mayflower but like most of the people who boarded the Mayflower in London she was not a Separatist. Most were economic migrants looking for a new life in America as settlers, eager to own land and be free of the social constraints of British society.

The master of the Mayflower was Christopher Jones and working with Carver and Martin he had most of the supplies brought aboard and stowed in the hold. The remainder were to be loaded later aboard the Speedwell.

With most of the supplies being in barrels Jones agreed with Carver to recruit a local Southampton cooper to maintain them on the journey. John Alden was that cooper and although a member of the crew, he decided to remain in America and not return to England.

The Mayflower was not a large ship being about 100 feet long by about 24 feet wide with three decks: an upper deck; a gun deck; and a hold.

Already stored were the passengers’ belongings such as clothing, bedding, arms, household goods and tools.

Jones had also purchased supplies for the crew for the journey to America and back.

Storage space in the hold was therefore at a premium and the ship needed to be packed with great care.

The main or gun deck, where the passengers lived, was about 80 feet long by 20 feet wide with some of this space occupied by the ship’s steerage mechanism, several cannon and a small sailing vessel called a shallop which had been dismantled and stored ready for reassembly in America where it would be used for exploration.

The passengers had to use the space that was left which gave each of them about seven feet by two feet of living space.

The Mayflower was a cargo ship and not designed to carry passengers. It was cramped with little or no privacy so the men and boys were allocated one part of the gun deck leaving the remaining space which could be screened off with blankets for mothers and daughters.

Having loaded the ship everyone waited patiently for the arrival of the Speedwell.

No doubt during this time the crew and passengers would have escaped the claustrophobia of the ship and explored the walled town of Southampton with its myriad of shops and markets making last minute purchases.

More about the Mayflower in next Wednesday's Daily Echo.

Godfrey Collyer is a tour guide with SeeSouthampton.co.uk .