The ships’ departure for America had been delayed by repairs to the Speedwell which had been leaking on the crossing from Holland.

Repair work was undertaken and after two attempts she was deemed seaworthy and ready to sail.

The remainder of the stores were loaded aboard and passengers assigned to her gathered their belongings aboard and made themselves as comfortable as possible in the cramped space available.

It is estimated that there were 90 passengers aboard the Mayflower and 30 aboard the Speedwell.

John Carver was a Separatist and had been in Southampton for weeks preparing for the voyage while his wife remained in Holland arranging their affairs.

She sailed on the Speedwell and brought a letter from the Separatists’ Pastor John Robinson in Holland asking for it to be read to everyone before they sailed.

The Separatists and Settlers gathered on the quayside in Southampton to listen to the letter’s contents. Who read the letter is not known but in all probability it was John Carver.

In his letter Robinson asked them to draw upon their faith at difficult times and to respect each other.

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He wrote that the two groups had different expectations and motives and would disagree at times. It was essential they understood and made allowances for their differences.

He advised that they should elect leaders and that they should be respected.

It is said that his letter was the inspiration for the Mayflower Compact, a rudimentary constitution they drafted once they arrived in America.

One passenger who arrived on the Mayflower was Hampshire man Stephen Hopkins.

His parents were from Winchester although he was born at Upper Clatford near Andover.

He later married and lived at Hursley.

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In 1609 he left his family there while he joined a flotilla of ships to Jamestown in America where he planned to start a new life to be joined later by his wife and children. Unfortunately his wife died and he returned prematurely and lived in Whitechapel in London where he remarried.

He decided to once more settle in America and he and his new wife and children joined the Mayflower in Rotherhithe.

No doubt while they were delayed in Southampton he would have visited his family in Winchester and Hursley for him and the children to say their family farewells.

Hopkins was an important passenger for his earlier experience in Jamestown proved to be a great help.

While preparations were proceeding with the two ships one person who planned to sail with them remained hidden in the town.

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The Separatists’ Elder William Brewster was an educated man and confirmed opponent of James I’s stance on worship and his treatment of the Presbyterian Church in Scotland.

He had written and had printed in Holland pamphlets highly critical of the King. These had been smuggled into Britain and distributed.

Printing in Britain was controlled by the Church and the State and the King demanded his capture.

Brewster had been hiding for many months and had come to Southampton to join his fellow Separatists on their voyage to America.

Someone in Southampton was obviously aiding his concealment for his plan was to join the Speedwell at the very last minute thus sailing away before he could be seen or captured and without putting his friends at risk.

A go between was no doubt liaising with Carver so that at the very last minute Brewster could be whisked aboard.

On August 15, 1620 John Carver was aboard the Speedwell where he had been elected as “Governor” when Brewster was seen to come running along the quay with his small bag of personal belongings in time to jump aboard as the anchor was raised.

As the two friends greeted each other the sails filled and the two ships moved away from the quay and into Southampton water.

Despite the delay they had been in Southampton for nearly three weeks without being harassed by the King’s spies and were now off across the Atlantic to settle on land along the Hudson River.

Things didn’t quite work out that way but that is another story.

Godfrey Collyer is a tour guide with .