Mayflower and Harwich

Harwich’s connections to the Mayflower are manifold. The best-known of these connections is the master who sailed in her on the pilgrim voyage, Christopher Jones. An appraisement dated January 1611 plainly states that “Christopher Jones of Harwich” was the “master of the Mayflower of the same place”, and we know that Jones was her master for certain as early as August 1609, when he sailed on a trade voyage to Norway. Other records imply he had purchased his quarter share in the vessel a year or two previously.

Jones was born in Harwich around 1570 (baptism records were not taken for most of 1565-1571 so the exact date is unknown), married twice in the town at St Nicholas Church. In 1604, King James I granted Harwich a Royal Charter, within which Christopher Jones is named as one of 24 capital burgesses of the borough (a similar role to that of a modern town councillor). Jones had four recorded children before moving to Rotherhithe in around 1611. It was from there that he transported goods to and from places such as Bordeaux and Rochelle for many years prior to the 1620 voyage, and indeed on his return continued these shorter journeys until ill health prevented him from doing so. He died in 1622, and was buried at the church of Rotherhithe on the 5th of March.

Jones is not the only known owner of the Mayflower with a Harwich connection, however. The last confirmed record of the ship is an appraisement from the 26th of May 1624, which states that the owners included the relict (i.e. widow) of Jones, and also a man by the name of John Moore. Moore’s roots can be traced back to Harwich and he, like Jones and many others, ended up moving to London. His will, dated 1638, even makes mention of a house in Harwich bought from Robert Clay (notably the name of one of the appraisers and likely the same man).

When Jones and the Mayflower sailed in 1620, they took with them two other men of Harwich – Richard Gardiner and John Alden. Little is known of Gardiner other than he was baptised in Harwich in 1582, but John Alden is perhaps one of the more famous of the Mayflower passengers.

The Alden family had a number of generations who lived in Harwich, and were related through marriage to Christopher Jones’ family. The John Alden in question was not a pilgrim, but a cooper, and was a young man of about 21 when he was hired at Southampton for the role on the Mayflower. Unlike Jones, Alden chose to stay in America, and was one of the main builders of the early colonies until his death in 1687.