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life in England & Holland 

From Plymouth, England

To Plymouth, New England

James I of England’s entrance to London was in 1604 after 37 years of being King of Scots. He was met with a note from the Puritans (orthodox believers that hoped to “purify” the Church of England) who wanted to meet with him and have him agree to some major changes in the Church of England (the changes were an obvious step away from Roman Catholic practices). James was infuriated by the Puritan request and sent them away from any further talks. The Puritans, and especially the Separatists, continued to oppose the Roman Catholic influence in the church and were greatly persecuted for doing so. In 1604 alone, 300 non conformists in England were silenced, imprisoned, or exiled. In 1605, 17 lay people were taken to court for going to hear non-conformist Pastor John Robinson preach; but according to William Bradford, “the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew.”

Holland was an appealing alternative. By 1607, John Smyth of Gainsboro first moved his non-conformist group to Holland. Later that year William Brewster and his following from Scrooby also fled for Holland.

Mayflower Memorial, England

Pilgrim Fathers' Church

Brewster’s passage across the North Sea was not easy. He and his people fled to Boston
England. Having sold all their possessions, they had hired a ship and an English captain to take them to Holland, but when they arrived in Boston, neither the captain nor the ship were anywhere to be found. Finally, they saw the ship approaching. They paid the captain, but before they could get in their small boats, the authorities appeared and arrested them – the captain had betrayed them! Men and women were searched for money. Pastor Clyfton, John Robinson, and William Brewster among others were thrown into the Guildhall prison where they would remain for at least one month. The rest were forced to find shelter from the cold and rain.

The Pilgrims’ next attempt was to depart from Hull. To avoid being too conspicuous, the men found their way there by foot and the women and children (along with Clyfton, Robinson and Brewster) hired a barge to take them up the small tributaries to meet a ship with a Dutch captain. The women arrived seasick and persuaded the barge driver to port in a small inlet until the ship arrived. The men arrived and saw the ship, but no barge. The tide was too low and the barge got stuck in the mud. The Dutch captain had boarded all the men when, to his shock, he saw armed English soldiers approaching. In a panic, he insisted on sailing immediately.  


Their trip across the North Sea included a frightening storm in which the sailors thought they would sink. Finally, 14 days later, they arrived – but not in Holland. The storm had driven them off course and they were in Norway with no families, no possessions, and no money! The women (still in England) were sent from magistrate to magistrate with no one knowing what to do with them. Eventually the English authorities wearied of the ladies and forced them out of England. About two months later, the families were re-united in Amsterdam, Holland. They were welcomed in Amsterdam and as a congregation were growing, under the pastorate of Rev. John Robinson, to a membership of 300. Robinson was a well-loved and highly effective pastor. His solid preaching, godliness, and care for the flock were not only evident but much appreciated.

Boston, England

Site where Pilgrims were arrested & never set sail

16-Boston-where Pilgrims never set sail_

The Pilgrims had enjoyed only a few years of freedom from persecution while in Holland, when in September of 1619, while William Brewster was in England on business, the Dutch authorities, attempting to keep good relations with England stormed Brewster’s place of business and arrested a man who they thought was William Brewster. The real Brewster stayed in England living incognito until the departure for the new world less than one year later. The Holland separatists felt the pressures increasing. Between the loss of Brewster’s printing press, the political pressures in Holland, and the ungodly lifestyles of the Dutch, these separatists heeded the advice of Scripture and decided to leave: Proverbs 22:3 says, “A prudent man forseeth the evil and hideth himself; but the simple pass on and are punished.”

Due to the journey’s difficulty, only 55 of the 300 church members would leave – William Brewster leading the flock as the “unofficial pastor.” Pastor John Robinson, out of duty, would stay behind to tend the 250 in Leiden. He would never make it to the new world, he died 5 years later. Early on the morning of July 30, 1620, the pilgrims would meet for one last time under the teaching of their beloved Pastor, John Robinson. He preached one final message from Ezra 8:21.

Church in Boston, England

And there at the river, by Ahava, I proclaimed a fast, that we might humble ourselves before our God, and seek of him a right way for us, and for our children, and for all our substance.”

Ezra 8:21 | Geneva Translation

Mayflower Tour Photos, 2000

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