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The Mayflower at sea; hand-coloured woodcut.

What ended up happening to the Mayflower?

PortandTerminal.com, November 27, 2019

The Mayflower is one of the most important ships in American history. So what happened to it after its famous delivery of the Pilgrims to the New World in 1620?

BOSTON, MA – Almost everyone knows the story of the Mayflower, the English ship that transported the first English Puritans, or Pilgrims as we call them today, to the New World in 1620.

We know that after delivering the Pilgrims to the New World, the Mayflower returned to England from Plymouth Colony, arriving back on May 9, 1621.  What happened to the ship after that?

What happened to the Mayflower?

The Departure of the Mayflower for England in 1621, 1941 (oil on canvas), Wyeth, Newell Convers (1882-1945)

While today the Mayflower is one of the most important ships in American history, it certainly was nothing special in its day. Even in its prime, it was not much of a ship as it was notoriously difficult to sail.

The captain of the Mayflower was a businessman named Christopher Jones. Jones was born in Harwich, England around 1570 and was the son of a mariner and shipowner, also named Christopher Jones.

We know that the Mayflower was built in the early 1600s and changed masters twice, the original ending up in prison after a debt default. Between 1609 and 1622 under the command of Captain Christopher Jones, she was based in Rotherhithe and served as an ordinary European merchant ship

It is recorded that Jones’ first voyage on the Mayflower was to Norway in 1609 where the ship transported fish, lumber and tar. Jones also used the Mayflower to trade in wine as well.

Cross-section of what the Mayflower is believed to have looked like.

Fast forward to 1620, after fulfilling his contract with the Pilgrims, Jones spent a hard winter onboard the ship with them in Plymouth before returning to England on April 5, 1621.

Shortly after returning to England, Jones took the ship out on a trading voyage to Rochelle, France, in October 1621, returning with a cargo of Bay salt. Rochelle had been a famous producer of salt since Roman times and did a lively export business of the commodity.

It is recorded that Christopher Jones passed away the following year, on March 5, 1622, and that his widow, Josian, inherited the Mayflower.

In May of 1624, the ship was appraised for the purpose of probate and was described by the appraisers as being “in ruinis.” As a result, it is believed that the Mayflower was eventually broken up and sold off as scrap.

Drawing of the HMS Temeraire being broken up at Rotherhithe in 1838

In all probability, the ship was broken up at the Rotherhithe shipbreaking yards in London. Rotherhithe along the Thames River has a long maritime history and was home to many shipyards from the 16th century until the early 20th century.

Mayflower Barn

One final story of the fate of the Mayflower is that timber from the ship ended up being reused to construct a barn after the ship was broken up. Some believe that after the ship was broken up, a farmer named Thomas Russell bought ship timbers to use in the construction of his barn in South Buckinghamshire in England.

The Mayflower Barn is still standing in a farm that dates back to the late Middle Ages. Its history begins in 1618 when Thomas Russell bought it. Thomas Russell added to the existing structures on his farm in 1624 when he built a substantial new barn. The timbers he used to build the barn were purchased from a shipbreaker’s yard in Rotherhithe for £50 (equivalent to £5,800 today). There is no concrete way to validate this claim though.

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