December 21 2014 Latest news:
Monday, July 28, 2014
It was a ship that helped found the United States of America. And it came from Harwich. James Marston goes behind the scenes at the Harwich Mayflower Project.
Behind an old railway shed, a huge bit of English oak points skyward from its bed of old railway sleepers.
Black plastic fluttering in the summer breeze protects and conceals yet more timber – the keel.
The Harwich Mayflower Project is recreating the iconic ship that helped found modern America as well as aiming to exploit Harwich’s maritime history and regenerate the town.
It was in 1620 that the Pilgrim Fathers left England for the promise of the new world. They sailed on the Mayflower which had been, most likely, built and launched in Harwich.
Sean Day, the project’s public relations and fundraising officer, said the project is also creating opportunities for the town.
He said: “Our goal is to create a working replica of the Mayflower which was a Harwich ship and to re-establish Harwich as a maritime centre and regenerate those traditional wooden ship building skills that built the Mayflower.”
“Harwich has not really been exploited enough and we want to put it on the tourist map.”
The project has already got a training centre and work has started on the replica which is due to be finished in 2016 in time for a recreation of the historic voyage in 2020.
The ship is being built using 600 English Oak trees.
Some of the trees were saplings at the time of the first voyage.
The replica is being built in an old railway marshalling yard and its base is made from old sleepers.
The railway shed leased by the project is home to the lofting floor which is used for cutting templates.
Sean said the project has applied for £1.9million of lottery funding which it is hoped will be used to develop a visitors centre and museum as well as employ further shipwrights on the project.
He said the project was started in 2009 by the community.
He added: “Surveys have shown the Mayflower project will create 147 indirect jobs, increase revenue by 20 per cent to local business and attract 80,000 more visitors to Harwich a year more.”
“Harwich has for more than 500 years been crucial in British maritime history. It has been central to the major events in making Britain what it is today; building ships in the time of the Spanish Armada and its role in the two world wars.
• The ship could carry 108 tuns of wine
• It is estimated she was about 108 feet long
• She had three masts
• The ship took 66 days to sail across the Atlantic
• The passengers included English separatists who had previously escaped to the Netherlands
• The Mayflower symbolises European persecution and transatlantic settlement in American history
• She was broken up at Rotherhithe in about 1623
“However, it lost its shipbuilding heritage and there have been no apprenticeships in shipbuilding in marine engineering in Harwich for decades. Until now.”
Sean said that when the replica is built it will be used to train young people in all aspects of sailing and safety at sea and at work.
The project’s senior publicist and fund raiser Mary MacLeod said the project is holding a big fund raising event in the House of Commons later this year to which the US Ambassador has been invited.
She added: “The Mayflower is a crucial part of US history and highlights the links and special relationship between the two countries. We hope this project will deepen that deeply rooted kinship with the American people.”
President George W Bush
Dick Van Dyke
President Franklin D Roosevelt
Inside the shed there is already an exhibition on the history of the Mayflower and a workshop.
Outside 19-year-old Brett Stocking is working on the replica. He has just completed an apprenticeship in marine engineering through the project’s training centre.
He said: “Marine engineering is very varied and you learn something new every day.
“I am helping to build a massive part of English and US history using traditional tools and techniques.”
The project is a registered charity both in the UK and in the United States and is currently looking for corporate sponsorship.
Chairman of the project’s board of trustees Tom Daly said: “This is a project that has come from the community and is going to significantly regenerate a town which has been in decline for some years.
“Harwich has some amazing history and geography. The Mayflower was built and launched here and the captain of the Mayflower was from Harwich as so was much of the crew. We want to put this corner of East Anglia on the tourist map and showcase its role in US history.”