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Funding secured for digital project that will attract American tourists to Harwich - the home port of the Mayflower

PUBLISHED: 17:28 18 September 2018 | UPDATED: 17:28 18 September 2018

The Mayflower II, which is a replica of the 17th-century ship Mayflower, celebrated for transporting the Pilgrims to the New World

The Mayflower II, which is a replica of the 17th-century ship Mayflower, celebrated for transporting the Pilgrims to the New World

PA Archive/PA Images

Harwich may be set to get an influx of American tourists, as funding has been green-lighted for a ‘digital Mayflower trail’ to mark 400 years since the ship carried the first English passengers to the New World,

Around 35 million Americans today trace their ancestry to a passenger of the iconic ship, which left Plymouth on 16 September 1620 and arrived 56 days later in Cape Cod.

Although Plymouth lays claim to being the spiritual home of the Mayflower, the ship was actually built in Harwich, and the Essex town also served as her home port. Not only that, but the ship’s captain, Christopher Jones, is believed to have been born in Harwich.

The government’s additional £250,000 grant will be used to promote and encourage American visitors to join the anniversary in England, and to develop a ‘digital Mayflower trail’ which will bring to life individual stories, heritage and culture of each location involved in the commemorations.

The Mayflower 400 commemorations, to mark the 400th anniversary on September 16 2020 of the mayflower sailing, will be launched next November.

Paul Milsom, chairman of the Harwich and Dovercourt Tourism Group, said: “We are very excited that central government has given this additional funding for the national Mayflower 400 trail, which Harwich is a part of, and it will help put the town on the map.

“There are numerous tours already on sale on the US market because of the original funding, so this is really helping to pump-prime the market for visitors from overseas, especially America, during 2020.”

The sailing of the Mayflower is celebrated by many in the United States as the beginning of a national legacy, and in the UK as the beginning of an enduring alliance.

Hariwch is one of 11 towns that played a key role in the history of the Mayflower, all of which are forging links with wider national and international partners in Holland and the United States as part of the Mayflower 400 programme.

The voyage will be remembered in a series of world class events, public art and wider content.

Zoe Fairley, Tendring District Council’s Cabinet Member for Investment and Growth, also welcomed the funding pledge from Government.

“Whilst we are doing a lot of things locally to prepare for the Mayflower 400 celebration, we must not lose sight of the fact we are part of a wider national – and international – story,” Cllr Fairley said.

“I welcome the funding for this digital trail as it will help encourage tourists from other Mayflower 400 destinations to also visit Harwich, providing a boost for own economy here in Tendring.”

Mick Skeels, TDC Cabinet Member for Leisure and Tourism, added that the project benefiting from this additional Government cash would really help to bring stories from the Mayflower to life.

“The Mayflower story is inspiring in itself, but the local tales from Harwich connected to it are just fascinating,” Cllr Skeels said.

“This project will make those stories so real for visitors, and therefore prove a real draw for tourists.”

The original plans for the Mayflower 2020 commemorations in Harwich included a project to build a complete a full-scale authentic shore-based replica of the Mayflower ship ahead of the 400th anniversary of her voyage, and to build a settlement replicating that of early New World settlers at the old Harwich rail yard. But those plans were put on hold as the funding had not been secured in time.

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