Many a tale of love, adventure and derring-do circulated in a city rocked by stories of the first England-based pioneers to reach America. We can take you to the last resting place of Captain John Smith, leader of 105 settlers who left England in three ships (the Susan Constant, Godspeedand Discovery) in 1606 to establish Jamestown, Virginia, the first permanent English colony in North America (not far away you can board a full-scale replica of the Discovery). Their epic voyage is marked by the First Settlers Monument at Tower Hamlets, east London, unveiled in 1928 by the then US ambassador.
Smith later met up with royalty when he was captured and sentenced to death by the chief of the Powhatan Indians. The chief’s daughter, Princess Pocahantas, interceded for him saving his life and eventually married the founder of Virginian’s first tobacco plantation. Learn more about this remarkable young woman in a Gravesend churchyard near the river Thames, where she died and was buried a few months after moving to England with her husband.
Follow the settlement trail by driving out to Rotherhithe, and the ancient pub from where the Mayflower began its voyage on the better known Pilgrim Fathers expedition, picking up pilgrims from Southampton and Plymouth and landing in America in 1621. The Mayflower’s captain Christopher Jones is buried nearby .
The US, like many great nations, had humble beginnings as did its most prestigious university, Harvard. London’sSouthwark Cathedral pays homage to one of its most famous emigrants, John Harvard, who settled in America in 1637 but died a year later leaving half his fortune and an extensive library to the college he had set up that was later named after him.
Several movers and shakers in the colonies returned to London and we can take you to where they are buried In the capital’s churches including George Calvert (Maryland’s founder) and Edward Winslow, one of the leaders of the Mayflower settlers and who was three times governor of their first settlement at Plymouth, Massachusetts.
But perhaps one of the greatest US settlers was the churchman William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania and the Quakers, and whose trail we can help you follow from London to America and back. Baptised at All Hallows Church, by the Tower of London, in 1644, he was buried next to a quiet, rural Friends Meeting House at Jordans village in 1718, near Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire, where he lived for several years. Inbetween he proved to be one of the most progressive early American governors – he declared complete religious freedom in Pennsylvania and native Americans and settlers were treated as equals.