A crowdfunding campaign has been set up to raise £20,000 to help commemorate the 400th anniversary of Shropshire’s unique historic link to the sailing of the Mayflower.
The Shropshire’s Mayflower Children group have started a Just Giving page to raise funds to mark the milestone and install a bronze commemorative plaque designed by Ludlow-based artist Claire Minter-Kemp in Much Wenlock town centre.
There is also a full programme planned for the summer of 2020 which will highlight the story of the four More children from Larden Hall in Shipton, near Much Wenlock, and how they came to be a part of one of the most important moments in American history.
The Mayflower ship sailed from Plymouth in September of 1620, and was bound for America. The passengers on the voyage became the founders of one of the first permanent European settlements in New England.
“It’s a little known story outside the county of Shropshire,” said Mike Brogden, secretary of Shropshire’s Mayflower Children.
“But it is a fascinating one which has led to what must be thousands of descendants of this Shropshire family now living in America.”
The story of how four children from Shropshire ended up on that boat is one of controversy.
The children: Elinor, Jasper, Mary and Richard More were put on the Mayflower by Samuel More of Linley after the breakdown of his marriage to Katharine of Larden in 1616. Samuel More declared none of the children to be his after Katharine was deemed to have admitted adultery after a declaration of a marriage contract with a local farmer, Jacob Blakeway – something she did not deny. It led to bitter legal wrangling.
Samuel’s employer, Lord Zouche, was a member of the Virginia Company which had been transporting children from London to meet the need for labour in America.
Meanwhile, a small band of Puritan Separatists, much later to be known as the Pilgrim Fathers, planned to emigrate to America to gain greater freedom for their religion.
A deal was struck: free land for the Puritans in America, £10 share per person to pay for the voyage, unaccompanied children to be looked after by the adults. Samuel paid £80 for double shares for the four children and they were allocated guardians.
There were more than 100 passengers on the ship, and about half of them died during the voyage. Of the More children from Shropshire, only Richard survived, with Elinor and Jasper dying during the crossing and Mary dying shortly after landing.
It was long assumed the Mores on the Mayflower passenger list were orphans from the streets of London, but in the1950s, Sir Jasper More of Linley, near Bishop’s Castle, found documents telling the story of the More family in a trunk in his attic.
“It really is a fascinating tale and one that is significant. Richard More himself is the only known Mayflower passenger to have a marked grave, and would likely have taken part in the first Thanksgiving harvests,” said Mike.
“Not every area can profess to have such a significant connection to the founding of modern America and that is why we want to mark the 400th anniversary.”
Included in the events will be guided walks taking in significant Mayflower landmarks, a history day, a choral concert, a stunning Son et Lumiere and special church service.
It is expected these will not only be attended by locals, but also by many tourists from across the Atlantic who too are fascinated by this tale of the More children in American history.
“We’ve got some great ideas to mark this landmark event and the plaque itself will be a lasting tribute to the More children and the legacy here in Shropshire of the Mayflower voyage so we would like for people to help us raise as much money as possible so we can do this as well as we would like to,” said Mike.