The Pilgrims were ‘Separatists’ – a group of religious dissenters who lived in Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire around 400 years ago.
They were unhappy with the established Church of England (which everyone had to attend) so met in secret to worship according to their own beliefs.
Being a Separatist was highly illegal and dangerous in 16th and 17th century England. Often labelled as traitors for betraying the Church and its head, the powerful monarch, many Separatists fled England for more tolerant lands.
In 1607, they made their way from north Nottinghamshire to Boston where they had chartered a ship to smuggle them out of the country. But the captain betrayed them to the authorities, and they were held at Boston’s Guildhall. After a month they were released and sent to the court in Lincoln.
However, the next spring they attempted again to go to Holland, travelling north to board a Dutch ship near Immingham. It is thought some 80-100 people travelled on a barge which began its journey in Gainsborough.
The barge sailed up the River Trent, collecting families and their possessions along the way. Others made their way on foot over land to their meeting point near Immingham.
They began to transfer from the barge to the ship in small boats. Before they were all aboard, some armed lookouts were spotted approaching. The Dutch captain, fearing serious trouble, decided to set sail, taking many of the men but leaving the women and their children who had yet to board near the shore and in the hands of the authorities.
Those left behind were taken before magistrates who didn’t know what to do with them, and so they were eventually released.
Legend has it that they were helped by local people in Immingham, which was a small hamlet in those days. It is thought they sheltered in St Andrew’s Church porch. Somehow, they made their way to Amsterdam in the summer of 1608, re-joining the others.