A Brief History
On August 1, 1620, the British ship, Speedwell, sailed from Delfshaven along with the Mayflower to bring separatists known as Pilgrims to the New World. Alas, the Speedwell was not seaworthy and after several attempts the ship was abandoned as a transport to America and Mayflower made the voyage into history alone.
Speedwell was originally named Swiftsure and was built in 1577, making her a relatively old vessel at the time of the proposed voyage to America. Decommissioned by the British navy in 1605, her name was changed, and she became a commercial vessel. Her name, Speedwell, is actually in honor of a wildflower that grows in Britain, although her namers certainly had tongue in cheek while keeping her new name in line with her old name. Speedwell was a relatively small ship, displacing about 60 tons, as compared to the 180 tons displaced by the Mayflower.
Despite her leakiness and problems in taking on water, Speedwell continued to serve and in 1635 made a successful voyage to Virginia!
Question for students (and subscribers): Were you previously aware of the Speedwell accompanying the Mayflower? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Bradford, William. Of Plymouth Plantation: 1620-1645. Independently published, 2020.
Philbrick, Nathaniel. Mayflower: Voyage, Community, War. Penguin Books, 2007.
The featured image in this article, a painting by Robert W. Weir (photograph courtesy Architect of the Capitol) of Protestant pilgrims on the deck of the ship Speedwell before their departure for the New World in 1620, is a work of an employee of the Architect of the Capitol, taken or made as part of that person’s official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, all images created or made by the Architect of the Capitol are in the public domain in the United States.