#TravelTuesday: The Mayflower Steps
If you live in Plymouth, Massachusetts, chances are you’ve seen the replica of the Mayflower, the ship that carried the Pilgrims to the New World in 1620. But did you know that there is a significant landmark in Plymouth, England honoring the departure of the “Pilgrim Fathers” (the name given to the Mayflower Pilgrims in England)?
We got the chance to chat with Scott Grenney from our sister-city Plymouth, England, and here’s his take on the Mayflower Steps and the connection between our two cities (and of course we asked him about fish and chips!)
P400: Great to meet you, Scott! Tell us about yourself.
SG: I’m Scott Grenney and I voluntarily run the local ‘Plymouth Barbican Waterfront’ website and social media network for the Plymouth Barbican area with the aim to help encourage locals and visitors alike to visit the Barbican. I also coordinate a small volunteer team of writers, photographers, and social media reporters who, like me, are passionate about the area. We are known as the “Barbican Waterfront Media Team” and work closely with the local community to highlight key events, news, and come up with creative ways to showcase the Plymouth Barbican.
I currently live in Plymouth, England, although did live in Dallas, Texas for 4 years when I was younger!
So, what exactly is the Barbican?
SG: The Barbican is the name given to the western and northern sides of the old harbour area of Plymouth. Two of its streets still retain some of the architecture of an old fishing port. ‘A barbican’ is a fortified gate and here the name probably derives from the ‘Castle Barbican’ which was an entrance to the late medieval fortress that guarded access to the Cattewater, prior to the building of the Royal Citadel nearby.
For centuries the Barbican was home to Plymouth’s fish market (now relocated to the other side of the harbour) and is still home to many fishermen.
Today the Barbican is a location retaining many of its historic features and is home to a wide collection of Attractions from the National Marine Aquarium (Britain’s largest aquarium) to various shops, cafes, restaurants and pubs/bars.
A few facts about the Barbican: It has the largest concentration of cobbled streets in Britain and the local Jackas Bakery is Britain’s oldest operating commercial bakery! Also the Plymouth Gin Distillery is the oldest working gin distillery in England.
What are the Mayflower steps and where are they located?
SG: The ‘Mayflower Step’s you see today (photos attached) were built in 1933 on a small pier that was built about a century ago. They consist of a commemorative portico with Doric columns of Portland stone. Later around 1999 the addition of a small platform which now extends over the water with a brushed steel rail and a shelf with nautical bronze artwork, including historical information was added too. Also see www.mayflowersteps.co.uk for photos from the plaques nearby.
The actual location of the original Mayflower Steps from where the Pilgrim Fathers boarded the Mayflower Ship are located a bit further back from the commemorative portico. They are underneath where the Admiral MacBride Public House now stands.
What was the reason for building the Mayflower Steps?
SG: I believe the original Mayflower Steps would have provided access to fishermen to their boats. The reason the present day commemorative steps were built in 1933 was to have a symbolic monument to highlight Plymouth’s ties with America.
Is the “Mayflower Pilgrim” story well-known in Plymouth, England? How else is it commemorated?
SG: The story is well known in Plymouth and there are plans with the Mayflower 400 group to help further knowledge of the historical links with America.
There is a ‘Mayflower Museum’ located in Plymouth’s Tourism Information Centre. I recently visited the museum with my son and you can see some photos here. Also across Plymouth there are many references to the Pilgrims, Mayflower and more with many local teams, businesses and more having links.
Some examples: Plymouth Argyle Football team is known as the ‘Pilgrims’, Pilgrim Primary, Mayflower Guest House, Mayflower College, Mayflower Marina, Mayflower Street… the list goes on you can’t go far in Plymouth without seeing a reference!
Each year there is a Thanksgiving event and speeches are held on the Mayflower Steps. Also with the build-up to the Mayflower 400 commemorations, the first annual Illuminate event was held, starting from the Mayflower Steps.
Have you been to Plymouth, Massachusetts? If so, which Plymouth has better fish and chips?
SG: I’m making plans to visit Plymouth, Massachusetts before 2020 and I’ll be sure to try your local fish and chips on arrival. It will be interesting to find out the answer to this question!
Source used for details about the history of the Mayflower Steps from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mayflower_Steps
#TravelTuesday: The Mayflower Steps