William Brewster was born around 1566 in Scooby, which forms part of the Pilgrim Roots region.
Brewster was one of the original Separatists who became inspired by the radical words of Richard Clifton, the rector of the nearby village of Babworth. He was instrumental in establishing a Separatist church with Richard Clifton, using Scrooby Manor for meetings with other like-minded people such as John Smyth (from Lincoln) and John Robinson (from Sturton-le-Steeple).
Prior to this, he appears to have been a member of the Gainsborough separatist church led by John Smyth who had a strong influence on the Mayflower Pilgrims. They were also thought to have worshipped in secret at Gainsborough Old Hall by kind permission of its owner, Sir William Hickman.
When Smyth and is group of separatists left for Holland, Brewster’s home, Scrooby Manor House, became the meeting place for the separatist church. He became an outlaw for his separatist views and after a period of imprisonment in Boston, he eventually reached Amsterdam in 1608 and re-joined John Smyth’s church. Later that year he settled in Leiden with other members of the Scrooby Church.
They found life difficult, and after nearly 12 years, they made plans to leave for Virginia on the East Coast of America. In 1620, they met the Mayflower ship in England, and Brewster left England on board as the elder of the Separatist group. Winter storms made the journey hard, and they arrived in late November 1620, in Cape Cod, Massachusetts near what is now known as Provincetown.
That day the settlers wrote the Mayflower Compact – an agreement to help the group survive. It is signed by the 41 men on board, with the first names being those men, including William Brewster, who came from the English East Midlands.
Brewster died in in 1644 in Plymouth, Massachuetts, where we was leader of the Plymouth colony for more than 20 years.
Pilgrim Roots is a partnership connecting Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and South Yorkshire telling the story of the Pilgrims before they set sail on the Mayflower who many believe laid the foundations for modern America. Follow the links below to find out more.