Pilgrim Roots

Thank you to everyone who take part in this year’s Illuminate at home! Although we couldn’t be together, it was great to see so many lanterns across our social media channels lighting up our communities as a beacon of hope in such difficult times. Take a look at some of the lanterns here – Illuminate 2020

Coronavirus Update: Many events and activities have been postponed or cancelled, and attractions, restaurants, pubs, theatres and other venues have also temporarily closed. We are working with the national organisers to find a suitable way forward. For regular updates find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter

Please still do explore these pages and discover the Mayflower story and its connections to Gainsborough and the Pilgrim Roots region. 


2020 marks the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower from Plymouth UK to Plymouth Massachusetts.

Gainsborough has a special connection to the Mayflower anniversary as separatist movements originated in this region that led them on their journey to America.

A group of Separatists were thought to have worshipped in secret at Gainsborough Old Hall – now regarded as one of the best preserved medieval manor houses in Britain – with the permission of its sympathetic owner, merchant William Hickman. Their preacher, John Smyth, was a strong influence on the Mayflower Pilgrims, and is generally considered to have later been a founder of the Baptist churches. The Hall is now a much-loved visitor attraction within the town and is open 7 days a week. Times vary throughout the year, please check their website before visiting.

The United Reformed Church in Gainsborough also stands as a memorial to John Robinson, pastor of the Mayflower Pilgrims. Robinson was one of the leaders in the planning of the voyage to America. Inside the church you can also visit the ‘Mayflower Room’ which is an impressive and informative display of the local history of the area’s Separatist ancestors, who played an important role during the historic voyage.

Leading Separatists in the Pilgrim Roots region

Many of the leading separatists came from this region of England. It was here that they formed their ideas and made plans to leave England for a new life in America.

Find more information about some of them below:

Where It All Began

Discover where it all began with churches in the Pilgrim Roots region and the remarkable stories of those who went on to sail with the Mayflower in 1620. Bassetlaw District Council have created a series of videos bringing these churches stories to life. Visit their YouTube channel to watch them online.

Latest News

23 November 2020     Gainsborough gears up for online Illuminate event this Thursday

13 November 2020     Building on Gainsborough’s heritage: Illuminate 2020 moves online and new Pilgrim legacies

23 October 2020         ‘One Small Candle’: Make Your Own Lantern for Illuminate 2020!

20 September 2020     PilgrimAGE: Compact

16 September 2020     Mayflower Choral Commission

15 September 2020     TV Historian Dan Snow Commemorates the 400th Anniversary of the Sailing of the Mayflower

Upcoming Events

The UK Government has advised against all non-essential travel. Any Mayflower related events taking place up until this year have either been postponed or cancelled. For more information visit the Mayflower 400 website. For regular updates find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter

Join in with spectacular events that will commemorate this significant historical moment and discover fascinating places to visit throughout 2020.

10 May 2020  Flight of the Separatists at Gainsborough Old Hallthis event has been postponed. We will provide further information as soon as possible.

For more events across the Pilgrim Roots region visit the Pilgrim Roots website.

Gainsborough’s Illuminate parade (2019) was the first to take place across the country opening the commemorative year, inspired by the words of leading Separatist William Bradford who said: ‘As one small candle may light a thousand, so the light here kindled hath shone unto many.’ Due to COVID-19, 2020’s Illuminate has been postponed has been postponed and new plans made for an ‘Illuminate’ online. See ‘One small candle’ for more information.

Look back at what happened at Illuminate 2019:

Pilgrim Roots links together Pilgrims’ heritage sites and history across Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire allowing visitors to discover the rich heritage of the region. Find out more about the Pilgrims at the Pilgrims Gallery in Retford, see where some of attempted to escape from Boston or discover where they fled to Holland from Immingham.

To find out what’s happening in the region visit the Pilgrim Roots website.

Take a look the Mayflower 400 video below that tells you about the locations in the Pilgrim Roots Region.

Learn more about the history below or for more information about the Mayflower400 project please visit the Mayflower 400 website. You can also download the Mayflower 400 app where you can enjoy free, self-guided walks and driving tours of each of the villages, towns and cities connected to the Mayflower.

In Gainsborough, you’ll discover a wealth of heritage and things to do. Explore the town’s fascinating heritage, discover arts and culture or find a great shopping experience including the award winning Marshall’s Yard.

Go to our Visit page to find out more.

Support Pilgrim Roots

Calling all businesses! Research shows that England will experience a growing number of visitors from around the world over the next few years, coming to explore the history of the Pilgrims’ and their roots. Find out how you can help us welcome these visitors on the Support Pilgrim Roots page.

Contact information

Tel: 01427 675162

Email: [email protected]

Mayflower 400