Picture from a stained glass window depicting figures from the 17th century, possibly pilgrims?

Roots of America

Since 1606, when the first ships bravely set sail for the New World from London’s Blackwall pier, Essex has held strong links with North America. Under the command of one of England’s greatest captains, Harwich-born Christopher Newport, the ships Godspeed, Discovery and Susan Constant carried 144 men and boys, many from Essex. They arrived in Chesapeake Bay on 26 April 1607 where they established the pioneering settlement of Jamestown, named in honour of their king, James I, the first permanent English settlement in America.

Since 1606, when the first ships bravely set sail for the New World from London’s Blackwall pier, Essex has held strong links with North America. Under the command of one of England’s greatest captains, Harwich-born Christopher Newport, the ships Godspeed, Discovery and Susan Constant carried 144 men and boys, many from Essex.

Picture of a model replica of the ship.
Replica of the 'Lyon' that sailed to America in 1632. You can see it at Braintree Museum.

The connection

Thomas Hooker plaque at Chelmsford Cathedral

Picture of a Blue Plaque saying that Thomas Hooker founder of the State of Connecticut was curator a

 

Thirteen years later in 1620, another expedition set sail from Plymouth on the Mayflower with 102 passengers, again many from Essex. John Carver of Braintree chartered the vessel; Christopher Jones of Harwich was captain and Samuel Fuller from Ockendon was ship's doctor. At least five of the passengers came from Great Burstead (Billericay) including the treasurer, Christopher Martin, whose home still stands in Billericay High Street. These religious visionaries set out to make their homes in a New World, free from religious persecution, landing at Cape Cod, Massachusetts sixty-six days later.

Essex was a strong recruiting ground for the Colonies with descendants from many of the county's families listed among the New World’s notable residents. The Sherman family from Dedham can list a co-founder of Rhode Island, a Civil War general, and a signatory of the American Declaration of Independence among their descendants, Braintree claims both second president, John Adams and his son, the sixth, while Chelmsford Cathedral bears a plaque commemorating pastor Thomas Hooker. He was appointed town lecturer and curate of St Mary's, Chelmsford, now the Cathedral. Censured for his Puritan beliefs, he emigrated in 1633 and is remembered for founding the State of Connecticut.

Thirteen years later in 1620, another expedition set sail from Plymouth on the Mayflower with 102 passengers, again many from Essex. John Carver of Braintree chartered the vessel; Christopher Jones of Harwich was captain and Samuel Fuller from Ockendon was ship's doctor. At least five of the passengers came from Great Burstead (Billericay) including the treasurer, Christopher Martin, whose home still stands in Billericay High Street.

New world adventurers

Harwich

Panoramic view over Harwich in early morning sunlight.

Harwich was home to Captain Christopher Newport (1560-1617). He rose to become one of England’s greatest sea-captains, which led the Virginia Company of London to commission him to take overall command of the three vessels and passengers bound for Virginia in 1606. Harwich was also home to Christopher Jones who famously captained the Mayflower in 1620.

Dedham

Picture of the decorative exterior of this buidling.
The village was a recruiting ground for the American colonies. A dozen descendants of Henry Sherman emigrated to New England between 1633 and 1640 and left their significant mark on the United States. Through their family tree, they can claim a co-founder of Rhode Island, a signatory of the Declaration of Independence, a Vice-president of the US and other distinguished luminaries.

Braintree

Painting depicting a group of people ready to board the ship.

A group of religious dissenters fled to America in 1632 in “The Lyon”. They settled initially at Mount Wollaston, later renamed Braintree in memory of their home-town. John Bridges, a Braintree resident, founded the school that developed into Harvard University. John Adams, whose ancestors sailed on “The Lyon” and his son John Quincy Adams both became US presidents.

Maldon and Purleigh

Exterior of the church with a colourful blossoming tree in front.
Presidential connections are found in Purleigh where Lawrence, the great-great grandfather of the first American president, George Washington, was minister during the mid-1660s. He is buried in Maldon's All Saints Church. The flint tower of the church was repaired through the generosity of US citizens and the commemorative Washington Window was presented by citizens of Malden, Massachusetts.

Chigwell

Painting of William Penn.

William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, born in 1644, lived at Wanstead, then an Essex village. He was educated at Chigwell School, whose original buildings from circa 1629 are still in use. Penn founded Pennsylvania in 1681 as a place where his philosophy of tolerance, equality and understanding of fellow men could be practised.

Billericay

Picture of the church as seen from the churchyard with some grave stones in the forefront and a huge

Among the 102 passengers who boarded The Mayflower at Plymouth in 1620 was Christopher Martin, the ship’s provisioner who also served as churchwarden at Great Burstead’s St Mary Magdalene’s Church. Billerica in Massachusetts was established in 1655 and is now twinned with Billericay.

A friendly invasion

During the Second Word War, Essex became home to hundreds of US airmen. Their ‘invasion’ had an immediate impact on the local scene and British got their first taste of peanut butter, chewing gum and Coke. Close relationships with residents forged long lasting relationships.

With the end of the war many of the sites were closed down. Today visitors can discover many of the old airfields, which have found new uses or have returned to agricultural land. Many have been identified by special signs and memorials to past squadrons.

During the Second Word War, Essex became home to hundreds of US airmen. Their ‘invasion’ had an immediate impact on the local scene and British got their first taste of peanut butter, chewing gum and Coke. Close relationships with residents forged long lasting relationships.

Great Dunmow

Stained glass window depicting American and British soldiers and children.

This famous airfield built at Easton Lodge, the home of Countess ‘Daisy’ Warwick, opened in 1943. It was the first base on General Eisenhower’s 1944 itinerary during his USAAF tour of England. Towards the end of 1944 over 2,700 airmen and 68 aircraft were stationed here.

Black and  white picture of a group of men standinf in front of a WWII aeroplane.

Andrewsfield hangar at Great Saling airfield was the unlikely stage setting for some of Hollywood’s greatest performers during spring and summer of 1944. James Cagney, Danny Kaye and many other stars including the Glen Miller Orchestra visited Essex to entertain the troops.

Black and white picture of WWII planes flying in the sky

Ridgewell was but one of the many airfields operated by the USAAF during the Second World War. The airfield was used by the Royal Air Force and the United States Army Air Forces Eighth Air Force. It had three runways and accommodated nearly 3,000 men.