Pilgrim Roots

Pilgrim Routes Historical GuideDiscover Gainsborough’s Pilgrim Roots and its connection with the Mayflower story!

Gainsborough has a special connection with the Mayflower story, as separatist movements who journeyed to America originated in this region.

A group of Separatists were thought to have worshipped in secret at Gainsborough Old Hall  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 Old Hall, considered to be one of the best-preserved medieval manor houses in Britain, is now a much-loved visitor attraction within the town and is open to visitors throughout the year*.

*Times vary throughout the year, please check the English Heritage 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 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 has created a series of videos bringing these churches’ stories to life. Visit the YouTube channel to watch them online.

Learn more about the history below. The Pilgrims Trail is also available to download, bringing together all the key sites across the Pilgrim Roots region associated with the Separatists’ story. 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.

Take a Road Trip and Follow the Pilgrims’ Journey

Discover how Gainsborough fits into the larger story as you explore other key sites associated with the Pilgrims, that end with their departure point typically associated with Plymouth. Immerse yourself in the history by visiting the Pilgrims’ hometowns, religious sites, and significant landmarks, you can forge a deeper connection to their lives, beliefs, and the challenges they faced.

Uncover Britain – Stories of the Mayflower Pilgrims

Past Events

Illuminate 2022

Over 2,500 residents and visitors attended Illuminate 2022 on Saturday 26th November 2022, filling the town with a joyous atmosphere. Activities took place throughout the day and evening, offering plenty of ways for people to get involved. Take a look at the full gallery.

Illuminate 2021

Over 2000 visitors attended Illuminate 2021 – Gainsborough’s final event to commemorate of the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower. Take a look at the full gallery.

Flight of the Separatists

Families enjoyed a sun-soaked day of festivities at Gainsborough Old Hall on Saturday 17 July 2021 – as the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower story was officially marked in the town. View our gallery here.

One Small Candle – Illuminate 2020

Thank you to everyone who took part in the 2020 Illuminate at home! Do take a look at some of the lanterns here – Illuminate 2020

Gainsborough’s Illuminate parade (2019) was the first to take place across the country, opening the commemorative year, and 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.’

Look back 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.

Take a look the Mayflower 400 video below, which tells you about the locations in the Pilgrim Roots region.

Contact information

Tel: 01427 675162

Email: [email protected]

Mayflower 400