Saturday, March 28, 2009

Returning to Babworth

After a quick visit to the town of Retford earlier this month we stopped to look at a church we had last visited, quite a few years ago now. I saw the sign to the church on the main road just outside the town and as soon as we drove into the car park I remembered it. Last time we had visited it was late September, slightly chilly with autumnal leaves blowing around. This time it was warmer and we were surrounded by daffodils.

The church of All Saints, Babworth is on the Mayflower Trail. It was here during the late 16th century and the first years of the 17th century that Richard Clyfton, the parson at the church, became sympathetic to the Separatist Movement - people who had separated or moved away from the established church because they wished for a simpler way of worship than that which was offered by the established church; they also belived in the freedom of worship and in religious tolerance. In 1605 Clyfton was deprived of his living for being "a nonconformist and nonsubscriber."

This was probably because he rejected things like wearing a cap and surplice, making the sign of a cross and bowing when the name of Jesus was spoken during services. He was offered a home by William Brewster who lived a few miles further north at Scrooby Manor House, where separatist meetings were also held. Richard Clyfton then became pastor of the Scrooby congregation.

The path behind the church is called the Pilgrim Way because it leads almost directly to Scrooby and it is thought that William Brewster, William Bradford and other sympathisers would have walked this way to hear Clyfton preach.

With a bit of searching I managed to find the photographs we took at the time of our first visit about eighteen years ago. Here are my friends Jenny and Susanna outside Babworth Church when we set out to follow the 'Mayflower Trail'.

Jenny was at that time curator of Gainsborough Old Hall, which had connections with the separatist movement because the then owner William Hickman was a sympathiser and allowed religious meetings to be held at the hall with the preacher John Smyth. She had also written a small booklet about that connection called 'Gainsborough Old Hall and the Mayflower Pilgrim Story'. Susanna was the curator of the museum where I worked in South Lincolnshire and her interest was the fact that a number of years before she had worked at the Plymouth Plantation in Massachusetts.

On that day we also visited St Wilfred's church at Scrooby:-

and St Helena's Church at Austerfield where William Bradford, who eventually became governor of the Plymouth Colony, was born. He was also a follower of Richard Clyfton's teachings.

We went right to the coast near Grimsby to a place called Killingholme from where in 1608 the Pilgrims set sail to Amsterdam in Holland to escape religious persecution. This was their second attempt to flee their country, the first in 1607 having been thwarted at Boston in Lincolnshire where some of the leaders, including Clyfton, Robinson and Brewster were held prisoner for a while, in cells that can still be seen in the Guildhall Museum. The Scrooby Group of 1608 was again led by John Robinson from Sturton-le-Steeple and in their party was also William Brewster, William Bradford and Richard Clyfton. Some members of this group moved on from Amsterdam to Leiden but Richard Clyfton stayed in Amsterdam where he died in 1616. Four years later in 1620 members of the Scrooby group came back to Plymouth in the UK from where they sailed to the east coast of north America on board the Mayflower.

I remember also going to an historical re-enactment at Gainsborough Old Hall which was set in these turbulent times, here are some photos taken then, inside the hall. I apologise for the poor quality of the photos but you can get an idea of what it was like from them. It was fascinating just stopping and listening to the conversations as the re-enactors kept in character all the time no matter what was happening around them. Quite a skill.

They are dated July 1991 so I expect that is the year we followed the Mayflower Trail.


  1. Lovely post Rosie. It is so strange how history links us all. About 20 or so years ago I went to the 'Plimoth Plantation' in New England and I went to see the graves of the people that had died that had travelled on the Mayflower. Your friend was probably working at the plantation when I visited.

  2. Jeannette St.G.28 March 2009 at 18:56

    Thank you Rosie for sharing this great and important story - Holland seems to be a great country to escape to, LOL
    I did not know about the Seperatists though.

  3. Interesting post, I enjoyed the re-enactment photos. I've been to Plimoth Plantation which is a fabulous place, a living history village and really well done. I've seen Plimoth Rock too where the Pilgrim's supposedly landed. There's a replica of the Mayflower in the harbour at modern day Plimoth which is on the site of the original settlement. The ship is unbelievably small, it's incredible that it crossed the Atlantic, it must have been a dreadful voyage.

  4. Very interesting. I always love old churches and their stories.

  5. What a lot of interesting information, Rosie! I love history and it's always a treat to visit you and learn something new.

  6. Gosh, Rosie this was fascinating!

    Living in the US, we hear frequent references to the pilgrims... but rarely anything about the immediate conditions and circumstances prior to their departure (except in a very generalized way..."left to avoid religous persecution" or "left to find religious freedom", etc).

    Thanks for relating this interesting story behind the story!

  7. P.S.

    Thanks for the link to Speedwell Cavern in one of your earlier posts.... I spent a little enjoyable time "exploring" there!

  8. That was very interesting Rosie, thanks. :)

  9. Hi Rosie, I went to Gainsborough Old Hall on my sons school trip a few years ago - it was a really interesting day out as they gave all the kids roles to play. Some were servants and some were royalty. I must visit again. Great story.

  10. What a lovely name- Scrooby. I shall have to " Google Earth" it!

  11. What an interesting post, Rosie. And what an inviting path to follow through that wood.

  12. Hello Rosie,

    I came over from Louise's blog ~ I love your photographs and the fascinating history of the area. It makes me quite homesick for England...


  13. Hello
    I just followed you over from Louise's blog, I see we share some other lovely friends too. You have such an interesting blog, a really lovely read and I am totally smitten with your three gorgeous felines.

  14. Thanks, Simone, how lucky you are to have visitied - my friend worked there in the early 70s.

    thanks jeanette - I'd love to visit Holland one day.

    I'd love to see all that, Rowan like simone you are lucky to have visited.

    Welcome, Sarah Lulu and thanks for your comment.

    thanks, sal, Pamela & rosie - glad you enjoyed the tour:)

    thanks,Teresa - glad you enjoyed the post and that you found the link to Speedwell:)

    Gainsborough Old hall is wonderful isn't it?

    valerie - hope you find Scrooby:)

    Welcome, wild rose and skipping in the meadow - thanks for your comments - hope you will return:)