Bassetlaw Pilgrims

Pilgrim Roots 

Bassetlaw Museum is a ‘little gem’ in the heart of the historic market town of Retford, England.

It features a fabulous collection in the beautiful surroundings of Amcott House, a Georgian town house retaining many of its original features and now restored to its former glory. The house and grounds are a treasure trove of fascinating objects, telling the stories of North Nottinghamshire from its earliest people including Bassetlaw’s links with the Mayflower Pilgrims.

The Gallery has two sections: one part is a reproduction of an early 17th century study and the other is a contemporary exhibition space.  Visitors such as Randal Charlton, the author of The Wicked Pilgrim, get history lessons from a “livng” hologram of William Brewster, the second Governor of Plimoth Plantation in America.

The study is not dissimilar to one which would have existed at Scrooby Manor where Brewster lived. In here, through a mirror, visitors see William recounting four stories: his early life in North Nottinghamshire; the reasons why the Separatists wished to break away from the Church of England; the life the Pilgrims experienced in Leiden, Holland and finally, the journey aboard the Mayflower and their later life in America.

There is also a ‘story chair’ where visitors can sit and listen to King James becoming angry with the Separatists; the child’s voice of Jonathan Brewster talking about being forced to leave his home and everything he is familiar with; Mary Brewster, William’s wife explaining her fears and also her faith, which enabled her to follow her husband to a new and unknown life ahead; and a further story from a traveller along the Great North Road who recounts the secretive and dangerous times that existed in 1608.

The exhibition space includes interpretation highlighting the themes of Religious Tolerance, Freedom and Migration; challenges which are as relevant in today’s world as they were when the Separatists fought for the right to practice their beliefs. There are panels that give more information on the women and children involved in the Pilgrim story, and others that tell of the Wampanoag, the Native Americans who lived in Massachusetts when the Mayflower landed in 1620. There are dressing up costumes for visitors of all ages, and old fashioned games such as Pilgrim dominoes contrasted with quizzes on modern tablets.  Assigning children the character of one of the Mayflower’s passengers for example, brings home to them the reality that half of the people who travelled on the ship died during that first winter in America.