Dorking is the original home of six Mayflower passengers – William Mullins, his wife Alice, their children Joseph and Priscilla plus their servant Robert Carter and a family friend called Peter Browne.
Built in about 1590, the Mullins family home is a handsome jettied building that stands proudly in the middle of Dorking’s West Street, not far from Pump Corner. It is the only home of a ‘Pilgrim Father’ that is known to have survived into the 21st century.
Basil and Susan Doha, the proprietors of the cafe which they run in the home where William Mullins lived in the early 1600s. “This house was the home of William Mullens, a Pilgrim Father who sailed on the MAYFLOWER to America 16 th Sept 1620.”
The life of its owner, William Mullins, a shoemaker, is celebrated by a blue plaque on the front of the building. William Mullins was just one of six Dorking residents to travel to the New World on the Mayflower; at least three more later joined them in the colony.
William bought his home in 1612 and sold it seven years later to invest in the Mayflower enterprise. We may never know why he decided to leave Dorking such a perilous adventure with his wife Alice and two of his four children – teenage daughter Priscilla and young son Joseph.
Was it for religious or economic or both? We do know, however, that shoe-maker William intended to establish a business in the new colony, taking 265 pairs of shoes and boots with him!
He may have been responding to both positive and negative economic pressures when he decided to try his luck in the thriving colony of Virginia.
At 50 years old, William was one of the financiers of the 1620 Mayflower journey and he and his family joined the ship in Rotherhithe in July 1620.
Tragically, William, Alice and Joseph all died in the first harsh winter. Only the teenage daughter, Priscilla, survived and she was the only unmarried woman of child-bearing age in the colony in early 1621.
She went on to marry John Alden, a young cooper – despite his master Myles Standish originally proposing to her.
A young, healthy couple, John and Priscilla and the children they would go on to produce were vital to the long-term viability of the colony and later, the town of Duxbury, Massachusetts, where they brought up their children. Their first child, Elizabeth, was born in 1623. She is thought to have been the first European child to be born in what became known as New England. She was followed by nine siblings.
Of all the Mayflower families, the Mullins/Aldens are thought to have the greatest number of descendants living today.