Thursday, 22 January 2015

A PILGRIM FATHER: WILLIAM MULLINS


Last week I was working in a school in Dorking. Dorking is a county town situated roughly in the centre of the county of Surrey. It nestles amongst the hills of the North Downs. Box Hill is to the North East and Leith hill is towards the South West. To get to the school I got the train from Motspur Park, where I live. It is a direct route passing through Epsom and West Humble. The journey takes about twenty eight minutes. The school I go to is on the other side of Dorking to the railway station. It takes a further twenty minute to walk to the school from the station.  I enjoyed the train journey because the Surrey countryside is beautiful. I enjoyed the walk through Dorking High Street because the town is quaint and has many old buildings dating back to Victorian, Georgian, Stuart and Tudor times. Dorking itself was probably begun by the Romans. It is on the route of the old Roman Road, Staine Street, from London to Chichester. As I walked through the High Street I noticed a sign pointing towards West Street. The sign read, “To The House of William Mullins, Pilgrim Father.” That evening on my way back to the station I walked down West Street and found William Mullins’s house.



The house of William Mullins, West Street, Dorking, Surrey.

William Mullins was born about 1572 in West Street, Dorking, in the County of Surrey. He followed his father into the shoemaking trade. In 1612 he bought his own property, a house that had been built in 1550, in West Street and continued his trade as a shoemaker. From his first marriage he had a son, also named William, and a daughter, Sarah. He married a second time to Alice who already had a son, Joseph who was  born in 1614. William and Alice had a daughter together named Priscilla. William’s son, William, married and also lived in Dorking. His daughter, Sarah, married and probably lived in London. William Mullins decided to become part of the group who sailed on the Mayflower. There is no evidence for him being a religious dissenter but he appears to have invested money in the company helping to finance the venture. He took with him to The New World two hundred and fifty shoes and thirteen pairs of boots.  The majority of those who sailed on the Mayflower in 1620 were called, “Saints,” English separatists, seeking religious freedom. Those like William Mullins, who joined the Mayflower as a financial venture were termed, “Strangers.”
The Speedwell and The Mayflower left Rotherhithe in July 1620. They called in at Southampton to take on more provisions and others wishing to go to The New World. They left Southampton for North America but sailing along the English Channel towards the Atlantic it was evident that The Speedwell was not seaworthy so they put into Plymouth. The Mayflower continued alone across the Atlantic. The journey was a gruelling escapade. The people on board suffered all sorts of privations and malnutrition. It was more than two months before they found a spot to land near Cape Cod, much further north of their intended landing site. In the first year of founding the colony many died of tuberculosis, scurvy and pneumonia. They were also not used to the freezing temperatures they encountered when first landing. It was a desperate situation and they had to steal corn from local indigenous tribes to survive. This did not endear them to the local population at first.
William Mullins died in February 1621. Alice and Joseph died that April. Priscilla was the sole survivor from Mullins family. Priscilla married John Alden in 1622. John Alden had been in charge of looking after the barrels of water and provisions on board the Mayflower. He was born in Harwich, Essex. He and Priscilla became famous through the poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow called,” The Courtship of Miles Standish.” Miles Standish persuaded John Alden to woo Priscilla for him. However Priscilla had her own ideas about who she wanted to marry and encouraged John. She told him,“Why don’t you speak for yourself?”


The plaque commemorating John Alden, who joined the Mayflower at Southampton. 
The plaque is on The Mayflower Memorial next to Southampton's medieval walls.

John and Priscilla set up home in the newly established town of Duxbury. Their house still survives today. John Alden took up important administrative positions in the colony. Two Presidents were directly descended from John and Priscilla; they were John Adams and his son John Quincy Adams.
The house in West Street Dorking and the house in Duxbury, Massachusetts are the only remaining properties directly connected to the Pilgrim Fathers.

From: "The Courtship of Miles Standish,"(1858)  by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
........................................................................
Then from a stall near at hand, amid exclamations of wonder,
Alden the thoughtful, the careful, so happy, so proud of
Priscilla,
Brought out his snow-white bull, obeying the hand of its master,
Led by a cord that was tied to an iron ring in its nostrils,
Covered with crimson cloth, and a cushion placed for a saddle.
She should not walk, he said, through the dust and heat of the
noonday;
Nay, she should ride like a queen, not plod along like a peasant.
Somewhat alarmed at first, but reassured by the others,
Placing her hand on the cushion, her foot in the hand of her
husband,
Gayly, with joyous laugh, Priscilla mounted her palfrey.
"Nothing is wanting now," he said with a smile, "but the distaff;
Then you would be in truth my queen, my beautiful Bertha!"

................................................................................. 

The will and last testament of William Mullins still exists. It was written down by John Carver on the day of Mullins’s death. It was witnessed by Captain Christopher Jones, Giles Heale, the surgeon and John Carver, the governor of the colony. The will was sent back to England on board The Mayflower so it could be administered by Sarah, William Mullins’s daughter,who lived in London.



 The blue plaque on William Mullins's house in Dorking.
This is a transcript of the will:

April 2, 1621]
In the name of God Amen : I comit my soule to God that gave it and my bodie to the earth from whence it came. Alsoe I give my goodes as followeth That fforty poundes in the hand of goodman Woodes I give my wife tenn poundes, my sonne Joseph tenn poundes, my daughter Priscilla tenn poundes, and my eldest sonne tenn poundes Also I give to my eldest sonne all my debtes, bonds, bills (onelye yt forty poundes excepted in the handes of goodman Wood) given as aforsaid wth all the stock in his owne handes. To my eldest daughter I give ten shillings to be paied out of my sonnes stock Furthermore that goodes I have in Virginia as followeth To my wife Alice halfe my goodes & to Joseph and Priscilla the other halfe equallie to be devided betweene them. Alsoe I have xxj dozen of shoes, and thirteene paire of bootes wch I give into the Companies handes for forty poundes at seaven years and if thy like them at that rate. If it be thought to deare as my Overseers shall thinck good And if they like them at that rate at the divident I shall have nyne shares whereof I give as followeth twoe to my wife, twoe to my sonne William, twoe to my sonne Joseph, twoe to my daugher Priscilla, and one to the Companie. Allsoe if my sonne William will come to Virginia I give him my share of land furdermore I give to my twoe Overseers Mr John Carver and Mr Williamson, twentye shillinges apeece to see this my will performed desiringe them that he would have an eye over my wife and children to be as fathers and freindes to them ; Allsoe to have a speciall eye to my man Robert wch hathe not so approved himselfe as I would he should have done.
This is a Coppye of Mr Mullens his Will of all particulars he hathe given. In witnes whereof I have sett my hande  John Carver, Giles Heale, Christopher Joanes.


The last will and testament of William Mullins.

A picture of a horse drawn on a plastered wall inside the house of William Mullins.

Here is a link to an article I wrote about The Pilgrim father’s previously.

http://general-southerner.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/the-pilgrim-fathers-and-non-conformity.html