Gainsborough, site of the Separatists’escape to Leiden

The Market Town of Gainsborough, England was the location from which a group of Separatists chose to leave in secret to travel to Holland so they could worship without interference from Queen Elizabeth I and the authorities. They boarded a barge called the Francis provided by Thomas Helwys, a wealthy sympathizer, and sailed north on the River Trent to Stallingborough near the Humber where they boarded a Dutch ship. Another 80 people joined them along the way, but they were discovered and the men were jailed in the Boston Guildhall.

A small sculpture by Rachel Carter commemorating the Mayflower women stands alongside the site of their escape shown below. The sculpture was cast from a digital template of a dress made by volunteers at Gainsborough Old Hall for Rachel Carter’s Spirit of Mayflower 50 Women Project.

The Port of Gainsborough was chosen for their escape as the Separatists frequently met in secret under the leadership of John Smyth in the Gainsborough Old Hall, shown below, that was only a few hundred yards from the Trent River. Sir William Hickman, the owner of the Hall since 1596, was thought to be sympathetic to the Separatist cause.