The Mayflower Symbol

Sailing for the New World
By Sylvia Kent

The Mayflower sails for the New World

The Mayflower symbol is well known worldwide as the ship which sailed from Plymouth in Devon with six Great Burstead residents on board. The manifest included the ship’s governor and victualler, Christopher Martin, his wife and two servants, plus two other single men.

Martin is believed to have owned properties in the town of Billericay including the Chantry House at Nos 57-61 which still stands. It was here that the historians tell us that Martin and the Essex contingent met to pray and bid farewell to their friends and families before embarking on their 66-day journey that ended when they landed at Cape Cod in America.

A child was born on the voyage.  He was christened Oceanus Hopkins, and he thrived initially, but died before his seventh birthday.  Unfortunately, all the Great Burstead emigrants died even before leaving the ship and settling into their new land.

Many Essex folk followed those first Pilgrims, including Billericay residents, Ralph Hill and his son.  Their family name appears on the Legislature to form the new town of Billerica established on 23 May 1655.  Today several buildings and organisations both here and in Billerica, carry the Mayflower name and symbol.

Our town’s connections with America continue through our Twinning Associations with Billerica in Massachusetts and Fishers, Indiana.  We offer a warm welcome to our visitors from our twin towns.

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  • Be Interesting to find out where Mary Prower & her son Solomon were born, Mary married Christopher Martin in Great Burstead Church Essex, their servant John Langemore also Birth place is unknown, all that’s known is Christopher Martin was from Great Burstead, a Commercial Trader, and Church warden for one year, the Billerica connection is also fascinating to me.

    I read in the History of Billerica, that Ralph Hill came from Billericay, his family talked about this, Ralph had lived in various places around the Plymouth Massachusetts area, his first wife dying, he remarried in 1638, that there was a clergyman bearing his name in 1645-1669,, Ralph Hill in 1650 was described as ‘A Godly Preaching Minister’
    Ralph had a house & farm of 12 acres on the now ‘Ralph Hill’ in Billerica, the house became one of the Garrison houses in 1676, there is a painting of this, he lived 1 mile from the ‘Village’, Of Shawshin in Billerica.

    Ralph Hill gave the town of Billerica half a acre of land in April 1663, to become a burial ground, he became first to be buried there, the book of The History of Billerica lists 40 descendants, with each descendant listing a paragraph of children’s names, so upto 1869 could be close to 400 descendants, just one entry states Ralph Hill’s second son Nathaniel wrote in his Last Will & Testament “30 Gallons of sweet wine at my funeral if occasion requires”.

    Now in 2021 the Hill family still live in Billerica almost 4 centuries on, fascinating, and only one of many pilgrims, that so little is known of.

    By Paul Butterworth (18/03/2021)
  • I lived and grew up in Billericay, with the Mayflower pub near to where I lived, my maiden name was Walpole Bunting. I was really surprised to learn several years ago that one of my descendants owned the Mayflower, he was Richard Bunting of South Creak who married Elizabeth Walpole. What makes it really strange was my brother was Richard and my parents didn’t know this history when they named him. What coincides!

    By Samantha Leckie (11/07/2020)
  • Hi Brian,
    This is Deborah Grundstrom who first wrote in 2014. I had given up getting any information but for some reason I checked back here today. I feel too that Margaret is a French. We have worked on Ralph’s genealogy for years. We have yet to find definitive proof where in England he originated, what family he came from and what ship he came on. We even hired a search team in England and they had no more luck than us.
    It is upsetting that people just assume he is from Billericay with no evidence. I would really like some proof.

    By Deborah Grundstrom (30/10/2019)
  • I descend from Ralph Hill and my French paternal line via William French of Cambridge who removed to Billerica, MA. Ralph Hill refers to William French as “brother” in his will. I believe he was his brother in law. 

    By brian french (26/05/2016)
  • Our class at school in1939 wrote to a school in Billerica and we did get replies, but before we could write back the war started. My reply came from Carl Metzler, i am not sure of the spelling now.

    By Alfred Barnett (20/11/2015)
  • Hello,

    Ralph Hill was my 10th great grandfather. Our family has been trying for years to find his origins in Billericay. I was very thrilled to see this story. Unfortunately we have found no solid documented proof such as church records or passage records from England to Plymouth, Massachusetts. He is in Plymouth MA in 1638. This is the first record we can find of him in the New World. Could you please share with us the documentation of Ralph being in Billericay. Was he born there? Are there still family members there? Do you have any record of his first wife. He is in Plymouth with son Ralph and daughter Jane. We believe that his first wife is dead either in England, on the voyage or early in Plymouth. He is remarried in1638 in Plymouth to widow Margaret French Toothaker. They then move to Woburn Ma and on to settle Billerica. 

    Ralph is also a great-grandfather of President George W. Bush Jr.

    Thank you for any information that you may have.

    Deborah Grundstrom

    By Deborah Grundstrom (23/11/2014)
  • I lived and grew up in Billericay. Now my business regularly takes me to the US. Its quite fascinating travelling around Massachusetts and New England with Billerica, Chelmsford, Epping and Brentwood. Now I live 20 miles south of Manchester and our US business is based in Manchester New Hampshire.

    By Phil Witcomb (21/01/2012)
  • Thank you for this interesting page. I grew up in Billerica, Ma and we were taught about Billericay, England only two in the world. As girl scouts we had penpals in Billericay. I wish I could remember the name of mine. Someday I will visit Billericay, it has been my dream for a long time!!

    By Beverly Wickson (16/01/2012)

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