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Town links to Mayflower to be marked for 400th anniversary

PUBLISHED: 11:33 02 January 2020 | UPDATED: 11:59 02 January 2020

Heritage project 1620: A New World Odyssey will include a specially written new play about Edward and Samuel Fuller who sailed on the Mayflower. Harleston links alreday incude a street name. Picture: Harleston Players

Heritage project 1620: A New World Odyssey will include a specially written new play about Edward and Samuel Fuller who sailed on the Mayflower. Harleston links alreday incude a street name. Picture: Harleston Players

Harleston Players

A town's links to the founding of America are to be marked as part of international celebrations of the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower.

Four people from Harleston left for a new life in the New World aboard the Mayflower. The 400 year anniversary of its sailing is being marked in 2020. Picture: Bill SmithFour people from Harleston left for a new life in the New World aboard the Mayflower. The 400 year anniversary of its sailing is being marked in 2020. Picture: Bill Smith

When the 100ft ship departed from Plymouth in September 1620 of the 102 passengers and 30-40 crew on board in extremely cramped conditions four came from Harleston.

To mark its history and to attract US visitors the town is planning a year-long programme of activities to coincide with international celebrations for the 400-year anniversary.

Award-winning amateur community theatre group Harleston Players has received a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant of £9,800 for a heritage project, 1620: A New World Odyssey.

The Mayflower II, a replica of the 17th-century ship celebrated for transporting the Pilgrims to the New World, at Plymouth Harbour in Massachusetts. Picture: Rhonda McCloughanThe Mayflower II, a replica of the 17th-century ship celebrated for transporting the Pilgrims to the New World, at Plymouth Harbour in Massachusetts. Picture: Rhonda McCloughan

The community-wide project will explore and celebrate the story of brothers Edward and Samuel Fuller who, with family members, sailed in 1620 to establish a new life and a new colony in America.

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The Fullers, who were baptised at Redenhall church, were among only 41 signatories on the legal document the 'Mayflower Compact', which became influential in the concept of the American Constitution.

St Mary’s church at Redenhall will be among the venues for celebrations of the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower including a visit of the Fuller Society. Picture: Sophie SmithSt Mary’s church at Redenhall will be among the venues for celebrations of the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower including a visit of the Fuller Society. Picture: Sophie Smith

A new play, written especially for this 400th anniversary by local writer Eileen Ryan, will bring this story to life. And local people will be researching the stories of other Harleston townsfolk from the period for 'living history' enactments to take place around the town centre in July and to be shared through a new publication and on town website visitharleston.org.

Cathy Edwards Gill, chair of Harleston Players, said: "We are absolutely thrilled to have received this support and are looking forward to creating a community project that will bring this fascinating period of history to life."

Another highlight of Harleston's year of celebrations will be a visit in July by members of the Fuller Society - descendants of the Fullers of Redenhall - to the town their ancestors left.

Other planned events include a model boat race along the River Waveney, a competition for the best Mayflower boat built out of junk, a new walk to recreate the 1600 Harleston of the Fullers, a local choir singing a specially written Mayflower Anthem, and the Harleston and Waveney Festival having a Mayflower theme.

Trevor Graham, one of the organisers of the Harleston celebrations, said local people would be involved in raising the profile of the town's connection with the Mayflower. "It is going to be a big year for the town," he said.

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