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Origin Story: How the East helped make the USA

3 Nights Itinerary

The East of England has a long history with the United States of America, stretching all the way back to the Magna Carta and including a Founding Father, the tobacco farmer who created the original Special Relationship, a writer who helped save the American War of Independence from failure and the lawyer who gave Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard their names.


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How the East of England helped make the USA 

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Day 1
Mayflower and Magna Carta
Harwich and Bury St Edmunds

After a night in Harwich, find the house on King’s Head Street owned by Christopher Jones (1570-1622), Master and part owner of The Mayflower, the ship that famously set sail from Plymouth to the New World on September 6th, 1620, with 102 passengers on board, of whom 41 were pilgrims and 61 adventurers.

Christopher Jones’ house in Harwich.

Jones married 17-year-old Sara Twitt at St Nicholas Church in Harwich. Sara’s parents’ home is also on King’s Head Street, although it is now a public house, the Alma. There is an exhibition to see in the Ha’penny Pier Visitor Centre. There is a school locally called the Mayflower and the branch railway line between Harwich and Manningtree has been named the Mayflower Line.

Otley Hall, home of Bartholomew Gosnold.

Next, we acquaint ourselves with Bartholomew Gosnold (1571-1607, and his family home, Otley Hall. It can be visited and it’s one not to miss: a Grade I listed 15th century moated Tudor Hall set within 10 acres of enchanting gardens and beautiful Suffolk countryside.

It was here Gosnold planned two ground-breaking voyages. In March 1602 the Concord sailed from Falmouth for North Virginia, with Gosnold as nautical captain, pioneering a successful direct route to the New World. His was the first European expedition recorded and he named Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard, the latter after his deceased infant daughter and the area’s wild grapes.

Otley Hall was used as a recruiting base for Gosnold’s second voyage, with The Godspeed setting sail in 1606, 14 years before the Mayflower left from Plymouth. This expedition established Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in North America and, ultimately, the United States of America.

Bury St Edmunds

The Abbey and Cathedral of Bury St Edmunds.

In Bury St Edmunds, where Gosnold practised law, visitors can see a sculpture of his ship The Godspeed in the Refectory garden of St Edmundsbury Cathedral and a memorial to Gosnold sits on Charnel House in the Great Churchyard.

Read more about his time in Bury St Edmunds here.

In November 1214, 26 barons met secretly at Bury St Edmunds Abbey, swearing an oath to compel King John to accept The Charter of Liberties, a proclamation of Henry I and precursor to the Magna Carta, on which the American Constitution is based.

The US-based National Society of Magna Carta Dames, who can trace their ancestry back to the barons, donated the Shields of the Barons carved around the walls of the quire and sanctuary at St Edmundsbury Cathedral.

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Day 2
Revolution and the most famous President
Thetford and Hingham

After more time exploring Bury St Edmunds, head to riverside market town Thetford, birthplace of revolutionary Thomas Paine, without whose writings the American War of Independence might have failed.

The Thomas Paine statue in Thetford.

It’s believed Paine was also the man who came up with the name The United States of America for the newly-independent country.

Learn more about him at The Thomas Paine Hotel where an installation celebrates the writer’s life and his support of revolutionary causes in France and America and find his statue stands outside the Town Hall.

How an East of England man saved the American Revolution

Abe Lincoln is commemorated in the village church at Hingham.

Take a short trip to Hingham, whose most famous son is Abraham Lincoln, 19th century President of the USA. Apprentice weaver Samuel Lincoln left England for New England more than 200 years before his great, great, great, great grandson Abraham became president, but his roots are remembered in Norfolk.

The town hall in Norfolk’s Hingham is called Lincoln Hall and exactly 100 years ago a bust of the American president, who led the US through the civil war and abolished slavery, was unveiled in the parish church by the American ambassador.

Head to King’s Lynn for the next day of your trip.

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Day 3
Explorations and Pocahontas
King's Lynn and Heacham

Captain George Vancouver (1757-1798), born at 23 Conduit Street in the historic port of King’s Lynn and baptised at St Margaret’s, surveyed the Pacific coast of America including California, Oregon and Washington to present-day British Columbia, western Canada, between 1792 and 1794. He joined the Royal Navy aged 13 and accompanied Captain James Cook on his second and third voyages.

King's Lynn Custom House

King’s Lynn Custom House and statue of George Vancouver.

Vancouver city in British Colombia is named after him as is Vancouver, Washington. The captain’s statue stands on the quayside in King’s Lynn, beside the Custom House.

Our final stop is Heacham, the birthplace of John Rolfe (1585-1622) who created the original Special Relationship by marrying Native American Pocahontas in 1614. He was also the man who helped save Jamestown by introducing a new cash crop, tobacco.

In fact, were it not for Rolfe, Americans would now be speaking Spanish, French or Dutch.

The two travelled to England in 1616 and it’s said that Pocahontas planted a mulberry tree on that visit at Heacham Manor that is there to this day.

How an East of England man created The Special Relationship

Pocahontas is immortalised on the village sign at Heacham.

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