Commemorative Mayflower plate donated by American descendant to be displayed in Harwich Heritage Centre

A silver commemorative Mayflower plate will be displayed in the new Harwich Heritage Centre after it was donated by an American descendant of the famous voyage. The Mayflower ship, from Harwich and captained by Harwich resident Christopher Jones, took the first settlers to America in 1620 in a voyage marked annually by Thanksgiving in the USA.

A whole programme of events is being planned across 11 UK destinations, including Harwich, for 2020 to mark the 400th anniversary. In the week after Thanksgiving last year Susan Hopkins, from New York state, got in contact with the Historic Harwich website offering the pristine condition sterling silver commemorative plate, with the Mayflower logo in the centre – one of only a few manufactured in 1978.

Susan is a member of the General Society of Mayflower Descendants as a direct descendant of Stephen Hopkins and William Brewster, two of those who voyaged to America on the Mayflower. She offered the plate to go on permanent display in Harwich.

Her grandfather Wallace Hopkins attended the 350th anniversary festivities in 1970 in Leiden and Plymouth as a member of the Mayflower Society, while her father Richard Gilpin Hopkins, a retired naval officer, had a plaque made for the Mayflower Monument in Southampton in 1977 in honour of Stephen Hopkins and his family.

Susan said: “In recognition of the upcoming 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower and as a direct descendant of Stephen Hopkins and William Brewster, I am honoured to donate the silver General Society of Mayflower Descendants plate to the museum.”

The plate is now being cared for by Tendring District Council (TDC), and will feature in a Welcome Centre it is setting up in Harwich to be home to a whole raft of historical artefacts relating to the town and its links to the Mayflower story, and work is ongoing with partners including the Harwich Society and the Guildhall Archivists on this strand of the project.

Carlo Guglielmi, TDC Deputy Leader, said Susan’s story was incredible to hear.

“It is fascinating to discover individual stories such as these, and when you realise how some can directly trace their roots back to this iconic voyage you can begin to understand just how important the Mayflower is not just to a nation’s history, but to people alive today,” Cllr Guglielmi said.

“Hearing Susan’s link to the Mayflower is very interesting, and we are enormously grateful to her for the donation of this plate which will form a fascinating part of a display on the Mayflower when the Welcome Centre opens later this year.”