musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Retrospective: The Pilgrim Fathers Memorial

There is one memorial in Southampton that I never really investigated (actually there are two, so I am including it here too), and this memorial will explain why there is a Mayflower Cruise Terminal. To know the context of the memorial we have to go way back to the Mayflower and the Pilgrim Fathers, and her voyage across the Atlantic way back in 1620. 

The ship by the standards of today was a small one, probably about 100 foot long with a 25 ft beam, and she had a crew of about 30. Why the uncertainty? because the measurement standards back then were different to what they are now, and of course there does not appear to be a set of blueprints to check with. We could also put it like this: Shieldhall is 81.69 m (268 ft) with a beam of 13.56 m (44 ft 6 in), she makes the Mayflower look small in comparison. 

The story of the Mayflower and her companion “Speedwell” is not for me to tell, there are places that can give a much better description than I can.  But once they sailed from Southampton they were effectively out of sight; until such times as somebody brought back word of their success in crossing the Atlantic or not. Speedwell did not live up to her name though, as she had to turn back because of persistent leaks.  The voyage took just over a month and it must have been a very crowded ship. As we know today the voyage was a success and Mayflower sailed home after delivering her passengers. She was probably broken up 4 years later, although even that is uncertain. Unlike so many of those sailing ships from back then, the Mayflower sailed into history, even though we know very little about her. We probably know more about those that made that long journey to a new world, and their epic voyage and history is what this memorial is about.

I managed to photograph two plaques and an inscription on the memorial:

There are other inscriptions on the memorial but I did not photograph those as far as I can tell from my images. The tip of the memorial is capped with a nice sailing ship representation, but I never considered photographing it from close up because there was nowhere around that would have given me the height to get a close up of her. 

The memorial from the old city walls nearby

The Google Earth co-ordinates for the memorial are:  50.897951°  -1.406901°.

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Memorial number two is one I want to include even though I do not have decent images of it. The story is quite a complicated one and needs to be read in the context of its time. The memorial is known as the Stella Memorial (previously known as The Rogers Memorial and before that The Stella Stewardess Memorial Fountain) and is located on the Western Esplanade in Southampton, and is in close proximity to the Pilgrim Father’s Memorial. 

To my dismay I only have one photograph of the memorial, and it is a poor one. Judging by the filename I took this image when the Rotterdam was in port

I did photograph the plaque though.  It reads: 

“In memory of the heroic death of Mary Ann [e] Rogers Stewardess of the “Stella” who on the night of the 30th March, 1899, amid the terror of shipwreck aided all the women under her charge to quit the vessel in safety giving up her own life-belt to one who was unprotected. Urged by the sailors to makes sure her escape she refused lest she might endanger the heavily-laden boat. Cheering the departing crew with the friendly cry of “Good-bye, good-bye.” She was seen a few moments later as the “Stella” went down lifting her arms upwards with the prayer “Lord have me” then sank in the waters with the sinking ship.

Actions such as these – revealing steadfast performance of duty in the face of death, ready self-sacrifice for the sake of others, reliance on God – constitute the glorious heritage of our English race. They deserve perpetual commemoration, because among the trivial pleasures and sordid strike of the world, they recall to us forever the nobility and love-worthiness of human nature.”

The memorial was unveiled on Southampton’s Western Esplanade by Lady Emma Crichton (daughter of the Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire) during the morning of Saturday 27th July, 1901. Mary’s sister, son and son-in-law were also present. 

By her bravery Mary Anne Rogers earned herself a place at the GF Watts Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice. in London. I visited there in 2013 and it was a very interesting place too and is really worthy of being restarted. 

The sinking of the Stella was the subject of a Board of Trade enquiry on 27th April, 1899 and concluded  “…. the SS Stella was not navigated with proper and seamanlike care.” While the wreck was discovered in June 1973, by two Channel Islands divers. It lies in 49 metres (161 ft) of water south of the Casquets which lie 13 km northwest of the island of Alderney. The tragedy is sometimes referred to as ‘The Titanic of The Channel Islands

Mary Anne Rogers went down with the ship, and as such became yet another statistic in the toll of the sea. Nobody dreamt that in 1912 an even larger catastrophe would affect Southampton, and it would relegate the bravery of this stewardess to the back pages of his history. Fortunately her story has not been forgotten and there is a very good resource that tells the story so much better than I do, If ever I return to Southampton both of these places are on the list to revisit. 

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