Scrooby, England and the Mayflower Pilgrims

As far as I’m concerned, the Mayflower story begins in Scrooby, England in the very late 1500s and early 1600s. Come with me to explore this little community far off today’s beaten path. According to a Legacies of History article about Scrooby, the village’s population then was between 150 and 200 people. Today it still a small village, with a population of less than 500, located on the River Ryton, near the confluence with the River Idle, in north Nottinghamshire. Sherwood Forest of Robin Hood fame is not too far away. The nearest town with guest accommodations is Doncaster, about twelve miles further north along the Great North Road (today England A1).

The Great North Road provided a vital communication link between London and Edinburgh when our Pilgrim story began to germinate at the dawn of the seventeenth Century. Messengers carrying important royal and church official messages between the two cities stopped to rest themselves and their horses at the many coach houses or manors along the 400-mile route. They might switch out horses and keep going, or they might spend the night. One of these manors was in Scrooby. The Scrooby Manor was particularly significant because it was the property of the Archbishop of York, 50 miles further north along the Great North Road.

The Old Manor House in Scrooby,
© Courtesy of Bassetlaw Museum

Brewster the Bailiff

Pilgrim Elder William Brewster lived in and managed Scrooby Manor until he and about thirty others decided leave for safer shores in 1608. He spent part of his childhood there when his father became the bailiff and manager of the Manor. Pilgrim Brewster assumed those duties when his father died. He also became intrigued with the new Separatist movement developing  in the various villages in the region. The Separatists didn’t think the Reformation had gone far enough. They believed the Established Church of England (Anglican) needed another reformation. They wanted to completely separate and revert back to what they envisioned the earliest church communities must have been like. Authorities in the Established Church took a dim few of this. The head of the that Church was King James. He had absolutely no interest in reforming his church; nor any patience for those who disagreed. A group of clergy appealed to him to allow for a few changes. The monarch not only adamantly refused, he started ordering pastors who dared challenge him removed from their pulpits.

At first Brewster joined these religious rebels in one of the other nearby towns. That is where he and William Bradford, future Governor of the Plymouth settlement, first met. One of the influential Separatist pastors, John Smythe at Gainsborough, decided to take his people away to the Netherlands in the early 1600s.

The Separatists at Scrooby

By then Elder William Brewster was friends with Pastors Richard Clyfton and John Robinson. With Clyfton serving as pastor, Robinson as teacher and Brewster as ruling Elder, those who did not go with John Smythe began meeting secretly at Scrooby Manor. In Elder Brewster’s time the Established Church parish in Scrooby was named St. James. It was located a few yards away from the Manor and  part of the diocese managed by the Archbishop of York. The underground congregation dared to meet in the property belonging to one of the most influences Archbishops of the Established Church they were protesting.

York was one the most important small cities in northern England at that time. The Archbishop of York was one of the most powerful figures in the political/religious hierarchy. Though Scrooby and York were separated by some fifty miles, the Manor’s location and important function along the Great North Road between London and Scotland made these Separatists’ decision to relocated to Scrooby as dangerous as it was daring. Scrooby Manor occasionally provided rest to monarchs, bishops, and other high ranking authorities who would readily arrest, and likely execute anyone caught at the Scrooby underground worship services.

Their situation became life-threatening within a couple of years. Brewster resigned his post. He and his family were homeless and determined to leave the country. But that is a story for another blog.

This photo of St. Wilfrid (formerly St. James) is from

Thank you for taking time to read about some of the history behind the Mayflower voyage. If you found it interesting, why not share it with a friend? Got this from a friend? You can sign up for your own free subscription at HowWiseThen. I am always looking for leads about good people doing great things for our global village. If you have someone or something to recommend for a future HowWiseThen blog, let me hear from you. I have a variety of ‘thank you’ resources waiting for you at my website.

If you enjoy history you might enjoy this website about British History. I’ve written more about this chapter of history at Twelve Generations LaterStephen Hopkins, and Myles Standish among others.


  1. Julie Gianelloni Connor

    Interesting reading. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Marjorie Puterbaugh

    have traced our family roots back to Elder Brewster – thanks for additional information –

  3. Very informative article. Thank you. If I may ask a question. Was that area of Scrooby founded by Saxons ? Wikipedia said there was evidence of Saxon settlement at Broxtewe Estate, Oxon, near Nottingham, and Tuxford.

  4. Hello Richard. Thanks for your comments. I’m not sure, but I do know that York not far from Scrooby was once a Roman walled city.

  5. Broxtowe is an hour’s drive south of Scrooby, about 45 miles. So there’s unlikely to be a connection between them.

  6. Hello I’m trying to find any information about the Story family in scrooby. On the passenger list of the Mayflower there was an indentured servant named Elias Story . he didn’t service the first winter but he may have had a sister in Scrooby named Erula or Emily’s Story that married wRestling Brewster . just wondering if you might have at info on them ? Thankyou.

  7. Excellent article! I would like to know more about Brewster’s days as secretary to a court official, William Dawson, who fell out of favor with the king. Was that event what caused Brewster to return to Scrooby?

  8. Hello Sally – Are you referring to William Davison? He was an ambassador to Queen Elizabeth I and later her Secretary of State. Pilgrim William Brewster did serve on his staff, traveled with him to Holland, and lost job when QEI blamed Davison for delivering the death warrant to execute Mary Queen of Scots, Elizabeth’s cousin. There is quite a bit about this in my Mayflower Chronicles: The Tale of Two Cities which you can get from my website, on line at, Barnes and Noble, Amazon, or in person wherever books are sold. If they don’t have it, ask them to order it for you. It’s available in print, eBook, and audio. If you order it through my website I can autograph it for you if you want that. It is an amazing chapter of history.

  9. Hello! I am the 12th direct male descendant of Elder Wm. Through his son, Jonathan. I would very much like to know if you think St. Wilfrid’s Church in Scrooby has any records of Jonathan’s marriage to Lucretia Oldham. Plus, would the current Rector (name?) know where Elder Wm.’s parents, William & Mary, might be buried? There is only one Brewster buried on the church grounds & his name is “Daniel” but I am not directly related to him. Thank you.

  10. Hello Cousin – As of 2017 when I visited Scrooby St. Wilfred’s was an active parish. I believe they worsihp every other Sunday, sharing a priest with another local parish. The best way to get more information about contacting the priest would be to contact the Anglican Church of England. I believe Scrooby is in the Diocese of York, about 50 miles away. When I was there I found several Brewster graves, but none for a William Brewser (Pilgrim William’s father).

    The person who knows the most about this subject is Sue Allen. You can find her through a Google search for Author Sue Allen. She has spend decades research and publishing her findings for the genealogy and biographies of those connected to the Mayflower story. If anyone knows where Pilgrim’s parents are buried, it will be her. To date no one knows for certain who Mary Brewster was before she became Mrs. Mary Brewster. Several theories have been debated among genalogists and historians, ut one have been proven conclusively. I have a power point presentation program based on my research into this history. Depending on where you live, I can present the program in person or via zoom if you belong to a group interested in this subject.

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