'A story of hardship and independence' - 400th anniversary of Mayflower marked with specially designed statue in Billericay

Mayflower statue in Billericay High Street

Article by Hannah Brown: A sculpture commemorating 400 years since pilgrims left Billericay, Essex, to set sail on the Mayflower has been installed.

Created by sculptor John Doubleday, the statue has been placed in the Jim Shields garden at the bottom of the High Street.

Billericay Town Council commissioned the project after deciding back in June, 2019, that it wanted to provide a permanent structure to commemorate the 400th anniversary.

Councillor Jim Devlin, chairman of Billericay Town Council, said:

“We wanted to celebrate the 400th anniversary of pilgrims leaving Billericay and heading on the Mayflower to what became the United States and landing at Cape Cod 400 years ago in 1620. The idea was perhaps we should go for a statue to mark it as something permanent. We had a space that we could do it in, so we went out looking for people that could come up with an idea.”

Councillor Moira Moore, chairman of the health, wellbeing and environment committee, explained that the council decided to contact Mr Doubleday, as he had previously made the Child in the Park statue in Lake Meadows. She said:

“John did a mock [design] and brought it to us and everybody on the council absolutely loved it. It was a very simple process, he came up with one design, we loved it, that was the end of the process.”

As Mr Doubleday began the process of making the new sculpture, the council applied for planning permission and arranged for a plinth to be installed ready for the finished piece.

Mr Doubleday explained the process he went through to make the statue, and revealed that along the way he discovered that he had links to the event he was helping to commemorate. He said:

“Once the design is agreed the process involves making the original in clay, which is about six months-ish of time and then the casting is about six months, that’s the sort of standard time. The Covid-19 situation has made supplies and that sort of thing a bit difficult, so timing has drifted a bit, but I’m really pleased that we are here now. When I phoned my American cousin and said what I was doing I was absolutely staggered that he told me that we are descended from people who sailed on the Mayflower, so for me that gave me the most extraordinary connection. It’s such a remarkable story of hardship, search for religious freedom and independence, it’s absolutely got everything as far as I’m concerned.”

The statue was put in place at its “forever” home on November 10, with the help of a crane to lift it into place.

“Having a statue in the town, or having another statue in the town, I think will actually add to the sense of community, the sense of pride in the town,” Cllr Devlin said.

Cllr Moore added:

“I think it’s very important to celebrate 400 years of the sailing of the Mayflower, hopefully it will be something everyone is going to love and enjoy.”

Article by Hannah Brown, InYourArea