Wind in the sails for the Mayflower trails

Plymouth’s plans to mark the sailing of the Mayflower as part of the 2020 global commemorations are now under starters orders.

Three historic trails, which will form part of a national network of trails, will be created in Plymouth as part of a package of physical changes designed to bring to life the story of the Mayflower and its journey.

The Mayflower National Trail is a key project of the national partnership and the 2020 commemorations. It will connect 11 destinations across Britain to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower journey, a symbolic moment in the shared history of Britain, the Netherlands and the USA.

Council Leader Ian Bowyer has given the green light to £3.5 million capital funding to get the projects underway. He said: “We want Plymouth to look its best in the global spotlight and I hope people are as excited as I am about the physical changes.

“We’ve got something brand new in the form of the trails and improvements to public areas – and something very, very old – our incredible Elizabethan houses to help us tell this incredible story.

“We are planning a year-long cultural programme including major events, but these projects are about improving areas so that Plymouth people, as well as visitors, can enjoy them for many years to come.”

He added: “The immediate impact of these projects during 2020 is estimated to be in the region of an additional 500,000 visitors, creating an additional economic impact of at least £18 million and 360 jobs. Longer term these projects will support our target growth figures for visitor numbers– which is good for jobs, good for local business and good for families living in and around Plymouth.”

The three heritage trails are designed to showcase the city’s rich heritage and to help locals look at the city with a fresh pair of eyes as well as enabling visitors to grasp the scale of Plymouth’s part in the nation’s story.

One will journey around the historic Barbican and Sutton Harbour area and take visitors back to the 16th and 17th centuries. As part of this proposal, the Elizabethan House will be sensitively restored to create an immersive attraction that will help visitors get a sense of life in this period of history.

Another trail will help visitors to navigate between the Barbican and ‘The Box’ the city’s new visitor attraction, museum and gallery – which will house the wider history, art and culture of Plymouth. A third will trace the journey along the Hoe, looking out towards Plymouth Sound.

It is hoped that local people of all ages will play a big part in the design process and get involved in creating way-markers and interpretation panels by unearthing stories through research with historians. As well as a physical trail, the story will be bought to life through digital resources.

There will also be sensitive improvement works to key public spaces in and around the Barbican to make the locations more welcoming. They include improvements to:

  • the Mayflower Steps and Mayflower Museum
  • Sir John Hawkins Square behind the law courts
  • Prysten House – to encourage more people to visit this historic Elizabethan building with its unique American credentials
  • the entrance to Southside Street, the gateway to the Barbican.

The project team is asking for funding to help support further detailed investigations into the condition of the city’s two Grade II* Elizabethan buildings, the Elizabethan House in New Street and the Merchants House in St Andrew’s Street.

Given their age – older than the USA – specialist advice and contractors will be needed for restoration. (More details about this will be available very soon).

Chief Executive of Mayflower 400 Charles Hackett said: “These trails will be a permanent and lasting reminder of the part Plymouth has played in the Mayflower story.

“This is an opportunity to put Plymouth at the heart of an internationally significant commemoration – but also for Plymouth people to get involved as this is their story too. This is why we are so keen to get all of Plymouth on board to help us showcase the great things that Plymouth has.”

Plymouth’s Mayflower leadership group and the National Mayflower Compact Partnership are chaired by Adrian Vinken OBE. He said: “It’s exciting to see the ideas and projects we’ve been planning over the past few years finally starting to come together. Parts of the city will be transformed for the better by the time we get to 2020.”

The paper also gives the green light to investigate the feasibility of a Mayflower monument as well as the need for waterfront event infrastructure on the Hoe linked to Mayflower events.

A host of key projects designed to showcase the city in 2020 are already being developed. Work has started to build ‘The Box’ – the £37 million attraction, gallery and museum complex which will become the city’s cultural centre.

Only last week planning permission was granted to build the 1620 hotel development overlooking the Hoe.

Work is currently ongoing to refurbish the City Market, demolition work is just about to start as part of the first phase of work to redevelop Colin Campbell Court in the West End, while towards the other end of the city centre, the old bus station at Bretonside is being knocked down to pave the way for the Drake Circus Leisure redevelopment. City Centre public realm improvements are also being planned.

Overall investment in Plymouth in preparing for Mayflower is in the region of £175 million.

The decision has been made under delegated authority and is subject to call-in.