I am a medievalist in the process of completing a PhD (involving medieval medicine). I travel as much as possible at home (UK) and abroad. I'm always ready for new experiences!
Published September 23rd 2014
Explore the historic village of Scrooby
Scrooby is a tiny village of around 300 people in northern Nottinghamshire. The village may be small, but it has played a large role in history with connections to Elizabeth I, the Archbishops of York, and the pilgrim fathers of America.
Scrooby from the Air. Photo by David Thomson via Scrooby.net
In the early seventeenth century, Separatists (or Brownists), a Protestant sect that wished to separate completely from the Church of England, met regularly in the Scrooby home of William Brewster. The penalties for nonconformity with the established church at the time were severe, including steep fines for missing church services, imprisonment, and even execution. William Bradford, a member of the Scrooby congregation and long-term governor of Plymouth Colony, described the threat of persecution experienced by the Separatist group in his journal, which was later published with collected writings as Of Plymouth Plantation. He states that they 'were hunted and persecuted on every side' and some were ' taken and clapt up in prison', while others had their houses watched continually (Of Plymouth Plantation, p. 13). The Separatists eventually decided that they could not remain in England and relocated to Leiden, Holland. In 1620, William Brewster, William Bradford, and the Separatist congregation emigrated to Plymouth Colony on the Mayflower, which has become one of the most iconic and foundational images in American history.
The present day village of Scrooby retains some of its historic connections to the pilgrim fathers, specifically the church and secret meeting house. The remains of the Archbishop of York's manor house, the home of William Brewster, have been converted into private residences and are not available to the public. The official website states that the house and farmyard can be viewed from Station Road, but I was unable to locate them on my visit. The following will detail all the sights of Scrooby you will need to know for your visit.
Explore on Foot
The village is small and easily traversed by foot. There are also educational notice boards posted by key landmarks, such as the church and village hall, which explain the history (though not in great detail). As seen in the photo above of Scrooby from the air, the village is surrounded by rural countryside, horse pastures, and the River Ryton.
The interior of the pub is a cross between a sleek modernized pub and a tribute to the pilgrim history of its name. The walls of the entry are embellished with the Mayflower ship and copies of historic pilgrim documents, while the rest of the pub is decorated with an assortment of motifs, including umbrella wallpaper, ram head wall stencils, leather sofas, and white linen tablecloths.
Eclectic decor aside, the atmosphere of the pub is jovial and the food is affordable and delicious. I originally stopped in the pub for a quick coffee before heading out to explore the village, but ended up staying for over an hour and eventually returned for lunch - not just because it's the only pub in the village, but because it's also good.
Coffee at the Pilgrim Fathers Pub. Photo by Erin Connelly
Some of the best things tend to occur in off the beaten path locations. For me, the coffee at the Pilgrim Fathers stands out from all my other experiences of the village. During lunch, the pub offers a wide selection of hearty meals. I had the steak and vegetable pie with chips and peas, while my friend had the Stilton-glazed chicken and rice.
Menu at Pilgrim Fathers Pub. Photo by Erin Connelly
On our way out of the pub, the chef mentioned that the building next door had connections with the pilgrims. The red brick barn served as an undercover meeting place for the Separatists as they made plans for their future as a congregation illegally disconnected from the Church of England. The building is under construction at the moment and will be opened as a pilgrim museum in the coming months (date of completion is currently unknown).
Old Barn used for Separatist Meetings. Photo by Erin Connelly
A short walk from the pub is St Wilfrid's Church where William Brewster was baptized. The original font and pews were sold to America in the late nineteenth century. The historic village stocks were also sold to America around the same time. The church dates to the thirteenth century, but it was neglected for a long period of time and much of the current fixtures date to renovation work carried out in the mid-nineteenth century.
Early twentieth century Scrooby Bible. Photo by Erin Connelly
If you find that the church is locked on your visit, the phone numbers of three keyholders are listed on a notice board outside the church. The person I contacted was very friendly and more than happy to drive over and open the church.
I had an enjoyable day in Scrooby walking around the fields, touring the church, chatting with friendly locals, drinking delicious coffee, and learning more about a history that spans an ocean and ties two nations together, but I had hoped to find a more tourist-oriented approach to the historic sites. It was a bit difficult to understand the significance of landmarks without looking them up online and, as mentioned previously, I never did locate Brewster's manor house, even after asking locals at the pub for direction.
I have visited Plymouth, Massachusetts, where the pilgrims of Scrooby made their new home, and expected the historic locations of the pilgrims' original home to be similar in scope and preservation. The fact that William Brewster's baptismal font, the church pews, and historic village stocks were sold to America is a telling sign that perhaps pilgrim history has been more significant to the new world than the old. It is promising that Scrooby has renovated their pub and is currently installing a museum in the old Separatist meeting house. There are guided tours available upon request and perhaps, until the museum is completed, this is the best way to glean the most out of a visit to Scrooby.