Dorking: William Mullins’ House

William Mullins' House. Photograph: Kathy Atherton

William Mullins’ House
Photograph: Kathy Atherton

The house now known as Nos 58-61 West Street, Dorking, was built c.1550, and dominated the commercial heart of the town. It is believed to be the only home of a Pilgrim Father to have survived intact. In 1612 it was bought by William Mullins, a prosperous shoemaker who was born in West Street and followed his fathers trade. There is no evidence that the family were Dissenters or in any way disaffected. Williams reasons for risking his family and his capital on a dangerous voyage to Virginia are a complete mystery.

Most of the Mayflower passengers were Saints (English Separatists) seeking religious freedom. The rest were the strangers who provided capital. Among these were the Dorking party consisting of William, his daughter Priscilla, his second wife Alice, her son Joseph (b.1614) and their servant Robert Carter. By 1620 his married son William was living locally and his married daughter Sarah probably in London.

William Mullins' House. Photograph: Kathy Atherton

William Mullins’ House
Photograph: Kathy Atherton

The Mayflower sailed from Rotherhithe in July. At Plymouth her sister ship, the Speedwell, was judged unfit for the Atlantic crossing and the Mayflower sailed on alone. The voyage was beset with difficulties and it was December before they selected a site in the Cape Cod area, much farther north than intended. The hardships and malnutrition caused many deaths. William died in February 1621, Alice and Joseph in April and Robert Carter in May. Priscilla was the sole survivor of the Dorking party, and a marriageable heiress. Williams fair and business-like will was brought back to England in the Mayflower and administered by Sarah.

Priscilla married John Alden in 1622 and had 10 children. Their farmhouse in Duxbury survived and is open to the public.

A fuller account can be found in the booklet William Mullins Pilgrim Father by Pam Hunter, on sale in Dorking Museum, West Street.

3 thoughts on “Dorking: William Mullins’ House”

  1. Martin Rickards says:

    It is strange that I am a native of Dorking and must have passed the premises hundreds of times, but have lived in Spain for the last 30+ years in a town that also has strong connections to American colonial history: Avilés, the home of Pedro Menéndez, the founder of the first township in what is now the USA, St Agustine.

    1. Maria Parkes says:

      I am an American and have lived in Spain 49 years. Today I was having lunch and watching Bargain Hunt, of all things. They mentioned William Mullins and his future lineage of the Adams family. I know that the Adams are part of my lineage. So I looked and found the hand written genealogy map my mother made years ago. (She is now 97) And sure enough, she had written Priscilla and John Alden on the map. But that is where that line ended. So it was interesting to search online a bit more about the Mullins. I then skyped her in Montana and told her what I had found.
      We also lived years ago in Pensacola, Florida. That actually is the very first Spanish colony in the US. But it was disbanded and therefore ignored and not ‘the first’ because it was not continual. We used to eat at a local delicatessen something called Gespachee. No one knew where the recipe came from. Later on, after living in Andalucia, I realized its origins. It contained all the ingredients of gazpacho (chopped coarsely), but instead of using bread, they used hard tack that they soaked all night. I often wonder if the first Spaniards brought that recipe and added the tomatoes that they found growing there.

  2. R. Ferguson says:

    Growing up my sister and I always knew we came from the founding pilgrims. I’m the 12th generation great-great granddaughter of John and Priscilla Alden. And from this lineage came five U.S. Presidents, poets, writers, educators, beer makers, homemakers, patriots, military personnel. And so, so much more.

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