Project Background


Charlton's first meeting with Upham:

"…he spoke about wooden ships with such affection that the feeling was communicated. I do not think I have ever been so impressed with a first meeting as I was with Stuart Upham…I had found our man. He patently possessed two important qualities: great enthusiasm for the Project in hand and the integrity of the true craftsman.

I asked him if he thought it would be difficult to obtain the necessary timber for building …'I think I know where to get it,' he said. 'No, that won't be the problem. It's the men, but we have got a nucleus of them. They are old ones, but they are the ones with the craft and they will teach the others.'"

[Since fundraising had just begun, Charlton inquired if Upham could begin work without a large down-payment.] "His reaction was surprisingly free of complications. ‘I am prepared to make a start,' he said. ‘We're only a small firm with limited resources, but such as they are, they are at your disposal. Lay the keel, start building, and my belief is that the little ship will start talking for herself.'

He held out his hand. I shook it, and our first contract with Stuart Upham, shipbuilder and gentleman, was made. On 4th July, American Independence Day, 1955, work on Mayflower began." 

Upham's devotion to traditional craftsmanship:

"I don't know whether I have met anyone keener on the preservation of the old arts and crafts of shipbuilding than Stuart Upham. He treated the reconstruction of Mayflower with the inspirational approach of a great artist creating his masterpiece. From the beginning the work filled him with pleasure, because it enabled him to discover the way our forefathers went to work. But his enthusiasm was tinged with sadness, for no one knew better that the building of Mayflower was probably the last occasion on which a ship of this size would be constructed without the aid of modern materials and methods.

His old-established firm were able to draw on their long-accumulated lore in building, but familiarity with the honest craft of wooden ship building was not in itself enough.  The construction of the new Mayflower involved considerable research with a view to revival of tools and techniques long since discarded by shipbuilders...I was determined that in every detail the new Mayflower should not only look like her predecessor, but be fashioned after the same manner, and Stuart Upham was delighted to carry this through."

“I was naturally impatient for the ship to be launched, and when I saw the sort of tools Stuart was using I asked him if he might not get the same results with modern equipment.

His reply, albeit accompanied by a grin, was a check to my impetuosity: ‘Warwick, the tools which we used for the construction of these heavy wooden ships have not varied much in three hundred years…Believe me, except for sawing and drilling, modern machinery cannot be used if you want me to build Mayflower.'"

Warwick Charlton, The Second Mayflower Adventure



“…We had several discussions as to whom we should invite to launch Mayflower.  We wanted it to be someone who was of the people, as the Pilgrims were, and at the same time someone who had contributed in a practical and signal way to Anglo-American friendship. I was talking this over with my friend Edmund Jessup, the rector of Babworth with Ranby, near Retford, where the Pilgrim ideals first took root, when he remembered the story of a young American airman [Reis Leming], a nonswimmer, who had risked his life to rescue some thirty British men and women during the East Coast floods of 1954. He had been decorated by the Queen for his heroism…

Reis [Leming] tall, fair-haired, the George Medal pinned to his rain-soaked coat, walked up to the microphone…: ‘This is one of the greatest things that has happened to me. You British don’t forget.’ Stuart Upham handed him the christening chalice and together they passed it round the shipwrights, each man taking a sip of the wine until the chalice returned to Reis. Then he and Stuart went up the ladders onto the ship and walked to the bows, where Reis drained the cup. According to the old custom, he cast it into the sea, with the words ‘I name thee—Mayflower.’”

Warwick Charlton, The Second Mayflower Adventure


“Now came the real business of the launching of the ship, when the shipwrights came into their own. Ten of them lining each side of the ship held their long-handled maul hammers at the ready and waited for the foreman shipwright to make his calls.

‘Are you ready?’ he shouted. And then began to chant: ‘One blow, two blow, three blow,’ and twenty hammers rang a sharp explosive tattoo, driving the wedges that would by tiny fractions inch the full weight of the Mayflower onto the cradle of the slipway…The final word of command came from Stuart. He gave the order for two men to strike away the dogshores under the forefoot…Then with no check, the Mayflower swept down the greased slipway, gathering speed, and launched herself for the first time on water.”

Warwick Charlton, The Second Mayflower Adventure

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