New Weston Gallery exhibition ‘Beyond the Mayflower’

September 10th, 2021

The university is commemorating the voyage of the ‘Mayflower’ in 1620 with a new exhibition.

Amongst the passengers were a group of religious separatists, known as the ‘Pilgrims’, many of whom came from Nottinghamshire.

The exhibition will open to the public at the Weston Gallery at Nottingham Lakeside Arts on Thursday 23 September 2021.

Beyond the Mayflower has been curated by experts at the university, including its Manuscripts and Special Collections team, Professor Ross Wilson, Director of Liberal Arts, and university associate Dr Caleb Bailey.

Visitors to the exhibition will be able to explore the history of religious dissent, power and faith in Nottinghamshire from the 17th century onwards. Original presentment bills and court records show how ordinary people, including the ‘Pilgrim Father’ William Brewster of Scrooby, and Thomas Helwys of Broxtowe, the founder of the Baptist church, were called to account for their dissenting behaviour.

The exhibition shows how the groups who chose not to travel to America were the forerunners of nonconformist congregations that still worship in Nottinghamshire today. Posters, newsletters, articles and pamphlets reveal how previous anniversaries were marked and celebrated by church groups and historians. Older books in the exhibition tell how the Victorians generally ignored or played down the impact of the settlement on the local Wampanoag tribe.

Beyond the Mayflower exhibition poster with address and contact details

The work of artist Rachel Carter is displayed in the exhibition, including her sculpture ‘Pilgrim Woman’, which represents the hidden stories of the Mayflower women, and reveals links between textile art in Nottinghamshire and Massachusetts.

Wider issues of immigration, emigration and colonialism are also explored using original letters and documents from the 18th to the 20th centuries from the archives held at the University of Nottingham.

Professor Wilson said: “The exhibition was originally intended to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower in September 2020 but was postponed due to Covid-19. However, the Mayflower voyage was only one small part of the story. Across Nottinghamshire there were groups whose ideas were subject to surveillance and censure because they were different. By understanding the wider history of religious dissent, we can explore issues of equality and freedom today.”


Private View, Thursday 23 September

The Private View will be on Thursday 23 September, from 5pm – 7pm at the Weston Gallery. The exhibition will be opened by Professor Jeremy Gregory, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for the Faculty of Arts and Professor of the History of Christianity.

All university members are welcome to attend, but please RSVP to

Please do not attend the Private View if experiencing any symptoms or testing positive for Covid-19.

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