Blackwall marks 410th anniversary of Virginia's Jamestown colonists and 'beginning of Empire'
PUBLISHED: 17:15 14 December 2016
An historical folk band led a procession at Blackwall to mark the 410th anniversary of the first English colonists to set sail from the Thames for the New World.
The pioneering venturers who weighed anchor on a perilous voyage in 1606 to establish the first North America colony in Virginia had started out from Blackwall at the spot where today stands East London’s Virginia Quays housing development.
Residents and guests followed the three-piece band to the riverside where Nigel Howell, from First Port which manages the luxury housing complex, gave a speech to mark the 110th anniversary at the newly-restored Virginia monument.
“The story behind Virginia Quays played an important role in Britain’s history,” he said.
“It is a true legacy to the 105 amazing trailblazers who set off to establish Jamestown more than four centuries ago.”
Guests on Saturday included Marsie Taylor, a Second World War veteran who, at 96, lives in retirement at Virginia Quays.
She worked in Churchill’s cabinet assisting in the planning of the D-Day Landings in 1944. Her work for the Allied invasion of Normandy was recognised earlier this year when she became the first British woman to be awarded the Legion d’Honneur from the French government.
The Queen remarked 10 years ago during her visit to Jamestown on its 400th anniversary that the founding of the town was the beginning of the British Empire.
It was in December 1606 that a hardened group of men and women including craftsmen and farmers stepped off from the Thames waterfront at Blackwall to sail for the New World—14 years before the more famous and more successful Mayflower that landed at Massachusetts in what became New England.
The Jamestown venturers had gone further south in what later emerged as the British crown colony of Virginia.
But that first settlement didn’t survive the harsh conditions of early 17th century colonisation and eventually the first settlers either died or had to be evacuated.
It was left to the Pilgrim Fathers on the Mayflower in 1622 to finally get an English foothold in the New World.