The Pilgrims were known as a group of religious separatists; many came from Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire. The group was unhappy with current religion in England and decided to practice their own religious beliefs. This was a dangerous decision in 17th century England, where being part of any church outside the Church of England was illegal. The group sought religious freedom in Leiden, Holland, to start new lives.
After living there for nearly 12 years, the Pilgrims made the decision to leave Holland. Life there was hard, they experienced poverty, harsh working conditions and the fear that their children were losing their English heritage due to the influence of the Dutch. Speaking to other separatists living in the United Kingdom, they all made plans to travel together to Virginia, America to build a new life – a place where they could practice their religion freely and live as they wanted.
To improve their financial futures, the Pilgrims made an agreement with the Virginia Company, (an English company based in New Virginia, America) and a group of London Merchants to finance their voyage. The Virginia Company were desperate for settlers in their American colonies who would provide a return on their investment and the Pilgrims would be committed to paying back the merchants loan once they settled. The Pilgrims in Holland, sold their possessions to buy a ship called the Speedwell, and those in England hired a ship called the Mayflower, on which they would travel to the New World and set up a private colony.