The Virginia Quay Settlers Monument, on the north shore of the River Thames, marks the embarkation point of the first English settlers of North America. This was where Captains Christopher Newport and John Smith set sail in December 1606 – some 14 years before the Mayflower set sail two miles further upstream. There were three ships in the flotilla; the Susan Constant, the Godspeed and the Discovery.
The settlers arrived in April 1607. Exhausted and sick they established Jamestown, Virginia as the first (permanent) English colony in North America. Within two years, the harsh conditions, lack of food and attacks by native Indians reduced the population to 60 people (from the original 105). However, tobacco seeds from North Carolina thrived, more settlers arrived and the tobacco-based colony was established. (Within a hundred years, British exports of tobacco, sugar and fish from its American colonies outstripped England’s traditional exports of wool and tin.)
It’s well known that the life of Captain John Smith was saved by the Native American, Pocahontas – but it’s less well known that she married the tobacco planter John Rolfe. As Rebecca Rolfe, she chose to return to England where, feted, she became central to raising ‘inward investment’ for Jamestown! Sadly, she died at Gravesend (at the age of 21) and is buried at the local Church of St George.
The new Virginia Quay monument was completed in 1999; comprising a bronze plaque, from an earlier 1928 memorial, and a stone and bronze memorial of 1951.
The plaque reads: FROM NEAR THIS SPOT/DECEMBER 19 1606/SAILED WITH “105 ADVENTURERS”/THE “SUSAN CONSTANT” 100 TONS/CAPT CHRISTOPHER NEWPORT/IN SUPREME COMMAND/THE “GODSPEED” 40 TONS/CAPT BARTHOLOMEW GOSNOLD/THE “DISCOVERY” 20 TONS/CAPT JOHN RATCLIFFE/LANDED AT CAPE HENRY VIRGINIA/ APRIL 1607/ARRIVED AT JAMESTOWN VIRGINIA/MAY 13 1607/WHERE THESE “ADVENTURERS”/FOUNDED THE FIRST PERMANENT/ENGLISH COLONY IN AMERICA/UNDER THE LEADERSHIP OF THE/INTREPID CAPT JOHN SMITH/EDWARD MARIA WINGFIELD/PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL/THE REVEREND ROBERT HUNT/AND OTHERS/AT JAMESTOWN JULY 30 1619 WAS/CONVENED THE FIRST ASSEMBLY IN AMERICA.
The Virginia Quay Settlers Monument is located on Jamestown Way, London E14 2DE.