THE story of the fateful Mayflower voyage of 1620 is legendary.

Horrific conditions were endured by the 130 passengers and crew onboard the ship for 66 miserable days, disease and death plagued the crossing, but ultimately the Pilgrim Fathers arrived in the New World.

This year marks the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower crossing and in case you weren’t aware of the entire story and its Essex connections, then folk musician Seth Lakeman is on the case to help.

Seth has been fascinated by the Mayflower since he was a child. He grew up on Dartmoor within sight of Plymouth harbour, from where the Puritans set sail in the Mayflower in September 1620.

That fascination has now led to him writing and recording his latest album A Pilgrim’s Tale - a collection of 12 atmospheric and soulful songs which document the stories of the men, women and children who made the two month voyage across the Atlantic in a bid for religious freedom in a new land.

But that’s not the only point of view listeners will get.

“There are songs, such as Pilgrim Brother and Sailing Time that tell it from the perspective of the English and Dutch pilgrims, but also those from the side of the indigenous Wampanoag people – the community who had lived on the land for a millennia before the Europeans discovered and colonised it,” explained Seth.

“The song Foreign Man is one of these tracks, as is Watch Out which tells of a deadly premonition experienced by a Wampanoag girl about how strange travellers will come and devastate their land and lives.”

The launch of A Pilgrim’s Tale coincides with Seth touring UK locations significant to The Mayflower. This included Harwich, which Seth visited to perform his album. The Essex coastal town was where the Mayflower was physically built and where its captain Christopher Jones hailed from.

His house in King Quay Street still stands today.

Almost half of the Mayflower pilgrims died within the first winter of arrival or on the journey itself. The voyage was horribly unpleasant and cramped. Many of the passengers were so seasick, they could scarcely get up and the waves were so rough one man was swept overboard and drowned.

When the ship finally reached the shores of what we know as America today, the passengers realised they had arrived hundreds of miles off their intended destination. Instead of the Virginia colony they had ended up at Cape Cod. In order to establish themselves as a legitimate colony, they drafted and signed a document they called the Mayflower Compact, which promised to create a colony governed by elected officials with “just and equal laws”.

Seth’s album features a host of guest performers, including musicians Cara Dillon, Benji Kirkpatrick, Ben Nicholls and Seth’s father Geoff Lakeman. Interlinked narration is provided on the album by the film and TV actor Paul McGann, which sets the scene for each of the Mayflower songs.

As a singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist, who who has been nominated for a Mercury Music Prize and now has ten solo albums to his name, Seth has travelled the world and performed with many notable musicians including Robert Plant.

In fact, it was while he was on tour with Plant’s band Seth got a boost of inspiration for a Pilgrim’s Tale.

During a stop-off in Massachusetts, he visited the Plymouth Plantation and spoke to Wampanoag families who still live in the area. Seth says he was also inspired by A Mayflower Garland, folk singer Cyril Tawney’s album penned to mark the 350th anniversary of the Mayflower crossing.

“His work of 50 years ago definitely gave me the seed of an idea to do something for the 400th anniversary,” added Seth.

“I just find the Mayflower story so incredibly fascinating. These people were so brave and full of hope in their search for a new life. But in the end what they got was nothing like they had expected.”

A Pilgrim’s Tale is available to buy or download via Amazon or via

l A number of Mayflower-themed events will be taking place in Harwich throughout the year for residents to look out for.