Local Southampton Tour Guide Geoff Wheeler was thrilled when he had the opportunity to take a family around Southampton’s historic walls on Wednesday 11 May. However, this was no ordinary family, but an extended family of ‘Chandlers’ – some 46 in total, all of whom can trace their ancestry back to the time of the Pilgrim Fathers.
The Chandler family have travelled across from America and – appropriately – are discovering family connections in the south of England aboard a Chandler’s coach.
‘The Southampton walk has been a real highlight’ said organiser Errol Chandler. ‘We all had knowledge of the Mayflower and the Speedwell leaving Southampton in 1620, but never did we think there was so much detail here, both in terms of the buildings and the stories that helped to recall the lives of those who lived and worked here. Everything was brought to life so memorably by Geoff – we truly felt we were walking in the footsteps of our ancestors.To cap it all we were greeted by the Mayor Linda Norris and enjoyed a pint in one of the buildings standing at the time of the Pilgrim Fathers, the Wool House, now the Dancing Man.’
The extended Chandler family are the latest in a long line of American families discovering their Southampton ancestry, with numbers set to grow over the next few years as the City looks to mark the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrim Fathers leaving Southampton – the anniversary being 2020. Much is planned, including a sea-going replica of the Mayflower itself.
For Geoff, there is a great deal of satisfaction in showing groups the city’s hidden secrets. ‘It is well known that Americans love their history. Very often we’re regaled with family history and their connections with Southampton – their tales very often enlighten me and help me to better understand the trials and tribulations faced by settlers crossing the Atlantic.’