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1624 sees a very significant increase of progress in England in emigration to Virginia, especially by two groups of
Puritans. There is the West country one led by the charismatic preacher the Reverend John White and the
other in East Anglia headed by lawyer John Winthrop. Both will have a profound effect on the future decline in the importance
of Jamestown and move the centre of power and prosperity northwards to Massachusetts over the next ten years.
John White was born in 1575
at Stanton St John, a village just east of Oxford, in the farmhouse illustrated here. He is shown in his baby cot. As a boy
he was a clever scholar, and went on to Oxford, graduated and later got his MA in 1601. He subsequently became a Fellow of
his College until, in 1606 finally moving to Dorset to be rector of the combined Dorchester parishes of St Peter and Holy
Trinity. In 1613 a fire devastated the busy market town and White came into his element as a natural-born organiser, helping
the townsfolk rebuild and improve it. A workhouse was established for the poor, with a brewhouse to maintain it and a new
school built, which is shown here. Today White has selected the teacher for it, who is depicted beating obedience into his
mischievous pupils whilst White contemplates his latest, greatest project, planting a new fishing-based colony in New England.
White and friends had to
get official permission of course, so last year, 1623, as a first step, applied for and got a preliminary patent from Gorge’s
Council for New England, bought the 50-ton vessel Fellowship and sent it on a fishing reconnaissance to the Massachusetts
Bay coast. It proved unprofitable. Gorges then insisted that any request for an indenture had to be made ‘by persons
of honour or gentlemen of blood.’ No problem. White’s friend Sir Walter Erle, Weymouth’s MP immediately
applied for it. The result? Today, 31 March 1624, in this very school in Dorchester, at a meeting of enthusiasts grandly called
‘The New England Planters Parliament’ the Dorchester Company, a joint stock company will be officially established
and Erle made Governor. John Humphreys, Treasurer. Soon, among the 119 eventual members, half will be Dorset gentry, plus
four Knights and 9 MPs.