The Speedwell was a 60-ton ship, along with the Mayflower, she transported the pilgrim fathers and was the smaller of the two ships. A vessel of the same name and size traveled to the New World seventeen years prior as the flagship of the first expedition of Martin Pring.
The Speedwell was built in 1577, under the name Swiftsure, as part of English preparations for war against Spain. She participated in the fight against the Spanish Armada, and during the Earl of Essex' 1596 Azores expedition she served as the ship of his second in command, Sir Gilly Merick. After hostilities with Spain ended, she was decommissioned in 1605, and renamed the Speedwell.
The Leiden Separatists bought or leased the ship Speedwell in Holland, and are said to have boarded it on 1 August at Delfshaven under the command of Captain John Thomas Chappell. They then sailed to Southampton, England to meet the sister ship, Mayflower, which had been chartered by the merchant investors. In Southampton they joined with other Separatists and the additional colonists hired by the investors.
The two ships began the voyage on August 5, 1620, but the Speedwell was found to be taking on water, and the two ships put into Dartmouth for repairs. On the second attempt, Mayflower and Speedwell sailed about 100 leagues beyond Land's End in Cornwall, but the Speedwell was again found to be taking on water. Both vessels returned to Plymouth. The Separatists decided to go on to America on the Mayflower. It is not known if the Speedwell returned to Holland or was sold in England. At least two of its passengers, Thomas Blossom and a son, returned to Leiden.
It was later suggested there was in fact nothing wrong with the Speedwell, and that the crew had sabotaged their ship in order to escape the year long commitment of their contract, but there is no concrete evidence to support this allegation.
Eleven people from the Speedwell boarded the Mayflower, leaving 20 people to return to London (including Robert Cushman) while a combined company of 103 continued the voyage. For a third time, the Mayflower headed for the New World. She left Plymouth on September 6, 1620 and entered Cape Cod Harbor on November 11, 1620. Speedwell's replacement, The Fortune, eventually followed, arriving at Plymouth Colony one year later on November 9, 1621. Philippe de Lannoy who was on the Speedwell with his uncle Francis Cooke, made the trip on that voyage.
In 1656 a vessel called the Speedwell made a voyage from England to Boston, carrying a party of Quakers including Christopher Holder and John Copeland. Arriving in Massachusetts Bay Colony under the Governorship of John Endecott, they were deported for religious reasons and obliged to return to Britain. In the following year another party, including six of the Speedwell company, returned via Rhode Island aboard the Woodhouse: one of them became one of the Boston martyrs, judicially executed by Endecott.
In 1751 a vessel called the Speedwell made a voyage from Rotterdam to Halifax, NS, carrying a party of "Foreign Protestants" including Johann Andreas Fultz. Captained by a Joseph Wilson, the Speedwell left Rotterdam on May 18, 1751, with 229 passengers, arriving in Halifax with 212 passengers on either July 10 or July 21, 1751.
Speedwell in Fiction 
A fiction based on fact novel, 'A Spurious Brood' outlines a possible explanation for the sabotage of the Speedwell, based on the true story of Katherine More, whose children were sent to America on board the Mayflower.
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- Bradford, William (1908). "8". In William T. Davis. Bradford's History of Plymouth Plantation, 1606-1646. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. Retrieved 2006-05-27.
- Where Currant Bushes Grew: An Introduction to the Sackville Fultzes. by Robert Paton Harvey; Nova Scotia Historical Review #2:1(1982); 12 pp.