Rev John Robinson was born 1576 in Sturton-le-Steeple, Nottinghamshire, England, United Kingdom to John Robinson (1551-1616) and died 1 March 1625 Leiden, Zuid-Holland, Netherlands of unspecified causes. He married Bridget White (1579-1643) 15 February 1604 in St. Mary's Church, Greasley, Nottinghamshire, England, United Kingdom.


John Robinson (1576 – 1625) was the pastor of the "Pilgrim Fathers" before they left on the Mayflower. He became one of the early leaders of the English Separatists and is regarded (along with Robert Browne) as one of the founders of the Congregational Church.

Early Life

Robinson was born at Sturton-Le-Steeple in Nottinghamshire, England between March and September 1576, this range of dates deduced by comparing two records at Leiden (Leyden) that give his age at the time of the event. He was educated at Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School, Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, and entered Corpus Christi College at the University of Cambridge in April 1592. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1596.

Church Dissent

Cambridge was a center of Puritanism. During his years there, Robinson gradually accepted its principles. The leaders of this movement strongly criticized the English Church because they believed its beliefs and rituals were too much like those of the Roman Catholic Church. The reforms they advocated would “purify” the established church from within; for this reason they became known as “Puritans”.

Some Puritans who despaired of getting the changes they favored in the established Church, decided to leave to form Separatist churches.

Scrooby Separatists


Scrooby Separatists were a mixed congregation of early English Protestants / non-conformists founding living in the border region of of South Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire. They were called "Separatists" because of their rebellion against the religious authority of the Church of England, the official state religion. In 1607/8 the Congregation emigrated to Netherlands in search of the freedom to worship as they chose. Shortly after that they were the basis of the group to sail in the Mayflower to the New World.

St Andrews Church

In August 1603, Robinson became associate pastor of St. Andrew's Church in the commercial center of Norwich. This city had contacts on the continent with Holland and Flanders and had a considerable number of foreign workers and refugees. In addition, the most influential political leaders and merchants in Norwich were Puritans.

Migration to Leiden

In 1611, Robinson and his congregation settled in Leiden, South Holland. While there John studied theology extensively at the University of Leiden.

In 1620, a major part of his congregation left Leiden on the Mayflower and would eventually settle Plymouth Colony, but John stayed behind. The Mayflower reached the coast of what is now Massachusetts on 21 November 1620. For the next several years, the Pilgrims awaited the arrival of Robinson and the rest of the congregation.

The departure for most of the rest of the congregation was delayed for several years. Robinson became ill on 22 February 1625 but recovered enough to preach twice the next day, which was Sunday. By the next Sunday, Reverend John Robinson was dead. He died on 1 March 1625 and was interred on 4 March at the Pieterskerk.

Marriage and Family

College fellows were prohibited from marrying so Robinson resigned his fellowship to wed Bridget White (1579-1643), on 15 February 1604 at St. Mary's Church, Greasley in western Nottinghamshire. Bridget was the daughter of Alexander and Eleanor (Smith) White, formerly prosperous yeoman farmers at Sturton-Le-Steeple, who were deceased at the time of the wedding. At her marriage, Bridget was residing near Greasley on land held under a 99 year lease by her older brother Charles, who had inherited the lease by their father's will.

  1. Mary Robinson (1596-1655) - born at Norwich, England and died after 1640, likely in Massachusetts. Married Thomas Birchard in 1620, in Fairsted, England.
  2. John Robinson (1606-1657) - born at Norwich, England and baptised on 24 March 1606 [N.S.] at Norwich's St. Peter Hungate parish church; matriculated at the University of Leiden, first on 17 April 1622 as a student of Fine Arts and again on 5 April 1633 as a student of Theology; in-between the latter two dates he graduated in May 1630 from the University of Caen at Normandy, France with a degree in Medicine; married and in 1658 was living at Norwich, England.
  3. Bridget Robinson (1608-1670) - born at Norwich, England and baptised on 25 January 1607 [N.S.] at Norwich's St. Peter Hungate parish church; married (1) John Greenwood in 1629, who studied theology at the University of Leiden; 2) William Lee of Amsterdam in 1637; she was living at Leiden in 1680 and had two daughters living there in 1680.
  4. Isaac Robinson (1610-1704) - migrated in 1631 to join pilgrims at Plymouth Colony.
  5. Mercy Robinson (1612-1623) - born at Leiden in circa 1614; was buried in 1623 at Leiden at the Pieterskerk.
  6. Fear Robinson (1616-1670) - born at Leiden in circa 1616, died testate at Leiden before 31 May 1670; married John Jennings, Jr. in 1648, who died at Leiden in 1664 leaving three daughters.
  7. James Robinson (1621-1638) - born at Leiden circa 1620-21; matriculated in May 1633 at the age of 12 at Leiden University as a student of Literature; never married and was buried on 26 May 1638 at Leiden at the Pieterskerk.
  8. Child Robinson #8 - Died 1618 per Pieterskerk Pilgrim Memorial
  9. Child Robinson #9 - Died 1621 per Pieterskerk Pilgrim Memorial


Offspring of Rev John Robinson and Bridget White (1579-1643)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Mary Robinson (1596-1655) 18 March 1596 Fairstead, Essex, England, United Kingdom 24 March 1655 Roxbury, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, United States Thomas Birchard (1595-c1684)
John Robinson (1606-1657)
Bridget Robinson (1608-1670)
Isaac Robinson (1610-1704) 1610 Leiden, Zuid-Holland, Netherlands 1704 Barnstable, Barnstable County, Massachusetts, United States Margaret Hanford (1619-1649)
Mrs Mary Robinson
Mercy Robinson (1612-1623) 1612 Leiden, Zuid-Holland, Netherlands 1623 Leiden, Zuid-Holland, Netherlands
Child Robinson (-1618)
Child Robinson (-1621)
Fear Robinson (1616-1670)
James Robinson (1621-1638)


Vital Records

Pieterskerk Memorial

Pilgrim Memorial Plaque at Pieterskerk in Leiden

Pieterskerk Pilgrim Memorial located on the great Pieterskerk in Leiden lists this family members who lived died at the Pilgrim settlement here. This place was At one time a center of activity for the over 300 Leiden Pilgrims lived here in the early 1600s after escaping from religious persecution in England.

1891 Bronze Marker

Metal marker in memory of John Robinson on the outside of the Pieterskerk at Leiden

On 24 July 1891 under auspices of the Congregational Church of the United States, a bronze marker in his memory was placed on the wall of Pieterskerk. Present were delegates from the United States (including his descendant Rev. William Robinson of Vermont, who was a member of the committee responsible for the marker's erection) and England, the city and University of Leiden, and the city’s clergy. On this marker was inscribed:

“In Memory of Rev. John Robinson, M. A. Pastor of the English Church Worshipping Over Against This Spot, A. D. 1609 - 1625, Whence at his Prompting Went Forth THE PILGRIM FATHERS To Settle New England in 1620

Buried under this house of worship, 4 March 1625 Æt. XLIX Years. In Memoria Aeterna Erit Justus. Erected by the National Council of the Congregational Churches of the United States of America A. D. 1891”

Footnotes (including sources)

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