Roger Conant’s Birthplace - East Budleigh Village
The Conant family lived in East Budleigh from the 1540s until the end of the 17th century. The family is
believed to have lived close to the mill which lay to the south of today’s Church Hall, on which a blue plaque
is to be placed in memory of Roger Conant. They lived through a tumultuous time which saw six people on
the throne of England, each of whom played his or her role in the Reformation. There were
outbreaks of war, dissent and rebellion; and sporadic episodes of plague, drought and famine.
Born in 1592, Roger left the village for London in 1610 to complete an apprenticeship. It was quite
possible that he was in the crowd that witnessed the execution of Sir Walter Raleigh, who was born
in Budleigh parish a generation earlier. A few weeks later Roger married Sara Horton, with whom he
was to have two children in London, the first of which died aged one.
In around 1623 Roger Conant and his family sailed to join the group of colonists known as the Pilgrim
Fathers who had sailed to America on the Mayflower in 1620, but unable to reconcile himself to their
religious views he left them the following year. Having been governor of the Dorchester Company’s
settlement at Cape Ann, which failed for commercial reasons, he moved south to more promising land
which was later named Salem by John Endicott, the Governor of Massachusetts, another religious
extremist. Known as a calm, tolerant and peaceful leader, Roger Conant is particularly remembered for his
part in defusing a confrontation over ownership of a fishing stage which some observers claim might have
led to bloodshed.
Conant’s final move was to the town now known as Beverly, across the Danvers River from Salem,
which he unsuccessfully petitioned to be named Budleigh after the village of his birth.
A tolerant man, Roger Conant’s life was spent in a period of religious intolerance in which people
were persecuted and martyred for their faith. Even emigrating to New England did not change this
situation, for Endicott had Quakers executed. Conant managed to shelter his family and community
from these excesses and founded a successful settlement, where he is honoured today.
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