Heacham man’s Jamestown visit marks Pocahontas’ 400th wedding anniversary

Pocahontas Feature for LN ANL-140425-171007001
Pocahontas Feature for LN ANL-140425-171007001

Pocahontas and her link to Heacham has been in the news recently after the parish council backed a £550,000 bid to buy parkland linked to her husband John Rolfe.

But an author from the village made even more tangible links when he was the guest at the special 400th wedding commemorations of the famous Native American squaw and John Rolfe, in Virginia, USA.

Heacham Park is for sale - villagers want to buy. ANL-140424-154637001

Heacham Park is for sale - villagers want to buy. ANL-140424-154637001

John Haden attended the service on behalf of St Mary’s Church, Heacham, taking greetings from the village.

The former headteacher had previously written a book, with the pupils of Heacham Junior School, called Mrs John Rolfe Better Known as Pocahontas on the history surrounding her life and marriage.

The daughter of Powhatan, Chief of the Chesapeake Indians, she married Norfolk farmer John Rolfe, founder of the Virginian tobacco industry, in the first English colony in Jamestown, Virginia.

This April, Mr Haden visited the Virginian Indians, who still live in the Chesapeake region, taking messages from the church where Rolfe was born and baptised, and St George’s Church Gravesend, where Pocahontas was buried in 1617.

He said: “It was a privilege to be the bearer of the greetings of the people of both churches, to the 400th re-enactment celebrations of the wedding. It was also wonderful to share in worship with the Pamunkey Baptist Church attended by the mother of the bride.

“Pocahontas was played by Wendy Taylor of the Pamunkey people and her brother, Warren, represented Powhatan. The sun shone over the James River and the excavations at Jamestown where archaeologist Dr Bill Kelso and his team have uncovered such a wealth of finds from the early 17th century.”

He added: “I was also pleased to present to Dr Kelso, who has been to England many times and was awarded an honorary CBE, a copy of Mrs John Rolfe better known as Pocahontas.”

John Rolfe was born, baptised and raised in Heacham, where Pocahontas features on the village sign, and his parents, grandparents and other relatives are all buried at St Mary’s Church.

He introduced the first tobacco plantation to Jamestown, starting a successful export trade to Europe which helped the struggling starving colonist to make money.

Pocahontas’ father, Chief Powhatan, was the leader of 32 tribes which covered huge area of North America. As a result, the wedding became a Royal event of similar significance to that of the recent wedding of Katherine Middleton and Prince William.

The original wedding service was conducted by Rev Richard Bucke in the first English church in Jamestown, paving the way for eight years of peace-time that enabled hundreds of English families to join this first English colony and build new homes in Virginia.

Two years later, Pocahontas visited London with her husband John Rolfe and young son, Thomas Rolfe, and was invited by King James I to attend the Twelfth Night Masque ball. Held at Whitehall Palace, a special play was performed by Queen Anne and her lady courtiers.

It is also believed that Pocahontas, John Rolfe and their son may have visited Heacham in 1616 to meet his family and village legend says she planted a mulberry tree – possibly the larger tree growing outside Heacham Manor Hotel or the smaller tree trunk found in the council office barn.

There is also a huge oil painting of Pocahontas, pictured with her son, hanging in Lynn’s Guildhall staircase.

Copies of the book can be bought through the bookstall held at St Mary’s Church in Heacham, or online through Amazon.