Book examines Bideford’s role inAmerican mystery

A STORY that started in Bideford’s council chambers four years ago has evolved to take former town mayor Andy Powell across the Atlantic four times and back more than four centuries - and has now resulted in a book which re-examines the founding of America.

Andy’s 75,000-word publication Grenville and The Lost Colony of Roanoke is due to be launched in Bideford on February 19 and in America in April.

The book features one of the most popular mysteries of America, the fate of the Lost Colony of Roanoke. It also examines the pivotal role played by Bideford’s famous son Sir Richard Grenville and sets the question whether people from Bideford were among the first founders of America, more than 30 years before the Pilgrim Fathers set sail.

There are also insights into Bideford’s role in the vanquishing of the Spanish Armada, the origin of the so called Armada Cannons in Victoria Park and a fascinating biography of Sir Richard Grenville.

Andy’s interest was first sparked in the council chamber by a visitor from the North Carolina bearing gifts from a “twin” town, Manteo. Keen to re-establish a link apparently lost for 25 years, Andy went on to become instrumental in the completion of a formal “twinning” charter between the two towns.

During his first visit to America in 2008 Andy was interested why two towns so widely divided should have such an affinity. That started three-and-a-half years of research, which finally led him to discover the extraordinary story of the Roanoke Colonies and the 119 men, women and children, who three years after landing on Roanoke in 1587, vanished to become one of America’s greatest mysteries.

In his book, Andy has gone back to the earliest transcripts in his efforts to get to the bottom of the mystery and discovered that Sir Richard Grenville played a pivotal role in what was originally the enterprise of his cousin Sir Walter Raleigh. He also raises the possibility that many of these early settlers may have been in the employ of Grenville and thus from the Bideford area. He also provides evidence that they may not have been lost, but assimilated into the local Native American people.

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However, by including in his book modern transcriptions of the original accounts, he leaves his readers with the opportunity to make up their own minds.

“If theories associated with the story are proven �- and the evidence in support of them is emerging rapidly from the use of modern DNA testing and new archaeological evidence – then the history of America is about to be re-written,” said Andy.

He also hopes such a link will raise the profile of Bideford in America and around the world, highlighting the town’s rich heritage and providing a boost to its tourist industry.

Andy has been working alongside Mark Horton, Professor in Archaeology at Bristol University and well known for his part in the television series Coast.

Last year, after initiating the invitation to Prof Horton, he joined the professor and a team from the university on an archaeological dig on Hatteras Island , thought to be where the colony finally settled.

They are planning to return for another dig this April, when Andy will also be carrying out book signings and giving lectures and interviews.

Grenville and The Lost Colony of Roanoke is available for pre-order on Amazon or from the Troubador Publishing online bookshop.

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