Monday 10 June 1667

Up; and news brought us that, the Dutch are come up as high as the Nore; and more pressing orders for fireships. W. Batten, W. Pen, and I to St. James’s; where the Duke of York gone this morning betimes, to send away some men down to Chatham. So we three to White Hall, and met Sir W. Coventry, who presses all that is possible for fire-ships. So we three to the office presently; and thither comes Sir Fretcheville Hollis, who is to command them all in some exploits he is to do with them on the enemy in the River. So we all down to Deptford, and pitched upon ships and set men at work: but, Lord! to see how backwardly things move at this pinch, notwithstanding that, by the enemy’s being now come up as high as almost the Hope, Sir J. Minnes, who has gone down to pay some ships there, hath sent up the money; and so we are possessed of money to do what we will with. Yet partly ourselves, being used to be idle and in despair, and partly people that have been used to be deceived by us as to money, won’t believe us; and we know not, though we have it, how almost to promise it; and our wants such, and men out of the way, that it is an admirable thing to consider how much the King suffers, and how necessary it is in a State to keep the King’s service always in a good posture and credit. Here I eat a bit, and then in the afternoon took boat and down to Greenwich, where I find the stairs full of people, there being a great riding1 there to-day for a man, the constable of the town, whose wife beat him. Here I was with much ado fain to press two watermen to make me a galley, and so to Woolwich to give order for the dispatch of a ship I have taken under my care to see dispatched, and orders being so given, I, under pretence to fetch up the ship, which lay at Grays (the Golden Hand), did do that in my way, and went down to Gravesend, where I find the Duke of Albemarle just come, with a great many idle lords and gentlemen, with their pistols and fooleries; and the bulwarke not able to have stood half an hour had they come up; but the Dutch are fallen down from the Hope and Shell-haven as low as Sheernesse, and we do plainly at this time hear the guns play. Yet I do not find the Duke of Albemarle intends to go thither, but stays here to-night, and hath, though the Dutch are gone, ordered our frigates to be brought to a line between the two blockhouses; which I took then to be a ridiculous thing. So I away into the town and took a captain or two of our ships (who did give me an account of the proceedings of the Dutch fleete in the river) to the taverne, and there eat and drank, and I find the townsmen had removed most of their goods out of the town, for fear of the Dutch coming up to them; and from Sir John Griffen, that last night there was not twelve men to be got in the town to defend it: which the master of the house tells me is not true, but that the men of the town did intend to stay, though they did indeed, and so had he, at the Ship, removed their goods. Thence went off to an Ostend man-of-war, just now come up, who met the Dutch fleete, who took three ships that he come convoying hither from him says they are as low as the Nore, or thereabouts. So I homeward, as long as it was light reading Mr. Boyle’s book of Hydrostatics, which is a most excellent book as ever I read, and I will take much pains to understand him through if I can, the doctrine being very useful. When it grew too dark to read I lay down and took a nap, it being a most excellent fine evening, and about one o’clock got home, and after having wrote to Sir W. Coventry an account of what I had done and seen (which is entered in my letter-book), I to bed.

16 Annotations

Terry Foreman  •  Link

John Evelyn's Diary

10th June, 1667. To London, alarmed by the Dutch, who were fallen on our fleet at Chatham, by a most audacious enterprise, entering the very river with part of their fleet, doing us not only disgrace, but incredible mischief in burning several of our best men-of-war lying at anchor and moored there, and all this through our unaccountable negligence in not setting out our fleet in due time.

This alarm caused me, fearing the enemy might venture up the Thames even to London (which they might have done with ease, and fired all the vessels in the river, too), to send away my best goods, plate, etc., from my house [ Sayes Court at Deptford ] to another place. The alarm was so great that it put both country and city into fear, panic, and consternation, such as I hope I shall never see more; everybody was flying, none knew why or whither.

Now, there were land forces dispatched with the Duke of Albemarle, Lord Middleton, Prince Rupert, and the Duke, to hinder the Dutch coming to Chatham, fortifying Upnor Castle, and laying chains and bombs; but the resolute enemy broke through all, and set fire on our ships, and retreated in spite, stopping up the Thames, the rest of the fleet lying before the mouth of it.

Paul Chapin  •  Link

Can Evelyn and Pepys really be describing the same day?? If the Dutch were burning English ships at Chatham, how could Sam not have known it? And if he knew it, how could he not have mentioned it?

Robert Gertz  •  Link

Strangely dreamlike quality to this day of growing disaster...Sam seems to recognize (and even theorize on) his own paralysis of will, doing a bit but in spite of the urgent situation when one would expect our boy to be at his organizing best, rushing fireships out, we see him drifting off to see Albemarle and the courtiers gird themselves for battle, however ineptly. Marvelous picture that "...with their pistols and fooleries...". One senses you'd be in more danger of getting shot by accident by these idiots.

A brilliant and daring strike...And nice to see Evelyn display respect for Dutch courage.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"how backwardly things move at this pinch,"

PINCH: emergency, shortage of money (L&M Large Glossary)

Michael Robinson  •  Link

... the Dutch are come up ...

Some contemporary representations:

Pieter van den Velde
Dutch Attack on the Medway, 9-14 June 1667
oil on wood panel, 787 x 1066 mm.
a celebratory image of victory for the Dutch and is shown from their perspective

Willem Schellinks
Dutch Ships in the Medway, June 1667
oil on canvas, 585 x 890 mm.
A panoramic bird's-eye view taken from above Sheerness on the Isle of Sheppey and looking roughly south-west towards Chatham and Rochester.

Pieter Cornelisz van Soest
Dutch Attack on the Medway, June 1667
oil on canvas, 660.4 x 1092.2 mm.

P van Abeele
Medal commemorating the ships burnt in the Medway, 1667 and Admiral Michel Adrianzoon de Ruyter
Silver, 72 mm di., executed 1667

P. van Abeele
Medal commemorating ships burnt in the Medway and the proclamation of the peace of Breda, 1667
bronze, 69 mm. di., executed 1667

Terry Foreman  •  Link

Raid on the Medway from the English perspective (Michael R, thanks for the Dutch perspective)

After raising the alarm on 6 June at Chatham Dockyard, Commissioner Peter Pett seems not to have taken any further action until 9 June when, late in the afternoon, a fleet of about thirty Dutch ships were sighted in the Thames off Sheerness.

The King only in the afternoon of 10 June instructed Admiral George Monck, Duke of Albemarle to go to Chatham to take charge of matters and ordered Admiral Prince Rupert to organise the defences at Woolwich a full three days later. Albermarle first went to Gravesend where he noted to his dismay that there and at Tilbury only a few guns were present, too few to halt a possible Dutch advance upon the Thames. To prevent such a disaster, he ordered all available artillery from the capital to be positioned at Gravesend. On 11 June (Old Style) he went to Chatham, expecting the place to be well prepared for an attack. Two members of the Navy Board, Sir John Mennes and Lord Henry Brouncker, had already travelled there on the same day. When Albemarle arrived, however, he found only twelve of the eight hundred dockyard men expected and these in a state of panic; of the thirty sloops only ten were present, the other twenty having been used to bring the personal possessions of several officials to safety, such as the ship models of Pett. No munition or powder was available and the chain that blocked the Medway had not been protected by batteries. He immediately ordered to move the artillery from Gravesend to Chatham, which would take a day to effect.

The attack

The Dutch fleet arrived at the Isle of Sheppey on 10 June, and launched an attack on the incomplete Sheerness Fort.

Ruben  •  Link

Pepys put his diary in order the same day or made annotation the same day, something Evelyn probably did not, later confusing events.
Till tomorrow, the 11, the description by Evelyn about the "incredible mischief in burning several of our best men-of-war lying at anchor and moored there" did not happened.

Michael Robinson  •  Link

Spoiler -- A Contemporary English Perspective on today

Andrew Marvell,
Last Instructions to a Painter
(Bodlean Mss. dated September 1667)

After two sittings, now our Lady State
To end her picture does the third time wait.
But ere thou fall'st to work, first, Painter, see
If't ben't too slight grown or too hard for thee.
Canst thou paint without colors? Then 'tis right:
For so we too without a fleet can fight.
There our sick ships unrigged in summer lay
Like moulting fowl, a weak and easy prey,
For whose strong bulk earth scarce could timber find,
The ocean water, or the heavens wind--
Those oaken giants of the ancient race,
That ruled all seas and did our Channel grace.
The conscious stag so, once the forest's dread,
Flies to the wood and hides his armless head.
Ruyter forthwith a squadron does untack;
They sail securely through the river's track.
An English pilot too (O shame, O sin!)
Cheated of pay, was he that showed them in.
Our wretched ships within their fate attend,
And all our hopes now on frail chain depend:
(Engine so slight to guard us from the sea,
It fitter seemed to captivate a flea).
A skipper rude shocks it without respect,
Filling his sails more force to re-collect.
Th' English from shore the iron deaf invoke
For its last aid: `Hold chain, or we are broke.'
But with her sailing weight, the Holland keel,
Snapping the brittle links, does thorough reel,
And to the rest the opened passage show;
Monck from the bank the dismal sight does view.
Our feathered gallants, which came down that day
To be spectators safe of the new play,
Leave him alone when first they hear the gun
(Cornb'ry the fleetest) and to London run.
Our seamen, whom no danger's shape could fright,
Unpaid, refuse to mount our ships for spite,
Or to their fellows swim on board the Dutch,
Which show the tempting metal in their clutch.

Complete text at:

Robert Gertz  •  Link

"So I homeward, as long as it was light reading Mr. Boyle’s book of Hydrostatics, which is a most excellent book as ever I read, and I will take much pains to understand him through if I can, the doctrine being very useful. When it grew too dark to read I lay down and took a nap, it being a most excellent fine evening, and about one o’clock got home, and after having wrote to Sir W. Coventry an account of what I had done and seen (which is entered in my letter-book), I to bed."

"Nice day?"

"Not bad. Busy for a bit getting fireships and we actually got the first real money at hand we've seen in months. Ended up at Gravesend, but I had a very pleasant ride back...Took a bit of a nap, fought off the pressed watermen who tried to kill me for forcing them to take me about, read some more Boyle. Oh, and the war seems irretrievably lost as the Dutch are likely to be about to win with a major surprise attack on our helpless fleet in harbor. From the way Albemarle and his boys were dashing about, seems as if they might even invade."

"Thought you said last month the war was lost."

"Financially...This more or less puts the seal on it."

"There's a pity. There's some pigeon left from the other day, want some?"

"No bacon?"

"Sorry. Want to read me some more Boyle in bed?"

"Are you being funny, Bess?"

Mary  •  Link

"a riding"

The best-known skimmity ride in English literature must be that described by Thomas Hardy in "The Mayor of Casterbridge."

cum salis grano  •  Link

ships on display
"...there being a great riding1 there to-day for a man,..."
2b. A ludicrous procession, typically accompanied by ‘rough music’, made through a village or neighbourhood in order to ridicule or shame a person or couple, esp. for mistreatment of a spouse. Also: the practice or custom of this. Cf. to ride the stang
...1667 S. PEPYS Diary 10 June (1974) VIII. 257 There being a great Riding there today for a man, the constable of the town, whose wife beat him.

8. Naut. The fact of lying at anchor; anchorage; a suitable place or opportunity for anchoring. Cf. RIDE v. 15.
Freq. with modifying adjective, as good, safe, etc.

cum salis grano  •  Link

why this comment in the middle of a panic situation?
'Tis a very English to make light of a catastrophe,
A man bleeding to death would say "just shaving old man" seeing all spent shells and all that distruction.

Ruben  •  Link

I presume no one in England realized today the magnitude and depth of the Dutch attack. There was no central command. The English had no intelligence about the places to be protected besides presumptions and concentrated forces in what later was found to be the wrong places.
Lets wait till tomorrow and see if the Dutch continue to advance on the estuary towards London, attack Medway and the shipyards or retreat because of the winds, or because that was all they intended to do or were afraid to loose ships in the sands.

Rob Anthony  •  Link

Perhaps the 'riding' referred to was akin to the Welsh 'ceffyl pren' (wooden horse) when a wrongdoer in a community was subjected to rough justice by humiliation by being made to 'ride' a 'horse' consisting of a pole attached to a dressed horse's skull. This survived in rural areas of Wales into the 19th C.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

The Hague...

"Gentlemen, behold...Greater Hollandia." the great DeWitt uncovers enormous map of Europe.

"Ah ha, ha. All of England and...Sacre Dieu! Monsieur DeWitt?! What will Louis say?"

"Private citizen Bourbon is welcome to his day in Hollandia court, Mr. former Ambassador."

cum salis grano  •  Link

My version of riding , reminds me of other events in history, Honolulu 41, Scarpa Flow oct 39 , Israeli war Egypt, RAF at the battle of the Bulge etc,Every one in a neat line waiting for inspection and then the comeuppance.
I realize that few will see it this way.

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