Paul Brewster • Link
Peter Pett succeed his father, Phineas Pett, as Commissioner of the Navy at Chatham, in 1647; he was continued in his office after the Restoration, but in 1667, in consequence of the Dutch attack upon Chatham, he was superseded, sent to the Tower, and threatened with impeachment. The threat was not carried out, but he was never restored to office. Fuller observes that the mystery of shipwrights for some descents hath been preserved successively in families, "of which the Pettes of Chatham are of singular regard" -- Worthies of England. There is an interesting autobiographical memoir of Phineas Pett, in his own handwriting in the British Museum.
Mary • Link
Pett seems to have been made scapegoat for the disaster of the Dutch attack along the Medway. One of the charges levelled against him was that he had wasted time in removing model ships from Chatham during the attack, the implication being that these were mere decorative trifles. These models would have been accurate design models for warships and, as such, of potential value to the enemy, hence Pett's concern for their safety.
Pett's portrait by Lely
dirk • Link
Footnote about Comm. Peter Pett
(to the entry for 10 August 1663)
John Evelyn, Diary and Correspondence: Volume 1 (ed. William Bray), George Bell and Sons, London, 1883.
"A monument to him in Deptford church bears a most pompous inscription: “Qui fuit patriæ decus, patriæ suæ magnum munimentum;” to the effect that he not only restored our naval affairs, but he invented that excellent and new ornament of the Navy which we call Frigate, formidable to our enemies, to us most useful and safe: he was to be esteemed, indeed, by this invention, the Noah of his age, which, like another Ark, had snatched from shipwreek our rights and our dominion of the seas."
Michael Smith • Link
The scapegoating of Pett in 1667 was satirized by Marvell:
After this loss, to relish discontent,
Someone must be accused by punishment.
All our miscarriages on Pett must fall:
His name alone seems fit to answer all.
Whose counsel first did this mad war beget?
Who all commands sold through the navy? Pett.
Who would not follow when the Dutch were beat?
Who treated out the time at Bergen? Pett.
Who the Dutch fleet with storms disabled met,
And rifling prizes, them neglected? Pett.
Who with false news prevented the Gazette,
The fleet divided, writ for Rupert? Pett.
Who all our seamen cheated of their debt,
And all our prizes who did swallow? Pett.
Who did advise no navy out to set,
And who the forts left unrepairèd? Pett.
Who to supply with powder did forget
Languard, Sheerness, Gravesend and Upnor? Pett.
Who should it be but the Fanatic Pett?
Pett, the sea-architect, in making ships
Was the first cause of all these naval slips:
Had he not built, none of these faults had been;
If no creation, there had been no sin.
But his great crime, one boat away he sent,
That lost our fleet and did our flight prevent.
The great shipbuilding family of Pett was chiefly connected with the growth of the English navy from the reign of Henry VIII. to that of William III., but as the Christian names of Peter and Phineas appear to have been favourites in the family, it is very difficult to distinguish between some of them, and great confusion has been the result. Amongst the original Fellows of the Royal Society are mentioned Peter Pett, Esq., and Sir Peter Pett. The former of these two was the Commissioner, and the latter was Advocate-General, and Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. Peter Pett, Esq., was the fifth son of Phineas Pett, "Master Shipwright to James I.," and was born in 1610. It is frequently stated that he was knighted, but this appears to be incorrect.
PETT, PETER (1610-1670?), commissioner of the navy: son of Phineas Pett; commissioner at Chatham, 1648-67; was largely responsible for the efficiency of the ships during the Dutch wars; his supersession due to the disaster at Chatham, 1667.
---Dictionary of National Biography: Index and Epitome. S. Lee, 1906.
Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.