Monday 9 April 1660

We having sailed all night, were come in sight of the Nore [L&M say “North“. P.G.] and South Forelands in the morning, and so sailed all day. In the afternoon we had a very fresh gale, which I brooked better than I thought I should be able to do. This afternoon I first saw France and Calais, with which I was much pleased, though it was at a distance. About five o’clock we came to the Goodwin, so to the Castles about Deal; where our Fleet lay, among whom we anchored. Great was the shout of guns from the castles and ships, and our answers, that I never heard yet so great rattling of guns. Nor could we see one another on board for the smoke that was among us, nor one ship from another. Soon as we came to anchor, the captains came from on board their ships all to us on board. This afternoon I wrote letters for my Lord to the Council, &c., which Mr. Dickering was to carry, who took his leave this night of my Lord, and Balty after I had wrote two or three letters by him to my wife and Mr. Bowyer, and had drank a bottle of wine with him in my cabin which J. Goods and W. Howe brought on purpose, he took leave of me too to go away to-morrow morning with Mr. Dickering. I lent Balty 15s. which he was to pay to my wife. It was one in the morning before we parted. This evening Mr. Sheply came on board, having escaped a very great danger upon a sand coming from Chatham.

37 Annotations

First Reading

Emilio  •  Link

"great rattling of guns"
One thing I've wondered since the last great salute: I've always had a romantic picture of the cannon booming away extra ammunition into the sea, but it seems this would be:
a) hazardous to any nearby shipping, and
b) a great waste of munitions.
So is my suspicion correct that for these displays the cannon are loaded w/ nothing more than powder?

qB  •  Link

North and South Foreland are familiar names to listeners of the shipping forecast on BBC radio since they give their name to the adjacent sea area.

The 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica has this to say:

FORELAND, NORTH and SOUTH, two chalk headlands on the Kent coast of England, overlooking the Strait of Dover, the North Foreland forming the eastern projection of the Isle of Thanet, and the,South standing 3 m. N.E. of Dover. Both present bold cliffs to the sea, and command beautiful views over the strait. On the North Foreland (51° 221/2’ N., 1° 27’ E.) there is a lighthouse, and on the South Foreland (51° 81/2’ N., 1° 2~’ E.) there are two.

The Forelands will reappear later as the scene of important sea battles. The current lighthouses are of course of a much later date.

Here is a map showing where they are (with an unfeasibly long URL):…

steve h  •  Link

Danger on the sands

The Goodwin sands! That notorious peril -- Shepley's not the only (near)victim. There's even a book called "Shipwrecks of the Goodwin Sands" (Meresborough). Apparently there have been over 1,000 wrecks there since the 16th century.
Here's the blurb:

"At the point where the English Channel narrows to less than twenty miles lies a series of sandbanks known as the Goodwin Sands. Seafarers of all nations have for centuries lived in fear of this natural obstruction whose infamous reputation is unrivalled anywhere in the world."…

Simon Fodden  •  Link

"great rattling of guns"

Emilio, I think they simply didn't put shot into the cannon -- just gunpowder and wadding, and although the wadding could fly pretty far and give you a good scrape, it wasn't really dangerous.

Mind you, I stand to be corrected by a real naval person. Everything I know, which is enough to fill a walnut shell ship, I learned from the fantastic Patrick O'Brian novels, which take place a good century later.

Pauline  •  Link

" the Castles about Deal."
Googling around and being disabused of reading this as meaning all the ships flocked there--as in castle, a "small tower, as on a ship." Remnants in fo'c'sle (forecastle).


“Deal, along with Walmer and the much destroyed castle at Sandown were all known as the "castles in the Downs".”

"Deal Castle, Kent, is one of a remarkable group of coastal defense forts built in 1539 by Henry VIII. They were designed for artillery, and consist of a central cylindrical citadel, girt by a ring of half-round casemates, the whole enclosed by a moat conforming in outline to the fort."

“After Henry VIII divorced his Catholic wife, Catherine of Aragon, in 1533 England was threatened by attack by France and Spain.
“To protect the southern coast Henry immediately set about building a series of forts using the proceeds from the disolved monastries. Deal and Walmer, just to the south, are two of these forts. Both castles are plain, functional constructions whose only purpose was defence."

Deal and Walmer were located within a couple of miles of each other. It looks like only Walmer is standing today.……

Pauline  •  Link

Thank you, Steve
A picture is worth a thousand "it looks like"s.

These castles look like (oh oh) forerunners of the Martello Towers.

Mary  •  Link

Nore or North

L&M's reading 'North' makes much the best sense in this context; The Nore is a sandbank in the Thames Estuary, 3 miles east of Sheerness, now far astern of our vessel.

Mik  •  Link

Rattling of Guns. I have to say when I first read the phrase I thought of small-arms which I can imagine being fired in large enough quantities to sound like a rattle and being set off in large numbers. Unlike cannon which take more time to reload and, as observed, are expensive to fire but would rattle anything loose

steve glover  •  Link

"great rattling of guns"

This is the "dumb show" that O'Brian refers to (captains were limited in the amount of powder they could use, and hence if they wanted to train their gunners well, tey'd have to buy extra powder).

Basically the whole sequence of actions from removing the tompions until the guns were rolled back (in action the recoil would've done this) was carried out with no actual powder or shot.

mcewen  •  Link

Fine example of second sight:
"Nor could we see one another [...] for the smoke that was among us."

Emilio  •  Link

Dumb show
Oh dear, this has just made things more muddled for me. If there was no powder, could there be actual explosions? If so, how? If not, where did all the rattling and the smoke come from?

tjcjr  •  Link

“great rattling of guns”
Two years ago I have had the pleasure to take a three day "pirate" themed cruise on a small New England schooner, "The Mystic Whaler" on Long Island Sound. They had a small cannon about 3 feet long with about a 6 inch bore. Being a "pirate" cruise, the crew fired the cannon for its passengers quite a few times. The smoke and sound produced by this very small cannon was quite impressive. Many passengers were very concerned that they were actually loading cannon balls as we were still in Mystic Harbor. The crew assured everyone that it was only powder. I would imagine that we as well as Pepys would have been extremely impressed by their display of military might.

Unfortuniately I didn't take any pictures of the cannon, but here are some pictures of the ship:…

This leads to my next question, how large are the cannon on these ships, and what are their capabilities? I also have some pictures of the cannon at Fort Ticonderoga - how would the ships' cannon compare to these?…

M.Stolzenbach  •  Link

Trying to clear up the confusion - the guns would "rattle" anyway from being run in and out, but would only "shout" and give off smoke if powder were used.

In O'Brian's novels (which are actually set more than 100 years later, in the Napoleonic Wars), the captain would sometimes, if I recall, practice without powder, as Steve Glover says, on the other parts of the process. But to give a salute, of course powder had to be used.

Mary  •  Link

the shout of guns

Very stirring, but unfortunately L&M transcribe this more prosaically as 'shot of guns'.

Dickering becomes Pickering in L&M, hence the link.

Emilio  •  Link

the sho(u)t of guns
Interesting . . . I don't have my copy of L&M in front of me (just arrived a few days ago . . . thank you again DQ, wherever you are!), but from the intro I believe a transcriber wouldn't be able to distinguish "shout" and "shot" in Pepys's shorthand. The vowels weren't actually written, just represented by the position of the consonant that came after. For this word, Pepys would write a symbol for the "sh" and write the symbol for the "t" below and to the right, signifying that a vowel based on "o" would come between. This vowel, however, could be "o," "oa", "ou," etc.
If Pepys had been feeling poetic, he could have written the word in longhand to make that clear, but that could have given the word more emphasis than he intended. Short of having that guide, we have to pay our money, take our chances, and go w/ whichever interpretation seems more likely in context.

helena murphy  •  Link

The firing of canon, widespread in the 17th century was the harbinger of celebratory events both on land and sea. It was the aural backdrop to extravagant displays involving also the unfurling of vast magnificent flags. It was all indicative of the century,s love of rich ceremonial. No money was spared in the pursuit of show. IN 1626 the Royal Navy spent 1280 pounds on flags in preference to paying salaries. The "Prince Royal", the largest English warship of the early 17th century carried no fewer than seventy flags of various sizes. In 1628 the English squadron at Plymouth according to an eyewitness "shot away 100 pounds of powder in one day in drinking healths". Vast sums were also spent on decoration, gilding and carving warships. On the political level Charles II revived the ancient belief that the crown of England claimed sovereignty of the seas
and expected foreign ships to recognise this in the form of a salute on sighting a British ship.

The firing of canon was also evident in the previous century as the following lines show.

This gentle and unforced accord of Hamlet
Sits smiling to my heart, in grace whereof
No jocund health that Denmark drinks today,
But the great canon to the clouds shall tell,
And the King's rouse the heaven shall bruit again,
Respeaking earthly thunder."

Hamlet I.II.l-123-128

Nix  •  Link

"Shout" vs. "shot":

From Emilio's explication of the shorthand, I'm inclined to think that "shout" is the correct reading. It fits better in the expression -- "great was the shout" vs. "great was the shot" -- as well as with the successing phrase -- "and our answers". And somehow, to me at least it seems to fit with Samuel's mode of expression.

Tyler Carder  •  Link

"the smoke that was among us"

Anyone who has ignited any black powder (which I am guessing was the explosive material that actually propelled the shot out the barrel of the guns on the ships of Sam's day) knows it creates a tremendous amount of smoke; so undoubtedly the guns were primed and loaded (perhaps with quarter- or half-charges of powder but obviously, without shot) and fired, creating the smoke that cloaked the ships. In later years, it was not uncommon to have dedicated signaling cannon aboard ships; perhaps this was the case back then. Or maybe they just ran out the big guns, which would make a tremndous noise themselves.

A cannon would be loaded "run in" and when ready to fire would be pulled outboard by means of blocks and tackles ("run out the guns and show our teeth!") When fired, the guns would jerk backwards violently and be brought to a stop by the same blocks and tackles that were used to run them out. Even without the guns being fired, the creaking of the blocks as they manipulated the very heavy guns, the guns' wooden wheels must have been deafening. And then the staccato tattoo of the firing of the guns! Sam's lovely phrase "Great was the shout of guns..." sums it up perfectly.

Usually naval ships at anchor would salute with guns any other naval ship that might happen along; and if there happened to be important personages aboard any of the ships (admirals, ministers, etc.) it would require a longer salute (greater number of guns fired). Perhaps other readers can fill us in on the formal signaling protocol of the Navy of 1660. In any case, as it did with Sam, the saluting could go on for quite a long time. Imagine a whole fleet of ships at anchor, all saluting at once.

One assumes that Sam's ship had come to anchor before everybody shot their wads, so to speak, else someone must have been conning the ship through the smoke from up the rigging! Sam mentions a fresh gale blowing ealier in the day; perhaps it calmed down in the late afternoon, or it just wasn't blowing as hard at the Goodwin; else wouldn't all the cannon smoke have been blown away? But in a calm, the smoke is heavy and hangs around (and smells wonderfully!)

Martin Richards  •  Link

Re Goodwin Sands
Last night's Wreck Detectives on Channel 4 (UK-based TV channel) looked at the Stirling Castle, lost on the Goodwin Sands in the Great Storm of 1703. Our boy Sam got a mention - but that was just as the kids came home, so I didn't catch much more :-(

There's a piece on Pepys' involvement on the C4 site at… Warning: likely to contain spoilers ;-)

wembley  •  Link

All these salutes could be dangerous!
The East India Company recorded several occasions when guns loaded with live ammo were accidentally used for saluting, sometimes with fatal results. They tried to stop the practice but it was too popular.

Ref: The Honourable Company by John Keay.

Daniel Baker  •  Link

One would indeed have thought that using live cannon balls for saluting was dangerous and wasteful, but nevertheless, it appears that it was done. Check out the May 3, 1660 entry, when the ships salute in honor of the king, and Pepys writes of hearing the "bullets go hissing over our heads." What we today consider wasteful might in 1660 have been considered a proper display of the wealth and resources of King and Country, well calculated to impress foreigners and subjects.

Second Reading

Sasha Clarkson  •  Link

There are fine aerial photographs of Deal and Walmer castles in the Wikipedia entries.

It's well worth looking up both castles in Google maps. Look both at the satellite view and also the street view by clicking on various points in and around the forts. The geometric constructions are quite beautiful. In Deal Castle, even some of the gun-holes seem to have the shape of a perpendicular arch.

Dick Wilson  •  Link

Salutes like this could waste a large amount of powder. Later history developed the use of "Saluting Guns" -- model cannons with brass barrels about a foot long, and with a bore of about three-quarters of an inch. These could be fired off with no more powder than would be used by a musket, but still made a satisfactory bang and lots of smoke.
Let me pose a question for folks who know such things: Did they have to stir up the powder in their magazines, or roll the kegs about, invert them etc., to keep the powder from deteriorating? Or was the rolling of the ship enough to prevent "corning"?

MarkS  •  Link

A note about the word 'gale'. In Pepys' time it didn't mean what it means today.

Samuel Johnson's Dictionary defines it as:

GALE. A wind not tempestuous, yet stronger than a breeze.

Winds of gentlest gale Arabian odours fann'd
From their soft wings, and Flora's earliest smells.
- Milton

Fresh gales and gentle air
- Milton

And from a traditional sea shanty, date unknown but probably 18th century,

Was on the fourth of August
From Spithead we set sail
With Ramillies and company
Blest with a pleasant gale.

Nate Lockwood  •  Link

Dick, my understanding of "corning" is to make gunpowder in "corns' or tiny evenly sized particles. Gunpowder burns on the surface and to keep the pressure in the gun barrel constant it should burn about a long as it takes to evenly accelerate the cannon ball or or shot out of the barrel. If it takes longer than that to burn it's being wasted.

I believe that corning was achieved by wetting the gunpowder mixture allowing it to be handled more safely. The paste was mixed and extruded through a sieve or plate with lots of holes of even size. I don't know how the extruded paste was cut to size. Since the gunpowder was wet some of the potassium nitrate dissolved and was carried in to the charcoal resulting in a more intimate placement of the oxidizer, potassium nitrate, and the fuel, the porous charcoal.

A problem with early manufacture of gunpowder was that the some of it was dust and that more dust was created by the grains jostling against one another. The dust would collect in the bottom of the containers. When fired the dust would just about instantly burn creating an unwanted pressure spike that could cause the gun barrel to burst. Another problem is that the dust could get into the air without being seen and could ignite and cause an explosion. I've been present at an accident of this type and it's quite impressive.

So corning was a real improvement. I have not bought gunpowder for some decades but I recall that if I was using it in a pistol I would purchase 'ball' whose particles were spherical, quite small, and burned rapidly; but that to reload rifle cartridges were not ball shaped and were a little bigger.

Modern "gunpowder" for larger naval guns was in the form of little cylinders (or not so little for the really large guns) with longitudinal holes that served to keep the surface area approximately constant during burning.

I suspect that you are correct and that the containers would be inverted every once in a while to attempt evenly distribute the dust. At some point the charges were packaged in silk bags which would contain any dust.

Chris Squire UK  •  Link

Re: ‘gale’; OED offers:

‘gale, n.3
1. a. A wind of considerable strength; in nautical language, the word chiefly ‘implies what on shore is called a storm’ (Adm Smyth) . . in popular literary use, ‘a wind not tempestuous, but stronger than a breeze’ (Johnson) . .
. . 1626 J. Smith Accidence Young Sea-men 17 A calme, a brese, a fresh gaile, a pleasant gayle, a stiffe gayle.
. . 1801 J. Capper Observ. Winds & Monsoons Pref. p. xxiii, The same as a hurricane, or whirlwind: I shall therefore use these words synonimously, and place them in the first order, or degree of violent winds. The storm, or what the English seamen call a hard gale, is likewise, I believe, nearly the same; I shall, therefore, make use of the former for the land, and the latter for the sea term, and reckon these in the second class.
. . 1899 Westm. Gaz. 24 Jan. 4/3 A gale is not a gale until it has reached Force 7 on the Beaufort scale, though many people lightly class all heavy winds as gales.
1923 W. N. Shaw Forecasting Weather (ed. 2) 456 As a result of the investigation of 1905 we now classify . . winds between 39 and 63 mph as gales.
1963 Meteorol. Gloss. (Meteorol. Office) (ed. 4) 109 Gale, a wind of a speed between 34 and 40 knots (force 8 on the Beaufort scale of wind force, where it was originally described as ‘fresh gale’) . . ‘

Michaela  •  Link

“Great rattling of guns”
I know exactly how Sam felt, as I live near Valencia in Spain, and fiestas here are celebrated with a mascletá, which is a deafening 8 minute display of pyrotechnics around midday which seems to punch all around inside your chest and rib cage and which fills your nostrils with the gunpowder smoke. Afterwards you feel alive, buzzing and sort of cleaned out. Reading his account, I felt I had been with him on board.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"This afternoon I wrote letters for my Lord to the Council, &c.,"

L&M: E,g, Mountagu to Admiralty Commissioners . . . . sending a list of ships and promising to enquire into the condition of the fleet.

Third Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

I suspect the reason Phil hasn't linked the Nore is that Pepys must have been confused. Maybe he should have said that they left the Nore yesterday and reached the Forelands today on this shakedown cruise for the Naseby.

The Nore: A sandbank at the mouth of the Thames Estuary, near the town of Sheerness, Kent, on the Isle of Sheppey. It marks the point where the River Thames meets the North Sea.

Eric the Bish  •  Link

Just to add on the guns: there would be recoil only if the gun was shotted. But I don’t think we know if they were shotted or not. You’d get a more satisfactory bang if they were. From modern weapons “rattle” normally indicates small arms fire, but here it seems clear that the big guns are being fired.

Angela Framptona  •  Link

Samuel Pepys’ connection with Deal, Kent
Pepys had quite a significant connection with Deal, as shown in the link below, under ‘Continued Association with Deal’. His Father-in-Law, Alexandre de St Michel, died in Deal and is buried in St Leonard’s churchyard.
This link also describes some events which will appear in the Diary over the next few weeks.…

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Thanks, Angela -- this confirms my impression that the Naseby and what part of the fleet is seaworthy is in the Downs, protected by the Goodwin Sands, for this month. I think the article inflates Pepys' power to make Naval decisions -- he was in no way Montagu's equal. But otherwise, good background info.

I wonder why Alexandre ended up being buried in Deal. Another detail we'll never know.

RLB  •  Link

One interesting thing about Nate Lockwood's annotation on corning gunpowder is that this is presumed to be how gunpowder tea got its name. Its small rolled-up, dried leaves resemble the shape and colour of gunpowder corns.

Luckily, it is both healthier and better-tasting than actual gunpowder, particularly when made into Maghrebi mint tea.

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