Sunday 9 December 1660

(Lord’s day). Being called up early by Sir W. Batten I rose and went to his house and he told me the ill news that he had this morning from Woolwich, that the Assurance (formerly Captain Holland’s ship, and now Captain Stoakes’s, designed for Guiny and manned and victualled), was by a gust of wind sunk down to the bottom. Twenty men drowned. Sir Williams both went by barge thither to see how things are, and I am sent to the Duke of York to tell him, and by boat with some other company going to Whitehall from the Old Swan. I went to the Duke. And first calling upon Mr. Coventry at his chamber, I went to the Duke’s bed-side, who had sat up late last night, and lay long this morning, who was much surprised, therewith.

This being done I went to chappell, and sat in Mr. Blagrave’s pew, and there did sing my part along with another before the King, and with much ease.

From thence going to my Lady I met with a letter from my Lord (which Andrew had been at my house to bring me and missed me), commanding me to go to Mr. Denham, to get a man to go to him to-morrow to Hinchinbroke, to contrive with him about some alterations in his house, which I did and got Mr. Kennard.

Dined with my Lady and staid all the afternoon with her, and had infinite of talk of all kind of things, especially of beauty of men and women, with which she seems to be much pleased to talk of.

From thence at night to Mr. Kennard and took him to Mr. Denham, the Surveyor’s. Where, while we could not speak with him, his chief man (Mr. Cooper) did give us a cup of good sack. From thence with Mr. Kennard to my Lady who is much pleased with him, and after a glass of sack there; we parted, having taken order for a horse or two for him and his servant to be gone to-morrow.

So to my father’s, where I sat while they were at supper, and I found my mother below stairs and pretty well.

Thence home, where I hear that the Comptroller had some business with me, and (with Giffin’s lanthorn) I went to him and there staid in discourse an hour ‘till late, and among other things he showed me a design of his, by the King’s making an Order of Knights of the Seal to give an encouragement for persons of honour to undertake the service of the sea, and he had done it with great pains and very ingeniously.

So home and to prayers and to bed.

39 Annotations

First Reading

vincent  •  Link

From yesterday .. the great wind.. to-day "... I rose ....the ill news that he had this morning from Woolwich, that the Assurance (formerly Captain Holland's ship, and now Captain Stoakes's, designed for Guiny[ to get gold? maybe?] and manned and victualled), was by a gust of wind sunk down to the bottom. Twenty men drowned….”
The Assurance weighed 342 tons and was 89 feet long and was fitted with 32 guns and manned by 150 men.
It was built in by Peter Pett Woolwich in 1646 sold in 1698

vincent  •  Link

"...I found my mother below, stairs and pretty well...." curious below (,)
I wonder if thats a scan blip?

Jesse  •  Link

"...sunk down to the bottom" in 1660 and "sold in 1698"?
Hmmm, I suspect the website reference. Also, 1698 would've been a rather late date to sell a ship of that vintage.

Alan Bedford  •  Link

Mr. Kennard (Thomas Kinward) was quickly developing a reputation as a joiner.

He became master joiner to the architect Christopher Wren. There are some addiotional notes at his People link.

Rick Ansell  •  Link

If you look at some of the other ships on the list 45 years between building and sale out of the service doesn't seem so unusual. For example we have the St George, built 1622, hulked 1687 and the James, built 1634, sold 1682.

Remember in those days the fleet would spend the winters laid up and refitting. Every year any unsound timbers etc. would be replaced in an ongoing maintenance program which probably meant that very little of the original material remained when the ship ended its days.

As a benchmark, the current HMS Victory was afloat for 157 years, has been commissioned for 204 and was an active warship for 30. A number of other wooden warships are still around and afloat after 200 years

David Quidnunc  •  Link

"... my mother below, stairs ..."

That comma is not in the L&M edition of the diary. So, yes, maybe a scanning error.

JBailey  •  Link

Am I correct that "below stairs" means being on the ground floor? In other words, assuming the comma is a typo, his mother had been ill upstairs in her bedroom with her stone and now that she is well, she has come downstairs to the ground floor room where everyone eats and socializes?

David Quidnunc  •  Link

Weather Report from Essex

"... the winter hitherto very mild, and dry ..."

-- Diary of Ralph Josselin,
Tuesday 9 December 1660…

So, how different is the variation between the weather in Essex and London? Anyone out there with friends or relatives in both places who can offer a comparison?

Josselin, by the way, is a rural vicar, said to be pretty reliable in his diary, which he writes in about twice a week at this time. And it's all online.

Hic retearivs  •  Link

Realities for "Assurance".

Depending of species of wood and latitude, a wooden vessel which has had minimum maintenance has seen her prime after twenty years or so. Vessels in commercial service, where business considerations drove maintenance, would probably be sold for some lesser purpose (tramping, barge, hulk) after twenty years of life or so. Those who wish to follow up will find a modern and very sad example in the life cycle of the original "Bluenose" though she retained her vitality better than some; she was positively elderly when she beat the Americans yet again in the last series of races.

The situation in the Royal Navy was quite different. There manpower and expertise were plentiful. Overmanning was huge in the Royal Navy. As has been noted above, such a vessel was under relentless, minute, maintenance; a situation quite different from the sorry reality for commercial vessels where purchasing a newly built vessel for prime service probably made more business sense than the bleeding sore of endless maintenance. In the R.N. in it's great days, it was the business of the carpenter and his mates to be inspecting and replacing incessantly. There would have been refits from time to time, too. Unlike a commercial vessel where capital could not be left sitting around, an R.N. vessel might find herself "in ordinary" for long periods and that would extend her life.

Under those circumstances, then, the life of “Assurance” would not come to an end so much by deterioration of her material state, which would be bristol while she was manned, but by her utility within the fleet.

Grahamt  •  Link

Essex and London.
Nowadays Essex is almost a suburb of London, but in Pepys' time would have been quite rural.
Being north east and east of London, Essex would to some extent be sheltered from the prevailing south-westerly winds, at the cost of getting London's pollution blown over it.
I believe the reference to a mild dry winter doesn't rule out high winds. In fact a strong south-westerly gale will often raise the temperature in winter as it brings in warm air from the Gulf stream.

Charlezzzzz  •  Link

Captain Holland's ship
This was the Holland Pepys met with on March 8 to ask how to profit by going to sea, "which he told me might be by having of five or six servants entered on board, and I to give them what wages I pleased, and so their pay to be mine."

Grahamt  •  Link

Re: Realities for 'Assurance'.
“…the life of 'Assurance' would not come to an end … by deterioration .. but by her utility “
or the fact that she has just sunk!

Hic retearivs  •  Link

'she has just been sunk.'

The intent of Graham's comment is elusive. If the implication in it is that the foundering of a vessel implies, ipso facto, the end of her life, such is not the case.

Here the two Williams have not only set off at once without preparation to make their survey of the 'Assurance' but they are only travelling by barge so we know she's in the Thames, don't we? Perhaps I'm missing something but the clear implication to this reader is that she has foundered in the Thames during a squall. The news has come from Woolwich so maybe she was riding in the river while finishing provisioning from lighters or waiting to go along side to complete. In either case, she would have been a bit light and so even more tender than usual for such vessels which had a reputation for being crank anyway.

For technical reasons too lengthy to embark upon here such an accident was not at all uncommon for warships up to the end of sail even sometimes when moored and supposedly in proper trim. The Williams, along with no end of experts available to them, may conclude that it is worthwhile to raise her. If she does lie in the Thames, that is very much a tidal river at London and below and that will simplify matters for the salvors.

Let's hope that Sam tells us about the outcome of the Williams' survey of the 'Assurance' down the log! No spoiling please, leave Graham and I in suspense!

J A Gioia  •  Link a gust of wind sunk down to the bottom. Twenty men drowned.

the loss of twenty men in a salvagable vessel, probably close to shore, points to another reality of seafaring until fairly recent times. sailors didn't know how to swim.

Andrew Hamilton  •  Link

"and among other things he showed me a design of his, by the King's making an Order of Knights of the Seal to give an encouragement for persons of honour to undertake the service of the sea”

Would someone explain to me, as an American and landlubber, and in the context of this quote, the enduring RN
dichotomy between “sailors” and “gentlemen”? When did it start and what has caused it to last?(I recall a recent letter to the Times of London in which the writer laid claim to being both.)

Rick Ansell  •  Link

Just a note on 'Overmanning'. This, I assume, refers to overmanning relative to a commercial ship. Warships were (and are) manned to fight, that means that there has to be sufficient crew to fight the guns with enough left over to sail the vessel in battle. Thus a warship would have had many times the number of crew a commercial vessel of similar size and design would have had, far more than would have been needed simply to sail her around the place.

Charlezzzzz  •  Link

About the enduring RN
dichotomy between 'sailors' and ;gentlemen'…
Cromwell's sea captains, like Sir Christopher Myngs, were what Sam called 'ordinary' men. Fighters, experienced seamen, they had earned their rank in warfare rather than at court. As the navy shrank, these 'tarpaulins' lost their posts. With the Restoration, when a ship was sent back to sea, there was a scramble for jobs. Men well placed at court were likely to be made captain, often without ever having been at sea. Pepys, as the years passed, was instrumental in developing a professional officer corps' but in November 1660 there was no such thing. 'Gentlemen' and 'tarpaulins' struggled for the few openings as ship's captain; their struggle will echo through the diary. (And will echo long after: in Churchill's Memoirs, you can find his minute ordering the reconsideration of three young men rejected for the post of naval cadet because they were not 'gentlemen.')

Jenny Doughty  •  Link

And remember Gilbert and Sullivan's advice in HMS Pinafore:

'Stick close to your desks and never go to sea
And you all may be rulers of the Queen's navee...'

Very satirical in its day.

Mary  •  Link

The subsequent manning of warships

On 28th October 1664, an Order in Council authorised the founding of The Duke of York's Maritime Regiment of Foot (later known as The Admiral's Regiment), the earliest formation of the body that was to become The Royal Marines. These men acted as both soldiers and seamen; they were paid by The Admiralty and were to become part of the complement of all warships.

David Quidnunc  •  Link

William Penn and the Assurance

That ship that Penn is going to examine this day is one he's familiar with. In 1648, two years after it was built, Penn "was made Rear Admiral of the Irish Fleet on the Assurance."…

David Quidnunc  •  Link

Same day(?), similar event -- same challenges?

This December 9, in the Hudson River port of Albany, New York, a cargo ship registered in the Netherlands Antilles sunk. Three crew members who were in the open-air cargo bay are still missing. Fifteen survived.

"Authorities believe the three men are either buried in a debris field inside the ship, crushed underneath it or lost somewhere downriver," according to the Albany Times-Union.…

"Still connected to the docks by several mooring lines, the ship slowly tipped onto its port side -- a process that witnesses said took about a minute as sailors clung to its sides or swam for their lives."…

"Even if dressed for winter weather, a person in near-freezing water has only a short time to survive, doctors said. 'You're talking about minutes before you lose the ability to keep yourself above water,'" one doctor said. No crew members suffered hypothermia, which another doctor estimated would have set in within 10 minutes, even if the water was as high as 40 degrees F (about 5 degrees Celsius). The water was at the freezing point that day.…

David Quidnunc  •  Link

Correction to above annotation

The cargo bay was described as being gymnasium-size without a roof, which is not quite "open air."

Charlezzzzz  •  Link

Here's a guess. Maybe the Stellamare sank herself. She was a heavy lift ship, and her central hold was enormous. (You can Google her up.) Even the hold on an ordinary bulk freighter is amazingly large: but this one is unbelievable. She was loading a generator weighing 308 tons.
It took two of her cranes, working together, to lift it. Note that it wasn't dockside cranes doing the loading: it was the ship's own cranes.
Now it's untested assumption time:
If one or both cranes suddenly went haywire and swung the load fully outboard on the river side...
If the ship was "light," without much cargo, fuel, or ballast so it was riding high in the water in order to get to her dock far upriver...
If the cranes and their far-from-the-fulcrum load were enough to roll the ship past the point where she cd recover, then Bob's your uncle and she'd go over fast and as easily as the Assurance may have done

Pedro  •  Link

Manning in the Navy.

Hic says above...

"The situation in the Royal Navy was quite different. There manpower and expertise were plentiful. Overmanning was huge in the Royal Navy."

I am sure he is refering to the prestige jobs such as Captain, Boatswains, Chaplins, Surgeons, Pursers, Caprpenters and other jobs. The position of the actual seamen was different especially in times of war, where they were forced from merchant vessels into the navy, pressed or turned round before reaching shore.

JonTom Kittredge  •  Link

Manning in the Navy
I thought that large navy crews (compared to merchantment) were due to the need to have enough to man the guns (while simultaneously sailing the ship). When not in battle (or drilling), all these men were available for extra work (indeed, keeping them occupied was seen as a necessity).

cum salis grano  •  Link

Manning of ships for war: Many of lessers were pressed into service [not many volunteers for scrubbing decks and pushing and shoving of canon and manning the rigging, pay not that good] when under the influence of strong ale: yes, they be over manned, as many would be sent over board when no longer breathing. The "Staff" and tars, two versions of homo: erectus, and sapiens. The staff would vie for the jobs, as they could get government benefits of getting pay of those that failed to complete the required impressment and then sell off the excess weavils that be available at the end of the voyage.
Like most militarized organisations, they be run by senior noncoms, [warranted] with a few seasoned commissioned types. [See how how they failed to capture the lands of Dominca and lucked out with Jamaica.]
When the powers to be, fail to notice that it be the chief clerks that run the show, they lose, [Stalin made that goof, as well as many others not worth mentioning].
N. B. Sam be the real organiser here, and that this is the real story, if Sam was not as capable as he is, then the story of the British Empire could have been different.
Organisations fail when the going gets tough and it is left to all the likeable ones [i.e. old school and family] to run the show as they have removed the competent ones from rising rising to the level of imcompetence..
Fortunately or Nature working to plan there be exceptions to all these opinions.
Read up on John Evelyn on the benefits that old salts and squaddies received when no longer fit to carry pail or musket]

Pedro  •  Link

Manning of the Navy.

Adding to the discussion above "Gentlemen and Tarpaulins" by J. D. Davies gives the following information. Here is a summary...

The compliment of a warship could vary according to the area in which it was deployed and the state of international affairs: official establishments therefore laid down distinct compliments for peacetime and war at home and war abroad. In this way the compliment of the same fourth rate could vary from 150 in peacetime to 280 in wartime service against the Dutch. A first rate in wartime would require up to 800 men to man her, and a third rate, even in peacetime, would require 300...

Captains and Lieutenants held their commissions as long as their ships were in service, which could be weeks to many years. There were warrants for Master, Boatswain, Gunner, Carpenter, Purser, Cook, Chaplain and Surgeon. The Master, Chaplain and Surgeon, like the commissioned officers served only for the duration of active service, while the others continued to serve when their ships were laid up in harbour. These "standing officers" formed the basis of the skeleton crew which guarded and maintained the ships when they lay in the "ordinary." This was the ordinary condition for much of the fleet in peacetime...

The great majority of the King's ships remained in harbour with their masts and guns removed. The Ordinary provided continuous employment for men who would otherwise have had to sever their connections with the service...

Coventry said "The greatest difficulty and vexation in a war was the manning of the ships."

During war up to 25,000 men had to be brought into service within a matter of weeks, and got to the fleet and retained for the duration of the campaign without disrupting the trade of the nation...

By the time of the Restoration the majority of seamen, both volunteers and pressed, were drawn from the East coast...40 to 50,000 were in deep sea and coastal trades and therefore in war time the navy could be calling on between one third and a half of the maritime community of the nation...

In peacetime there was usually enough volunteers to man the 3 to 4,000 berths available, but not in war.

(Spoiler from Sam's Tangier Papers?)

Whether volunteered or pressed the seamen generally numbered among the lowest orders of society for in Pepys' view the unpleasant nature of their job restricted it to "poor illiterate hands."

Pedro  •  Link

Thomas Allin on this day…

"About 3 of the clock we were off Reggio, a town upon the Calabria side, and about 6 of the clock we got athwart Etna or Mongibello, which burneth continually. We saw the smoke of it perfectly, the wind then at NW, a fresh gale."

(The Journal of Sir Thomas Allin edited by RC Anderson)

Second Reading

Terry Foreman  •  Link

A hulk is a ship that is afloat, but incapable of going to sea. Although sometimes used to describe a ship that has been launched but not completed, the term most often refers to an old ship that has had its rigging or internal equipment removed, retaining only its flotational qualities. The word "hulk" is also used as a verb: a ship is "hulked" to convert it to a hulk.

Although the term "hulk" can be used to refer to an abandoned wreck or shell, it is much more commonly applied to hulls that are still performing a useful function. In the days of sail, many hulls served longer as hulks than they did as functional ships. Wooden ships were often hulked when the hull structure became too old and weak to withstand the stresses of sailing (i.e. their planking would admit too much water when moving in rough seas).

[Hulks served a number of useful functions described in the rest of this Wikipedia article.]…

Bill  •  Link

"Order of Knights of the Seal to give an encouragement for persons of honour to undertake the service of the sea"

Surely a misprint and should be "Order of Knights of the Sea"

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"a design of his, by the King’s making an Order of Knights of the Sea, to give encouragement for persons of honour to undertake the service of the sea; and he hath done it with great pains and very ingeniously." -- L&M

Nothing came of this proposal. Pepys mentions it again, in the 1680's, in his Naval Minutes (pp. 52-3, 90, 117-18). (L&M footnote)

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"This being done I went to chappell, and sat in Mr. Blagrave’s pew, and there did sing my part along with another before the King, and with much ease."

L&M: Thomas Blagrave was one of the gentleman of the Chapel Royal; Pepys was singing (? at sight) with the choir. Cf. a similar occasion on 29 December 1661.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"From thence going to my Lady I met with a letter from my Lord (which Andrew had been at my house to bring me and missed me), commanding me to go to Mr. Denham, to get a man to go to him to-morrow to Hinchinbroke, to contrive with him about some alterations in his house, which I did and got Mr. Kennard."

L&M: John Denham (the poet) was Surveyor-General of the King's Works; Thomas Kennard (Kenward) was Master-Joiner under him. Sandwich had just arranged for five marble mantlepieces to be brought over from Italy: Carte 73, f.502r.

Third Reading

MartinVT  •  Link

For a Lord's Day, quite a bit of busy-ness! (And no afternoon sermon.)

LKvM  •  Link

With regard to Sam's singing today, the fact that in Blagrave's pew he sang along competently while sight-reading proves to me that he had perfect pitch. I've thought so before.
Also, it was a real treat to read all the Navy knowledge displayed in today's comments. It makes the work of the Navy Board so much more accessible.

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

So much for the reverend's "mild weather": It's not one ship that this "extraordinary gust of wind" claimed, but three, for as the State Papers will reveal tomorrow the Maria lost its mainmast, while the Blackamore also "ran aground between the piers". This in Yarmouth, over 100 km north from Woolwich, but somehow the storm avoided Essex. A month ago (November 15) a dispatch had informed us that a storm had "much injured the quay" in Harwich.

The good duke did indeed need to know a.s.a.p. about the Assurance, because in addition to being Lord High Admiral, on December 18 he will also be made Governor of the Royal Adventurers into Africa, with a monopoly on English, hm, "trade" in that direction. No doubt we'll revisit that glorious appointment in good time, but the company has been around for a couple of months, and no doubt Guinea is already very dear to HRH, as soon will be vast numbers of the Guineans themselves.

If God is a Quaker, perhaps He had a hand in that gust of wind. If so it didn't work. The Assurance was salvaged and repaired. Two ships of that name appear in an interminable list of slaving ships at…; but from its record at… and its absence from a company history at…, it seems the one in the news today mostly stuck to European waters and wasn't one of them.

Keith Knight  •  Link

Re the comments on Essex back in 2003, Ralph Josselin was the vicar of Earls Colne, which is north of Braintree and quite some distance from London. It is still pretty rural (I was up that way a couple of months ago).

It's feasible therefore that the weather there could be quite different to London.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

The distance between London and Earls Colne is 46 miles. (The road distance is 58.8 miles.)

The main weather factor is that Earl's Colne is somewhat protected from ocean storms by being in-land.
Storms in the Channel are legendarily bad. I think they are partly caused by the wind-tunnel effect.
London is built in the Thames Valley so it also has a bit of a wind-tunnel to deal with, but it's tidal storm surge that is the main problem. Flooding was a problem back then.

When I lived off the Old Gloucester Road (between Earl's Court and Kensington) a lifetime ago, we used to say London was an overcoat warmer than the countryside around it. Not sure how that translates to Pepys' times as City and Whitehall/Westminster were crowded, but the metropolitan area didn't enjoy the acreage or building height leading to greater people density these days. Probably irrelevant, SDS.

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

It seemes this was no ordinary gust of wind, for we now see in Rugge his summation of Mercurius Politicus, that "In this month [December, tho' the day unknowne] their were very great winds, that many yeares there [were] not the like; many ships cast away, many houses blowne downe and churches tome with winds. The States of Holand lost a very great many of the shipes their; the Spaniard lost eight of his galleouns, or his best ships. The Earle of Argile and Laird Swenton was then att sea bound for Scotland, [but were] by ill weather forced into Yearmouth."

We see in our crystal ball that on December 20, a Mr. Russell will write from Amsterdam that, among recent events he recaps, "a terrible storm has cast away 50 ships, and blown down 500 houses". And this, whoa, "the very night the burgo-masters refused so just a demand" as a request for assistance in the arrest of "Harry Cromwell", "Huson the cobbler" and other rogues, apparently long pursued as one of the fanaticks' innumerable plots and cabals. Nice to see how Zephyr favors the House of Stuart; they should enjoy, for it won't always be.

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