Tuesday 11 December 1660

My wife and I up very early this day, and though the weather was very bad and the wind high, yet my Lady Batten and her maid and we two did go by our barge to Woolwich (my Lady being very fearfull) where we found both Sir Williams and much other company, expecting the weather to be better, that they might go about weighing up the Assurance, which lies there (poor ship, that I have been twice merry in, in Captn. Holland’s time,) under water, only the upper deck may be seen and the masts. Captain Stoakes is very melancholy, and being in search for some clothes and money of his, which he says he hath lost out of his cabin. I did the first office of a justice of Peace to examine a seaman thereupon, but could find no reason to commit him.

This last tide the Kingsale was also run aboard and lost her mainmast, by another ship, which makes us think it ominous to the Guiny voyage, to have two of her ships spoilt before they go out.

After dinner, my Lady being very fearfull she staid and kept my wife there, and I and another gentleman, a friend of Sir W. Pen’s, went back in the barge, very merry by the way, as far as Whitehall in her. To the Privy Seal, where I signed many pardons and some few things else. From thence Mr. Moore and I into London to a tavern near my house, and there we drank and discoursed of ways how to put out a little money to the best advantage, and at present he has persuaded me to put out 250l. for 50l. per annum for eight years, and I think I shall do it.

Thence home, where I found the wench washing, and I up to my study, and there did make up an even 100l., and sealed it to lie by. After that to bed.

43 Annotations

First Reading

Nix  •  Link

L250 out -- L50/yr for 8 yrs back --

I calculate that as 11.81% interest. A good return, IF it is secure.

Hic retearivs  •  Link

'Assurance', foundered.

'only the upper deck may be seen and the masts.' Ok. Now we know for sure that when she was blown down she was, in fact, in the Thames and right at Woolwich, too. It's an old story, gun ports all open for ventilation and provisioning and the trim agley because of the loading. Her first mate may have to sail before the mast now or maybe even take up farming!

She's on the bottom at Woolwich and they can't possibly just leave her there because not only will she be in the roadstead for the Woolwich yard but she would gum up river navigation no end. Even a fore and aft rigged vessel requires the whole navigable width of a river channel (voice of experience!).

From this meagre survey we may gather that 'Assurance' has settled pretty much on her bottom. That will speed her refloating. Depending on how much tide there is for the shipwrights to take advantage of in closing her up, how much of the metal they can get out of her first and how much of a nuisance she is where she is, camels might not even be required. There's going to be dirty, miserable, heavy work ahead. Give us a more detailed survey tomorrow, please, Sam!

Roger Arbor  •  Link

"very bad and the wind high... my Lady being very fearfull she staid and kept my wife there..." Reminds me how seasick (riversick?) one can be even on the Thames. It might not be that wide, but the wind and tide can work up a fearful 'lop'. I'd be in a tavern in Woolwich thanks....

Matthew  •  Link

Strange that 20 men were drowned in such shallow water.

J A Gioia  •  Link

which lies there (poor ship, that I have been twice merry in...)

one gets a sense that sam's feeling for the navy is something warmer than for just columns of figures and mariners needing pay.

and thanks, Hic, for 'the trim agley'. wonderful word; brought me back to the wee bit of bobbie burns i read in school long ago.

Wim van der Meij  •  Link

Well Matthew, apart from the fact that a lot of the sailors in those days could not swim at all, it may be that the 20 were caught below decks and trapped there. There may not have been a way of escape from the cold water rushing in.
Sailors often did not want to learn to swim because if they washed from aboard into the sea the ordeal of surviving too long was not a very nice prospect. One hand for the ship, and one hand for yourself was their motto.

David Quidnunc  •  Link

Sailors dying

Lack of swimming skills sounds like the best explanation, but perhaps some of the sailors died when crowding around an exit (some get trampled and block the exit -- that leads to deaths all the time in major fires). Just speculation.

If the ship sunk when most of the men were sleeping, it makes it more likely that the exits were crowded.

Eric Walla  •  Link

Depending on the manner and rate of speed at which the ship sank ...

... I could easily see the "trapped below decks" variant being true. (How fast WOULD a ship such as this go under?) Whether sleeping or hard at work, they certainly wouldn't have had modern safety or "handicapped accessible" design features built in.

But then what do I know? I haven't even seen "Master and Commander" yet!

Gar Foyer  •  Link

I'm curious as to what sort of pardons Pepys might have signed. Were these commutations of serious offences?

It would be a rich irony if Pepys were absolving people for acts of thievery. I wonder whether such pardons could be purchased easily and for how much?

Charlezzzzz  •  Link

'trapped below decks' variant … (How fast WOULD a ship such as this go under?)

Here’s a guess: when a ship, like this one, takes a “knockdown” and goes bango! over on its side, many sailors below decks are flung to the side of the hull, and loose equipment is flung with them. Trapped, battered, smashed, some of these sailors will be drowned inside the hull. Twenty men lost out of 130 in the crew — quite understandable. Water wd come in fast through open gunports. Note that the ship was on the bottom while parts of her deck were still above water.

Eric Walla  •  Link

Re: pardons. I think previous posters have it right ...

...that the pardons are coming down from the King (as opposed to percolating up from petitioners with cash attached). Thus these are the ones Pepys was complaining about earlier, just a great deal of work that didn't make any money in the process. And here he was so happy that the King didn't go out of town when it was his turn at the Privy Seal!

Conrad  •  Link

These pardons are coming straight from the King, Pepys is signing them as an officer of the Privy Seal & they would be most probably connected to the late Civil War & Charles 1's demise.

Kevin Peter  •  Link

How did they refloat a ship back then? They didn't have any fancy equipment like today and there sits a large ship full of water. What techniques did they use to get that thing back up?

The Assurance doesn't appear too badly off because it is partly above water. Was it still possible to refloat a ship completely submerged?

I'm very curious to know how they did this.

Daniel Jones  •  Link

The swedish warship Vasa sank at the outset of her maiden voyage in Stockholm harbor in 1628!

I understand that the Vasa was being moved from the shipyard to a nearby berth and that the sailors had their wives and families aboard.


My favorite story about the inquiry afterwards was told by a quide at the Vasa museum. Apparently, some time during the planning and the design of the warship, King Gustavus had occasion to review the construction drawings. This tacit acceptance of the design was sufficient to get everyone else off the hook as the king was infallible. Myth or not, it is a great story.

Nix  •  Link

How to refloat? --

A ship that was blown over on its side, and sunk by water rushing in through gunports and hatches, would be comparatively simple to refloat by bailing/pumping out the water. If a hole were punched in the hull, the first step would be to put a temporary patch over the hole, probably by sending down divers, then pumping out enough water to float it to a shipyard (I don't know if drydocks had been invented yet).

vincent  •  Link

o! that luverly yeller stuff "...which makes us think it ominous to the Guiny voyage, to have two of her ships spoilt before they go out..."
see Wednesday 3 October 1660
"...This day I heard the Duke speak of a great design that he and my Lord of Pembroke have, and a great many others, of sending a venture to some parts of Africa to dig for gold ore there. They intend to admit as many as will venture their money, and so make themselves a company. 250l. is the lowest share for every man...."
Using Government( still C2's perogative crown that is?) property for a little selfish reasons. Merchants and crown, do see Eye to eye on profit (taxes). It is the beginning of an interesting period of adventure and oranisation banking and betting.
SP Is still a little shy of enough socks of money to get involved.

Pauline  •  Link

"o! that luverly yeller stuff"
H'mmm. I was trying to make this connection too. But 19th- and 20th-century sources have Guiny as Guiana in northwestern South America.

So we are dealing with Guiana and knowing that New Guinea is between Australia and Indonesia and that Ghana today is in Africa.

From the Columbia Encyclopedia:
"Guinea, an archaic term for the west coast of Africa. In its widest sense it applied to the region from Angola to Senegal. Parts of the region bore names originating in early colonial trade, notably Grain Coast, Ivory Coast, Gold Coast, and Slave Coast. Characteristics of the coast are dense tropical forests, heavy rainfall, and a hot, humid climate. The name Guinea may have derived from the ancient kingdom of Ghana, or the town of Jenne in W Sudan. Today [1969] the term refers to the Republic of Guinea, Portuguese Guinea, or Spanish Guinea. NEW GUINEA is a large island N of Australia."

I'm thinking vincent is right in pegging this aborted-voyage to the October 3rd entry that contained "gold".

vincent  •  Link

no "guiny" was the gold coast, the Dutch,the Danes the Swedes. and others were looking for gold: well known through out the Africas for golde [Mali,Ghana] see 3rd oct's input: also
1657/8 Danish Gold Coast Settlements established on eastern Gold coast
(Ft. Friedensborg [Ningo], Ft. Christiansborg, Ft. Augustaborg
[Tshi], Ft. Prinzenstein [Keta], Ft. Konigenstein [Ada])
(also called Danish Guniea) under the Danish West India company.
20 Apr 1663 Danes seize last of Sweden's Gold Coast settlements
(Ft. Christiansborg and Carlsborg [Cape Castle]).


1598 Dutch Gold Coast Settlements begin.
This appears to be the first British trials at making new Guineas
The gold 'Guineas' according to Liza Picard ( Restoration London P144) The name came about because the gold was imported from Guinea by Africa CompanyThe Guinea did not become a unit of currency until 1663.
Gold: pieces:[ which coin was papa offering]
Unite= 20 Shillings: Angel=10 Shillings ; Double Crown =10 Shillings: Crown =5 Shillings
Africa company
Company of Royal Adventurers Trading to Africa.” At first the company was mismanaged, but in 1663 it was reorganized

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part1… .

Charlezzzzz  •  Link

How to refloat?

Nix writes: A ship that was blown over on its side, and sunk by water rushing in through gunports and hatches, would be comparatively simple to refloat by bailing/pumping out the water.

Nix probably has the right of it, since she came to rest upright on the bottom with her upper deck above the surface. Close the gunports; batten the hatches. Pump her out. She was raised more easily than expected, without major damage to the hull, though her cargo was partly ruined.

Jackie  •  Link

Sadly, people can drown just a few hundred yards from dry land in a ship overturned in shallow water. The Herald of Free Enterprise disaster a few years ago shows that :(

People drown in such circumstances if they are unlucky enough to be in the wrong part of the ship at the wrong time and unable to reach the surface to get air, or if they are too seriously injured to rescue themselves and unlucky that there's nobody about to rescue them.

David Quidnunc  •  Link

Isn't hypothermia the best explanation?

Jackie's comment made me curious about the **Herald of Free Enterprise** disaster, so I looked it up on the Web. It occurred in March and led to many deaths not far from shore because people in the water died of hypothermia. Doesn't that seem like a very convincing explanation for many, perhaps most, of the 20 *Assurance* deaths? Thanks for the comment, Jackie!

Here's a description of the Herald disaster:

"The roll-on/roll-off passenger car ferry Herald of Free Enterprise capsized in the approaches to the Belgian port of Zeebrugge en route to Dover in England at 7.05pm local time on March 6, 1987. ... The ship had a crew of 80 and carried 459 passengers, 81 cars, 3 buses, and 47 trucks. She capsized in about 90 seconds soon after leaving the harbour, ending on her side half-submerged in shallow water. ... Following the capsize a heroic search and rescue operation was mounted. At least 150 passengers and 38 members of the crew lost their lives, most inside the ship, from hypothermia, in the frigid water. Many others were injured."

Jackie  •  Link

If you take a look at the dates of Pepy's diaries when this was reported, we are talking about an incident in December. Hypothermia is highly likely in some of these deaths.

In the Herald, some were trapped, some were hampered in their attempts to escape by hypothermia. Some diied when they were hit by other objects falling on top of them when the dining area floor went vertical.

The Assurance was in a cold river, in December in an era when the Thames sometimes actually froze. There are aspects in common with any sudden sinking in history. Sailing is not and has never been entirely safe.

Charlezzzzz  •  Link

"Sailors often did not want to learn to swim..."
I have read this many a time and have never--until now--questioned it. But can this really be true? It seems to me that most seamen who went overboard would likely be in harbor, transferring from small boats, handling cargo, or simply going aboard drunk, and swimming could clearly save their lives. Seamen in battle? Most of the battle paintings I've seen show sailors clinging to floating chunks of wood; surely a sailor would prefer to be able to swim to reach something like that. Of course, things change as times change, but with eleven years at sea, both navy and merchant marine, I never knew a single sailor who admitted he didn't know how to swim. Do we have any contemporary source references to this point?

dirk  •  Link

"Sailors unable to swim..."

It appears to be true that many sailors refused to learn to swim out of superstition: to learn to swim meant preparing for something (shipwreck) which you prayed would never happen, and it was bound to bring bad luck - in a sense it implied you didn't trust God's wisdom!

We shouldn't generalize though: there were certainly sailors who could swim. But the fact remains that even somebody who can swim around in a river or a lake may not be capable to save himself or others from a raging sea with high waves...

There are many references on the web, without much detail however. One of the most interesting ones I discovered involves newfoundland(er)s - the dogs:
"NEWFOUNDLANDS have webbed feet and a few hundred years ago used to be kept aboard sailing ships. Many sailors thought it was bad luck to know how to swim so if one fell overboard he often drowned. In these cases, the dog would be thrown in to "fetch", and due to his size and webbed feet would generally have no trouble bringing the man safely back to the ship." from:

Another one, from BBC and with a nice pic:

Glyn  •  Link

The wreck of a vessel - HMS Assurance - is lying on the seabed at Latitude 50º39.70’ North, Longitude 01º35.45’ West, off the southern coast of England near the Isle of Wight. Parliament passed an Order protecting it as a site of historical and archaeological importance. Is it 'our' Assurance or a later one?

dirk  •  Link

"HMS Assurance"

I found 2 references to a HMS Assurance for this period (there was at least one more vessel with that name, in 1864, but that is obviously a different ship):

1. A John Bouton who departed from Gravesend, England in 1635 aboard the *HMS Assurance* and settled in Norwalk, Connecticut. http://www.geocities.com/Hollywoo…

2. *HMS Assurance*, wrecked off Needles, April 1753(n.s.)=1752(o.s.)

Both may refer to the same ship, possibly also the one Glyn refers to, but I can't tell if that is the case.

Later there was also the 44-gun *HMS Assurance* (in 1783)
and yet another in 1864 - and possibly even more *Assurances* after this...

vincent  •  Link

Assurance " A name the British navy like. The 1660 version from records
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

ASSURANCE - Voir l'ASSUR' de 1696
purchashed by France 1696 same ship???

The Needles site contains the remains of two historic warships: HMS Assurance, a 44 gun fifth rate lost in 1738
another version
The British ordered her[‘rattlesnake’ had been a very enterprising gatherer of booty] captured at any cost. She was seized by the 44-gun HMS Assurance in 1783, sent to England and taken into the Royal Navy. …
http://www.raynbow.com/models/rs.… - 4k - similar pages

slowjoe  •  Link

Justice Of The Peace

Am I write in interpreting this entry as SP trying a seaman for the theft of Capt. Noakes' belongings ? It would appear that SP's role bore more of a resemblance to the examining justice's role in French Law rather than the modern judicial function of a magistrate.

Nix  •  Link

Justice of the peace --

You are partially right. The justice of the peace is the lowest rung of the judicial system. He presides over trials of petty offenses and minor civil matters. In more serious offenses, such as this, he conducts a preliminary hearing to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to send someone to trial in a higher court. He conducts the examination himself because, in those blessed days, prosecution was less systematized than it is now, the separation of powers was less developed, and poor defendants such as the seaman would not have had an attorney insisting upon more punctilious procedure. But these were preliminary processes only -- the ultimate destination was still a jury trial of the English type.

vincent  •  Link

Another aspect of JP: He was a pillar of the local community so if he knew you and liked you, a Ref. from him gave one an "In" to any of the upper functions like 'aving a bank account and overdraft or gentlemens job in an Hoffice of respectability [ called professional position]

Second Reading

Terry Foreman  •  Link

How to refloat the Assurance near the Woolwich dockyard?

Hulks were used in pairs during salvage operations. By passing heavy cables under a wreck and connecting them to two hulks, a wreck could be raised using the lifting force of the tide or by changing the buoyancy of the hulks.

Illustration from a treatise on salvaging from 1734, showing the traditional method of raising a wreck with the help of anchors and hulks as pontoons. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fil…

Terry Foreman  •  Link

Drydocks were devised in Ptolemaic Egypt and in China a millennium later. Re Dirk's post -- "The first early modern European and oldest surviving drydock still in use was commissioned by Henry VII of England at HMNB Portsmouth in 1495. This drydock currently holds the world's oldest commissioned warship, HMS Victory...."

Bill  •  Link

Doesn't it take a floating drydock to raise a sunken ship? Surely that hasn't been invented yet.

Dick Wilson  •  Link

Bill: One of the annotators mentioned "Camels". Those are not dromedaries. They are floodable floats, that could be lashed to the side of a ship and pumped dry. They would then heave the vessel out of the mud. They were most commonly used to help ships get over shallow spots, sand bars and the like, and could help refloat a ship that ran aground. I suppose they might be used to help the Assurance. Did the ship capsize at night? The disorientation of people caught below decks, and December water temps, and the tendency of non-swimmers to panic when their faces go underwater, could easily drown a score of men. The Costa Concordia, the cruise ship that ran aground and capsized off the Italian coast, lost 32 people, with half the ship above water. Tragic.

Sasha Clarkson  •  Link

Today, you can't be tried before a jury unless committed to trial by magistrates. It was the same in Pepys' day, although the examinations were less formal. According to Robert Neill's 'Mist Over Pendle', handwritten records of magistrate Roger Nowell's examinations (in 1611-12) of the Pendle witch case accused are still extant. Neill partly based the novel on these records.

On another subject completely, Pepys' "today" was the winter solstice, the Julian calendar then being 10 days behind the Gregorian.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"that they might go about weighing up the Assurance"

A weighted line would be passed under the wreck at low tide; the ends would be secured to two lighters, and the ship would rise at high water.
(L&M footnote)

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"The swedish warship Vasa sank at the outset of her maiden voyage in Stockholm harbor in 1628!"

Daniel Jones posted a link now 404 on 12 Dec 2003. Here's one that works:

Vasa (or Wasa) is a Swedish warship built between 1626 and 1628. The ship foundered after sailing about 1,300 m (1,400 yd) into its maiden voyage on 10 August 1628. It fell into obscurity... until she was located again in the late 1950s in a busy shipping lane just outside the Stockholm harbor.....A number of possible recovery methods were proposed...but the method chosen by the Vasa Board...was essentially the same one attempted immediately after the sinking. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vas…

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"ominous to the Guiny voyage, to have two of her ships spoilt before they go out."

L&M: Five other ships sailed early the next year: Mundy, V.131, n.

Seething Phoenix  •  Link

Regarding sailors and swimming, I read recently that it was considered bad luck for sailors to know how to swim, and also the shock of colder water could be enough to stop the heart (although interestingly the river is at it's coldest in April, not December) so hypothermia would also have taken those sailors who might have known something of the sport. Not to mention the Thames at the time would have been murky and filled with rubbish - shallow maybe, but not optimal for survival!

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

I have read the same thing about sailors and swimming. I do not doubt that the generality is correct. However, I suspect it also depended on where people grew up, and whether swimming techniques were known in the family.

For instance, a teenage Cloudseley Shovell served in the second Anglo-Dutch war on board the Royal Prince, and there is a family tradition that he swam between ships with their orders in his mouth. I know of no other examples of swimming,


San Diego Sarah  •  Link

"The lack of swimming in Europe during the Middle Ages is explained by some authorities as having been caused by a fear that swimming spread infection and caused epidemics.

"There is some evidence of swimming at seashore resorts of Great Britain in the late 17th century, evidently in conjunction with water therapy.

"Not until the 19th century did the popularity of swimming as both recreation and sport begin in earnest."

In places like Japan and the Pacific Islands they were swimming (and surfing?) all the time ... British sailors must have seen them, and curious sailors investigated.

Third Reading

Tonyel  •  Link

One more take I read recently on the grisly business of drowning. Apparently, the usual reaction to sudden immersion in cold water is to gasp which fills the lungs with water.
This is why jumping into, say, a flooded quarry in the summer is a not uncommon cause of death.

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