Monday 17 December 1660

All day looking after my workmen, only in the afternoon to the office where both Sir Williams were come from Woolwich, and tell us that, contrary to their expectations, the Assurance is got up, without much damage to her body, only to the goods that she hath within her, which argues her to be a strong, good ship.

This day my parlour is gilded, which do please me well.

28 Annotations

First Reading

vincent  •  Link

We have our answer. -no committees,no board meetings: Just get on with it, good old elboe greese, buckets, sweat and get it done[no options].

vincent  •  Link

"...This day my parlour is gilded,...' an unexpected method of doing out the parlour.

Charlezzzzz  •  Link

I wonder what ship that gilt was intended for.

Peter  •  Link

A ship called "The Lily"?

Peter  •  Link

Or even "The Gingerbread"!

Vera  •  Link

gilding room "16th century"

try 'Googling" on the above - masses of hits with good information.

bruce  •  Link

With reference to the sorry story of the "Assurance", what was the procedure for the design of warships in Pepys' time? Did the authorities issue a specification e.g. number of guns etc and leave the shipwright to do the detailed design work and calculations himself, or was there some process of vetting of designs by the naval authorities before construction could begin?

Also; I'm intrigued as to how "Assurance" would have been refloated. OK, you'd have to close hatches, gun ports and so on, but doesn't reloating a sunken ship need high volume pumps to remove the water inside it? What sort of pumps would have been available at this time?

Wim van der Meij  •  Link

In Holland they used wooden "Camels": a sort of drydocks with rounded insides, two of these were towed to the sides of a ship, then sunk, tied to the ship, and pumped dry again. The ship would come along with the camels out of the water.
Of course the pumps were worked with manpower only, so it must have been a backbreaking work.
These contraptions were used in those days for ships to cross the shoals near Pampus, an small island just in front of the harbour of Amsterdam. The camels were used to lift the ships just enough to pass the shallows.

Charlezzzzz  •  Link

Camels: Camels are mentioned in one of the Hornblower books. The ship would come along with the camels out of the water.
Wim says "Of course the pumps were worked with manpower only, so it must have been a backbreaking work." But perhaps Assurance sank very close to shore; then I imagine that some form of animal powered pump might have been rigged on the hard. She seems to have been raised surprisingly fast. But of course plenty of backbreaking work was done in the 17th century.

JWB  •  Link


1647 Guericke built his fist suction pump in Magdeburg.

JWB  •  Link

Ship design...
Sir Wm. Batten, of the 2-Wms., was "Surveyor", the Navy Board officer charged with design, construction and repair. He, like Adm. Penn, was an old salt. Pett, the ship-wright, was also on the board at this time. Admiralty didn't lack talent.

JWB  •  Link

Pepys and his gilded room...
When the Dutch push up the Medway, Sam'll be shooting off stashes of Au in all direction-up to Brampton and around to relatives close by for safe keeping. Can only wish the unpaid sailors had gotten a peep at Pepys pretensions.

Nix  •  Link

Pumps ...

There is a scene showing the ship's crew pumping to avoid sinking in the current movie "Master & Commander". Backbreaking doesn't begin to describe it.

vincent  •  Link

Pumps were called buckets with the Workers of Woolwich doing the hawling. ; One remove all possible equipment then started bailing after closing all the portholes; pure brute force, muscle[ no gold gyms then] men could and did carry weights heavier they weighed themselves; take a look at some of the lugging done in the first WWI and at the beginning of WWII; Wars have a habit of moving technology forward on the fast track:
then as long the ship was afloat a bit, into the drydock, to finish off the good work of restoration. 'tis my guess. To day in our western society we have no calouses to show.{today fossil fuels do all the work)
[the lugging of 1 cwt of whatever for 10 hrs a day are a thing of the past (for peanuts too)].

Rick Ansell  •  Link

A dry-dock, or even Camels may not have been required.

Consider the use of a pair of pontoons, placed either side of the ship, with sufficient combined buoyancy to lift her. Attach them to the ship, perhaps (probably in the later stages) by ropes passed beneath her.

Wait for low tide and take up any slack in the ropes. The tide will rise and the ship will lift. Move the ship inshore until she is just grounded at high tide. Repeat the process with each tide.

Eventually the ship will be beached with the gun ports above the water level at low water. This is the point at which to begin pumping water from the ship, with the ropes to the pontoons being shortened to ensure that the tide does not rise above the ports again.

Generally the Thames gently shelves towards the bank, with a mud bottom, so this manoeuvre is likely to have been possible.

The only problem is that there may not have been enough tides over the period shown in the diary for the lift to have been completed in the manner described. But Camels would be specialist equipment that may not have been immediately to hand. But any two large vessels could be used as pontoons and work started as soon as the experts arrived to direct operations.

dirk  •  Link

"This day my parlour is gilded"

The colour is not really such a surprise if you compare it to the pic in my previous annotation to 13 December.

Susanna  •  Link

The gilding is not so surprising, given that this is an era when the "more is more" theory of interior decor is fashionable. Versailles, which Louis XIV is just starting renovations on, isn't exactly... understated. And the French are the fashion-setters of Europe.

Glyn  •  Link

Going through the above links, it seems that the Assurance had been built in the shipyard of Peter Petts:…

who at this time was on the Navy Board and who was presumably in charge of the rescue. Since he built the ship, he would have known its strengths and weaknesses intimately.

Incidentally, there is a superb painting of Petts in his biographical entry (linked above).

Hic retearivs  •  Link

'Assurance', foundered

Rick and Wim seem to be on the mark. Please note that the Thames is tidal. That being the case, pumping would not be required. It would only be necessary to open a couple of her planks as the tide ebbed to drain the vessel. At low water, she would be closed up and then moved inshore at high water slack for another cycle. Depending on the tides, camels might not be required at all.

Wim's camels are very fancy; trust the Dutch, they know just how to deal with bars and shallows. Camels employed by salvagers are simpler and take many forms. If used, the only camels required here would probably have been unladen Thames barges perhaps with strongbacks placed athwart-ships to take the cables. At low water, the cables would be bowsed up to provide an even load on each and then made fast. With the flood, her own increased buoyancy and the empty barges would lift her a few feet off the bottom and, as has been suggested, allow her to be brought higher up the bank until she touched ground where she would be allowed to settle with the ebb and could be drained of the corresponding amount water. Probably her gun ports would be calked up temporarily at this point to keep down the leakage for the next cycle. Two such cycles or maybe three would see her high enough to put her onto a tide grid where she could be drained completely.

Then would begin the miserable, filthy job of cleaning out the Thames mud, removing the sodden provisions, the ruined powder, the cargo not in casks and the unhappy task of locating and removing the remains of the men caught below.

Rachel  •  Link

fantastic links....
thanks for all the insights I enjoyed reading them!

vicenzo  •  Link

re: removing water in a ship, could be as simple as removing a single plank and let the trapped waters out, as these ships, be single hulled and Sailors were always tipping the ships on the side to get rid of low life[barnicles ]. Of course this would be at low tyde. Low tech and half a jar of elbow greese, be the answer.

Second Reading

Third Reading

David Herren  •  Link

I rather like the snippet about his guilded parlour. It adds a bit on what pleased him.

Carl  •  Link

In most of the world, technology is too expensive to be a replacement for muscle.
Raw commodities such as coffee and nuts don't get into containers without it even today and in Europe it takes muscle to unload too

Eric the Bish  •  Link

Raising the Assurance.

Playing around with ChatGPT suggests a draft of around four meters, a freeboard of between two and three meters and sufficient reserve buoyancy to stay afloat - just - when half full of water - she would therefore need to be lifted by around two meters to float: put another way, about 330 tonnes of water currently inside the ship have to be moved outside the ship.

But we have marvellous tides in England: some of the best in the world. The tidal range at Woolwich is enormous - six metres today and it’s not even a spring tide.

Assurance can’t be in more than about six meters charted depth because at some state of tide the main deck is above the water. I doubt she’d have been anchored less than three meters (this would risk grounding at low tide) … and since the unfortunate Captain Stoakes is able to search his cabin for his lost money she’s likely in about four to five meters charted depth. A competent captain: he’d anchored his ship a close in as was seamanlike; inadvertently choosing a great place to sink!

Speed was of the essence, with maybe as little as two of three hours a day when it’s daylight and the tide is low enough to do the preparation on site. They have to be quick, or tidal scour, which has already robbed Captain Stoakes of his clothes and money, will damage the ship or contents further, or settle her the more firmly into the seabed. Sounds like a prompt and thoroughly professional piece of marine salvage!

Just my speculation: if (as I guess would be the case) getting ropes under the ship was hard, either bolt the barges to the sides of the Assurance or secure some spare masts across the ship projecting either side so the barges pull up on them … attaching them firmly to some of the Assurance’s frames: the strong ‘ribs’ which are securely attached to the keel timber.

With everything in place, a single tide will lift her enough to have her floating independently - a pair of typical Thames barges have, between them, a lifting capacity of five or six hundred tonnes.

If she was alongside when she sank the salvage problem is different, not least as she’s probably in a little less depth: maybe as little as two or three metres charted depth. It might be possible simply to drain her at low tide, stop up the holes, and float off on the flood. Otherwise, or in addition, barges fore and aft might do the trick.

Either way, she would be a bit of a mess. Food and powder ruined … but sails, ropes, running gear and guns should be ok. Needing a lot of work, but nowhere near being a constructive total loss.

… continued … >

Eric the Bish  •  Link

> … continued …

I have been looking at the National Archives catalogue, to see if there is a record of the inevitable Courts Martial, and sadly I cannot find it. However, since those who sat on the court were fellow naval officers with an understanding of the vicissitudes of the sea and weather, Captain Stokes is unlikely to have been found to be at fault. Certainly Pepys gives no hint that Stoakes is in any way to blame. It is one of those four hazards which are still the seafarer’s lot: in the words of the naval hymn: “rock and tempest, fire and foe“.

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