Tuesday 15 January 1660/61

Up and down the yard all the morning and seeing the seamen exercise, which they do already very handsomely.

Then to dinner at Mr. Ackworth’s, where there also dined with us one Captain Bethell, a friend of the Comptroller’s. A good dinner and very handsome. After that and taking our leaves of the officers of the yard, we walked to the waterside and in our way walked into the rope-yard, where I do look into the tar-houses and other places, and took great notice of all the several works belonging to the making of a cable.

So after a cup of burnt wine1 at the tavern there, we took barge and went to Blackwall and viewed the dock and the new Wet dock, which is newly made there, and a brave new merchantman which is to be launched shortly, and they say to be called the Royal Oak.

Hence we walked to Dick-Shore, and thence to the Towre and so home. Where I found my wife and Pall abroad, so I went to see Sir W. Pen, and there found Mr. Coventry come to see him, and now had an opportunity to thank him, and he did express much kindness to me. I sat a great while with Sir Wm. after he was gone, and had much talk with him. I perceive none of our officers care much for one another, but I do keep in with them all as much as I can. Sir W. Pen is still very ill as when I went. Home, where my wife not yet come home, so I went up to put my papers in order, and then was much troubled my wife was not come, it being 10 o’clock just now striking as I write this last line.

This day I hear the Princess is recovered again. The King hath been this afternoon at Deptford, to see the yacht that Commissioner Pett is building, which will be very pretty; as also that that his brother at Woolwich is in making.

By and by comes in my boy and tells me that his mistress do lie this night at Mrs. Hunt’s, who is very ill, with which being something satisfied, I went to bed.

41 Annotations

First Reading

Kevin Peter  •  Link

"...where I do look into the tar- houses and other places, and took great notice of all the several works belonging to the making of a cable"

What exactly was referred to as a "cable" in Pepys' era? Was this simply a really fat rope made from hemp or was it something different?

Glyn  •  Link

No, that is exactly what they were. Each naval ship was equipped with several miles (!) of rope, and the machines that made them were extremely impressive. They had to be stretched out in factories, which were huge. Many of the skills learned by the engineers supplying the navy were used elsewhere to begin the Industrial Revolution. Let's not forget that the Navy used the most advanced technology of the time, and took up a significant fraction of the country's GDP. It also changed the face of the country, e.g. each ton that a ship weighed was supposed to be equal to a single fully mature oak tree. Within a couple of centuries they were running out of oak trees.

Emilio  •  Link


Not just rope, but rope impregnated with tar for added toughness. L&M confirm what Glyn's said and add a little more detail, in a note for 1665:

"Cables and cordage generally were made from hemp which was spun into yarn, laid in tar and then twisted into rope. Long ropeyards were required for the last process. The yarn was made pliable by exposure for about two days to slow heat over a charcoal fire in a stove-house."

Emilio  •  Link

The Royal Oak

"An E. Indiaman, to be distinguished from the royal ship of the same name. The symbol of the oak-tree (associated with royalty for many centuries) had now been given new vitality by Charles II's hiding in the Boscobel oak after the battle of Worcester, 1651." (L&M footnote)

While looking for info on cable I also came across this page, a cross-section of a Dutch East Indiaman circa 1660! The Royal Oak could well look similar.


vincent  •  Link

"...it being 10 o'clock just now striking …” are there must a clock tower near by or is it a man on the gonger, another clue to putting out the candle, or gettin the maid up to do the wash.

Emilio  •  Link

A couple other nautical details
per L&M

The dock Sam visits today is the largest wet-dock in England, and had been owned by the East India Co. until 1656.

The yacht at Woolwich is the Anne, being built for the Duke of York by the commissioner's brother Christopher. It obligingly gets introduced today after Dirk mentioned it briefly only a couple days ago.

dirk  •  Link

Cable Making

"The method of manufacturing:

The first part of the process of rope making by hand, is that of spinning the yarns or threads, which is done in a manner analogous to that of ordinary spinning. (...)

The next step in ropemaking was to "warp" the yarns or to stretch all of them to the same length and at the same time to put a "slight turn or twist" in them. If the cordage was intended for marine use, it was wound from one reel to another, meanwhile passing through a vessel containing boiling tar. If "white work" was desired, the tar was omitted. Finally, the last step, called "laying the cordage," was carried out:

For this purpose two or more yarns are attached at one end to a hook. The hook is then turned the contrary way from the twist of the individual yarn, and thus forms what is called a strand. Three strands, sometimes four, besides a central one, are then stretched at length, and attached at one end to three contiguous but separate hooks, but at the other end to a single hook; and the process of combining them together, which is effected by turning the single hook in a direction contrary to that of the other three, consists in so regulating the progress of the twists of the strands round their common axis, that the three strands receive separately as their opposite ends just as much twist as is taken out of them by their twisting the contrary way, in the process of combination."

Not an easy description, I admit, but maybe it helps... (I left out some of the details on the spinning.)

Ruben  •  Link

to see how elaborated this ropes were visit Mystic Port. It will take a few hours but all the crafts involved in old ship building were preserved there. You will also see some tall ships, etc. If you really want to learn try "not on sundays" (crowded) :

Mary  •  Link

Rope Yard.

For UK readers, there is a splendid rope yard still to be seen at the Historic Dockyard, Chatham, Kent. It's well arranged for visitors and you can try your hand at making a length of rope yourself.

Mary  •  Link


This is Duke Shore, Limehouse according to L&M Index.

Lily Belle  •  Link

There is still cable manufacture going on in Limehouse, although the cables are metal. A rare example of manufacturing industry surviving in London, and given the long history of rope making in the area, quite... heartwarming?

Barbara  •  Link

Slight spoiler: Pepys shows for the first time his wish to learn as much as he can about supplies for the navy. He must have driven them all mad, prying into every procedure, but once he had achieved "the knowledge" he was invaluable in stamping out wasteful and corrupt practices.

Mike  •  Link

Is this the same Mrs Hunt who has a French lodger who Sam caught kissing wife only a few days ago?

Pauline  •  Link

"Is this the same Mrs Hunt"
Oh dear, Mike, you've made an unhappy connection; I wonder if Sam has too? From January 10: "So to Mrs. Hunt, where I found a Frenchman, a lodger of hers, at dinner, and just as I came in was kissing my wife, which I did not like..."

bruce  •  Link

With regard to rope making, by Pepys' time much of the cordage used in ships was made in and around Bridport in Dorset. Rope (nylon) and nets still made here. The whole plan of the town's streets and back alleys is arranged to facilitate rope walks. For anyone living within travelling distance, the Bridport museum still does the occasional demonstration day.

David Cooper  •  Link

Rope making. My lasting memory from Mystic Seaport rope making is the length of the twisting barns. As the rope is twisted you "lose" length. The navy required long cables with no joins so the size of the barn is huge -- maybe twice the length of the finished rope.

Charlezzzzz  •  Link

The seamen exercise...,
Two nights ago, when there was worry about the Fanatics raiding the yard, "seamen of all the ships present repair to us, and there we armed with every one a handspike, with which they were as fierce as could be." Yesterday, first thing, arms were distributed from the Tower. Today, "Up and down the yard all the morning and seeing the seamen exercise, which they do already very handsomely." I imagine this was cutlass drill and perhaps small arms practice, suitable for arming shore parties of sailors, along with knives, handspikes, and blackjacks.

John Oliver  •  Link

"Burnt wine" was probably more akin to brandy than mulled wine. French wine makers distilled ("burnt") their product down to a spirit of high alcohol, the reduced volume being vastly cheaper to ship. English consumers, ever innovative, saw no value in adding water and quaffed the brandy neat.

Rex Gordon  •  Link

Further to Mike & Pauline's comments ...
Hmmmmm. Wasn't it just the other day that Mr Hunt was looking for his missus at Sam's? (Or have I read ahead and inadvertently spoiled?) Could the girls be using each other as an alibi? I'm reminded of the Eagles' song: "So she tells him she must go out for the evening to comfort an old friend who's feeling down." I hope Elizabeth isn't headed for "the cheatin' side of town." Ah well, Sam is pretty tolerant and "something satisfied" with the alibi. After all, what harm could come of it?

Kevin Peter  •  Link

It's quite possible that "burnt wine" was brandy. I know that in German the word for brandy is "Brandwein" which literally translates to "fire wine". This reflects the process of distilling wine using fire to make brandy.

As for the part where Sam mentions 10 o'clock striking, it's entirely possible that this was the bell in a nearby church tower ringing.

When I lived in Germany, there were the church bell rang every hour, even at night, but after I little while I found that I just tuned them out. I wonder if people back then tuned them out or if they paid more attention to them, seeing how that was most people's only way of telling time.

Dennis Richards  •  Link

More on ropes.
A sailing ship of the time had 3 different kinds of "ropes".
The kind used for the running rigging i.e the "ropes"(called lines by the seamen) were 3 strands right hand twisted or "hawser-laid"
By taking 3 hawsers and left hand twisting you got a "cable-laid rope" or cable, used for the anchor for example.
Then for the heavy lines used for the standing rigging, stays and shrouds etc., a special type of rope was used called "shroud-laid rope" which was 4 strands twisted left hand around a central strand.
I've been a daily visitor for 3 months and enjoy this experience immensely particularly the annotations. Keep up the good work!

Carolina  •  Link

About bells and 10 o'clock
I live in a very old town in Holland and every night at 9.50 a bell is rung until 10 o'clock. This is in memory of the time when the last gate would be shut at 10. This was to prevent the Spanish attacking. Sometimes I notice it, other times not.
Also here we have "brandewijn",though I never made the connection with burning (distilling) before, so thanks for that bit of info

Nix  •  Link

Burnt wine --

Good call, Kevin Peter. Here's the OED etymology of "brandy":

The orig. form brandwine, brandewine is a. Du. brandewijn "burnt" (i.e. distilled) wine. In familiar use abbreviated as brandy as early as 1657; but the fuller form was retained in official use (customs tariffs, acts of parliament, etc.) down to the end of 17th c., being latterly, as the spelling shows, regarded as a compound of brandy + wine.

Todd Bernhardt  •  Link

Sam's luggage?

I just realized, reading this entry, that (if I recall correctly) Sam never mentions luggage when he talks about these short trips. He leaves Sunday, returns Tuesday, and so one would think that as he "walked to Dick-Shore, and thence to the Towre and so home," he would be carrying a pack of some sort, containing a change of under- and outer-garments (and perhaps other items).

True? Does anyone know what the practice was back then when people would go on short trips?

Also, Rex -- you hope Elizabeth doesn't have Lyin' Eyes, but isn't sauce for the gander sauce for the goose? :-)

vincent  •  Link

Luggage: and hygiene: It was very low on the priority list. Much I am sorry so say, like many rundown areas of the world today. Lack of knowledge plus a very big lack of money available for even the very bare essentials like an loaf of bread. How short are memories , as a student in London "the Hum [l'eau de physhe other-wise known as BO]" was a buzz[ bath water was rationed by how many 1d's you had for the gas meter]. A shirt was L2/10s which was a luxury for a student working in a pub for 4s/- an hour + perks, a Navvy hogging bricks got 8s/- hr and a farm worker got 1/9d an hour. So Items such as under clothing kinder got lost in the shuffle.
Life has improved since then so I leave it to your sensitive senses to estimate walking down to Market in 1661 was like.

Wim van der Meij  •  Link

Carolina, might you be living in Zutphen and are you telling about the 'poortersklokje'?

Kevin Sheerstone  •  Link

Yet more on ropes

Perhaps an indication of just how much space was required in ropemaking is the prevalence of the street name "Ropewalk". It is very common in British towns, particularly those near the coast, but inland towns have them too: York, Nottingham and Canterbury, and I'm sure there are many others

Nigel Pond  •  Link

On the subject of ropes, we are really getting down to the bitter end! Sorry could not resist that one...

Second Reading

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"Dick Shore, now Duke Shore, Limehouse (as Mary posted above), a landing-place or stair for wherries at the Narrow Street end of Fore Street."
-- *London Past and Present: Its History, Associations, and Traditions* By Henry Benjamin Wheatley, Peter Cunningham

On the following segment of the Rocque 1746 map "[Du]kes Shoar" leads up from the Thames upstream of Graves's Dock to The Fore Street, which is (of course, given the theme of today's entry) below Ropemaker's Field.

Bill  •  Link

"Hence we walked to Dick-Shore"

Duke's-Shore Stairs is shown in one of Smith's Maps, 1806. It was not far from the great turn of the river southward, opposite to the Isle of Dogs. The proper spelling might be—Dick, Dyke, Dock, Dog, or Duke, but there seems to be no doubt as to the identity of the place. Dick's-Shore, Fore Street, Limehouse, and Dick's-Shore Alley by Dick's-Shore, are both mentioned in London and its Environs, vol. ii., p. 233, edit. 1761. Notes and Queries, vol. i., p. 220.
---Diary and correspondence of Samuel Pepys, the diary deciphered by J. Smith. 1854.

Dick's Shore in Forestreet at Limehouse. Against it is a Plying-place for Watermen.
---Remarks on London. W. Slow, 1722.

Bill  •  Link

"to see the yacht that Commissioner [Peter] Pett is building, which will be very pretty; as also that that his brother [Christopher] at Woolwich is in making"

In 1604, a yacht had been built for Henry Prince of Wales, by Phineas Pett, to whom the English navy was much indebted in the reigns of the early Stuarts. He was the father of Peter and Christopher.
---Diary and correspondence of Samuel Pepys, the diary deciphered by J. Smith. 1854.

Phineas Pett: http://www.pepysdiary.com/encyclo…
Christopher Pett: http://www.pepysdiary.com/encyclo…

Bill  •  Link

Royal Oak

In 1679 Halley (of comet fame, but never mentioned in the diary) made up a new constellation which he called the Royal Oak. It didn't catch on.

Geoff Hallett  •  Link

'It be 10 o'clock just now striking as I write this last line'. What a wonderful line. It's the hundreds of small intimate things that make the diary what it is and makes you feel you are actually there.

Nate Lockwood  •  Link

A cable, made of three hawser laid lines, must also be more than 10 inches in circumference to properly be called a cable. In the days of sail a cable's prime use was to attach the anchor. The cable was 100 fathoms long or approximately a tenth of a nautical mile so cable was also used as a measure of length or distance. A cable of this length would allow a large sailing vessel to anchor in as much as 14 fathoms of water in decent weather although I doubt very many ships ever anchored in water this deep.

Most of the cordage in the days of sail were termed lines but had specific names such as halyard, shroud, etc. Almost none were called "ropes" by the sailors although they did use the term "know your ropes". Lines were also described by their lay such as cable laid and hawser laid.

Chris Squire UK  •  Link

OED has:

‘burnt . . 5. Of wine, etc.: ‘Made hot’ (Johnson); see quot. 1876; the precise early sense is doubtful. (Now only dial.) burnt brandy: that from which part of the spirit has been removed by burning.
. . a1616 Shakespeare Merry Wives of Windsor (1623) ii. i. 200 Ile giue you a pottle of burn'd sacke.
1661 S. Pepys Diary 15 Jan. (1970) II. 14 A cup of burnt wine at the taverne.
1709 R. Steele Tatler No. 36. ⁋5 I'll lay Ten to Three, I drink Three Pints of burnt Claret at your Funeral.
1876 F. K. Robinson Gloss. Words Whitby, ‘Burnt wine from a silver flagon’ was handed..being a heated preparation of port wine with spices and sugar.
1880 Barman's Man. 55 Burnt brandy..one glass of Cognac and half a table-spoonful of white sugar, burnt in a saucer . . ‘

Annie B  •  Link

I too love this line: "Home, where my wife not yet come home, so I went up to put my papers in order, and then was much troubled my wife was not come, it being 10 o’clock just now striking as I write this last line."

Such a clear reminder that at one point a man was sitting behind his desk writing these thoughts in real-time. As much as we *know* this, it's easy to forget when you can just click to the next day. These lines help me snap back into Sam's present, and is why I particularly love Sam (or his diary!).

(A few days late on the convo but wanted to add my notch in the "fond of" column for our dear Mr. Pepys who never ceases to write things that amuse me!)

Third Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

"Sam never mentions luggage when he talks about these short trips."

Pepys, the gentleman Commissioner, was not carrying his own luggage:
"... by water to Redriffe, and so on foot to Deptford (our servants by water), ..."

I'm guessing Pepys' servant would have been Will Hewer, leaving Wayneman to be Elizabeth's "runner".

As things worked out by this evening they both needed 2 servants, because Pepys had effectively lost Elizabeth. She could easily have sent Wayneman to Deptford to tell Pepys where she was; Hewer was too busy helping Pepys undress and to bed while unpack from their trip to go to his father's to enquire where Elizabeth (and Pall?) was/were.

Interesting Pepys makes no mention of Pall's whereabouts. She and Elizabeth had been cooking at the senior Pepys' as they had a guest staying with them when Margaret had been called away to a sick relative's in Huntingdon. It's possible Margaret is home by now?

Life without telephones/email was difficult -- definitely more stressful.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

"I perceive none of our officers care much for one another, but I do keep in with them all as much as I can."

Wouldn't you love to know the back story behind that comment!

Eric the Bish  •  Link

Rope making. Splices in a long rope are points of weakness, but as yet nobody had invented a way to make rope by a continuous process - so the longest rope you could make was the length of your ropewalk. The nation with the world’s longest ropewalks will have the best (longest) ropes, and her warships a technological edge over others.

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