Friday 26 September 1662

Up betimes and among my workmen. By and by to Sir W. Batten, who with Sir J. M. are going to Chatham this morning, and I was in great pain till they were gone that I might see whether Sir John do speak any thing of my chamber that I am afraid of losing or no. But he did not, and so my mind is a little at more ease. So all day long till night among my workmen, and in the afternoon did cause the partition between the entry and the boy’s room to be pulled down to lay it all into one, which I hope will please me and make my coming in more pleasant.

Late at my office at night writing a letter of excuse to Sir G. Carteret that I cannot wait upon him to-morrow morning to Chatham as I promised, which I am loth to do because of my workmen and my wife’s coming to town to-morrow. So to my lodgings and to bed.

31 Annotations

First Reading

Terry F  •  Link

I "did cause the partition between the entry and the boy's room to be pulled down to lay it all into one, which I hope will please me and make my coming in more pleasant.”

Does this mean that Wayneman (of all peeps) is hereby “promoted” to concierge? OR
merely that Pepys is enlarging his entryway and relocating Waynemen, since has more space to do that?

ShaneOfBenzonia(MI,US)  •  Link

Love the work you've done with this site, Phil, et al. I'm curious, is there a layout/plan of how our Sam's home looks after the "workmen" are completed? Also, Elisabeth's impending arrival seems to be weighing on Sam's mind (hurry up, Workmen!). -SI

Robert Gertz  •  Link

Sam flips the card under Bess' beaming portrait...

Work! Work!! 1 day until arrival!

Hmmn...The Wrath of Mennes. I imagine it's really the Disapproval of Coventry Sam's worried about here.

I am curious that Sam makes no mention of anxious questions from Bess about the house...But maybe he just hates suggesting, even to the Diary, that he's worried she won't like the results.
He's clearly promised her that if she endured Brampton all would be well on return.

I feel a little sorry for Sam...He's been a model husband these weeks, working like a dog and apparently overcoming any inclinations that troubled him at Bess' departure...Hope she shows some appreciation for his efforts. But she usually does...

Robert Gertz  •  Link

Wouldn't we like to read that letter of excuse?

Three or four or five pages of fervid compliments and one line asking for the morning off... "Your most obt. servant, Samuel Pepys"

Terry F  •  Link

Well, RG, she IS getting a closet of her own (the ace up the sleeve after the "Wow" and the "Hmmm" and the "Hmmm" some more).

Pauline  •  Link

'worried she won't like the results’
Maybe he is in full charge of providing the home, and she of overseeing it. And maybe she voices opinion of how it should look as often as he voices opinion of how she should handle her duties and her staff. I would guess less often. Her father may have had land and titles in his background, but he has immigrated to a new country and appears to be living ‘catch as best can’ and not presenting a very impressive position or wealth at this time. So Sam’s immediate background bolstered by various relatives of distinction and his education and talents probably more than cancel out Elizabeth’s background—-OR a balance that gives them each a toehold to offset any pretentions to superiority of the other. Equal in the balance, but each with something in that scale with which to claim the attention of the other.

Australian Susan  •  Link

The letter of excuse
Much of Sam's correspondence is extant, but I don't know if this letter is.
I am concerned that he decides on the *last day* to have a whole partition wall removed - wouldn't it make a great deal of dirt and mess? And if I was Wayneman, i wouldn't feel very welcome - to arrive and be told your chamber was now the entrance hall. Sam doesn't say anything about providing anywhere else for him.
Sam has been very closely supervising all this work, but we don't know if this was the norm for such renovations or if Sam is just obsessive. Maybe other men would have just left the workmen to get on with it much more. Elizabeth, I am sure, will be involved once she is returned with the decoration and fitting up of the new rooms.

Pauline  •  Link

Goodness, Australian Susan
It wasn't anything like it is for us today. Sam is "architecting" as he goes along and is right that "the boy's room" can be elsewhere and the expanded entry will be pleasing. The dirt and mess concern him, but he has his wife's maids to take care of that quickly. How 'welcome' Wayneman feels isn't a big concern, he will likely have an equal room somewhere else. I don't see Sam as obsessive as much as very interested in how it all goes together and how well it works. He has shown some success in the past and been brought in to consult and suggest with one of the Sir Wms as to how best to arrange things for his household. In the last round of remodeling, it didn't appear that Elizabeth got directly involved. Sam has firm/unfolding ideas in these things. His workmen seem to following direction from him versus locked-in construction plans on paper.

Dave Bell  •  Link

The interior, non-structural, walls are likely also pretty flimsy. "Lath and plaster" rather than brickwork. especially upstairs. Removing such a wall could be a pretty quick job, though there would be more work "making good" with the floor, ceiling, and other walls.

But, yes, it does seem rather last-minute.

Sorcha  •  Link

On Elizabeth's involvement with the renovations, right up until the end of the eighteenth century, the decoration and outfitting of a home was very much a male job, carried out by the gentleman of the house. The gender split between architect and interior designer/decorator really only dates to the Victorian period, which still looms rather large in today's culture and makes it hard to see past into previous centuries. Architecture (including the design of both exteriors and interiors) was part of a gentleman's education and they would have had a great deal of input in both building projects and the furnishing of interiors. Someone with Pepys' classical education would be expected to supervise a small project like this one, not worth the time and expense of a professional architect. It's no flight of fancy that Chippendale called his famous pattern book 'The Gentleman and Cabinet-Makers Director' later on in the 1760s (see… ).

In this climate, it's really not surprising that Elizabeth has decided to get the hell out of Dodge for the duration of the alterations. She would still be responsible for the day-to-day running of the household, but any internal changes would definitely be seen as a 'man's job'.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

"So George? Ye set the new hall as 'his Lordship' specified?"

"Aye." sneer..."But wid the 'changes' we talked about at breakfast."

Heh, heh, heh...

"Wait till 'milord high admiral' tries goin' through that doorway." Guffaws all round...But one young worker speaks up...

"Mates..." he points to Bess's hanging portrait with Pepys's exhortation to give it their all for the lady just below.

All stare at Bess' beaming face...

"Eh, she's better off wid the little bastard squashed..." George tries.

"Jane says she dotes on him." the young worker eyes him.

"'Dotes'? On him? Eh..." But Bess' image stares back, gently imploring. "Eh, Christ, come on, Bill." George signs to the first work, sighing...

And so, once again Sam Pepys is preserved for posterity...

Mary  •  Link


These are not private premises, but belong to the Navy Office. If Elizabeth has had any hand in devising the alterations, it will have been achieved only very informally. Sam would have been in no position to say, "Well, Mrs. Pepys wants it done this way, not that way," if there were to be any dispute with Authority about the scope or detail of the works.

andy  •  Link

I cannot wait upon him to-morrow morning to Chatham as I promised,

is this because of an inability to delegate? Couldn't set and keep priorities? I'd love to see what his performance appraisal report would look like.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

Somehow, Mary, I don't think Sam's worried too much (until Sir John started grousing...And more important, brought Coventry in) about what Authority thought of his plans to alter his house. For him, it's his house. Bess could easily have had a hand in the planning without anyone in the Naval Office ever knowing, though I agree Sam probably did everything. Her lack of interest, (if the lack of reference to questions from her reflects that, naturally we can't be sure what Sam is hearing from her) is what interests me...Especially as it may suggest Sam shut her out of the fun of planning things out, excepting perhaps her closet. I'd like to hope she did get to pour over the plans with him before heading out to in-law Hell...And dear old Ferrers, Creed leering at his side.

Michael Robinson  •  Link

Renovations ... On Elizabeth's involvement

“Sorcha” Very many thanks indeed for the concise clear statement.

Though in another continent, but a part of the anglo-saxon “Atlantic culture” of the C 18th., Washington took personal charge of the details of furnishing and decoration of Mount Vernon and in this as many other things was typical of his time and class.

Pauline  •  Link

Thank you, Sorcha
Your information fits what are getting from the diary.

Jeannine  •  Link

A Woman's role in renovation jobs....Although Sam's diary doesn't give an indication of womanly invovlement in renovations, John Evelyn will give an interesting entry after the Great Fire (Sept 13, 1665). Janet Mackay in "Catherine of Braganza" (p 157-158)provides the details that after the Great Fire, John Evelyn, working on the rebuilding of London took the plans prepared by Christopher Wren, "to Whitehall, and was directed to the Queen's bedchamber, where Charles and Catherine and the Duke of York awaited him. Catherine had been ready to leave for a drive when the King's message came to her, calling her into consultation, but a drive could wait if her husband desired her company or her opinion. In her long velvet horseman's coat and wide cavalier hat with trailing feather, she spent an hour with the King examining the plans which amply provided for the carrying out of his ideas. They discussed possibiliites and suggested alterations and improvements, till in imagination the brave new city was built."

A.Hamilton  •  Link

Sam's house & the Navy

Although Sam constantly refers to "my workmen," I have seen nothing to suggest that he actually pays them. I have inferred that they come from one of the Navy yards, perhaps Deptford, where the frame of the new upper story was built.
It appears that one of the perks of Sam's position is to occupy government quarters and adapt them to his desires & needs, at Navy expense. How far he can go appears to be established more by custom than by fixed rule, and Sam is feeling his way, I suspect. Thus, when Sir Wm. Batten decides to add a upper story, Sam is quick to follow suit, but he doesn't initiate the project. Later Sam is dismayed to learn that he has blocked Sir John Minnes' lights -- perhaps through not beeing enough with "my workmen" at a critical juncture? -- and worries that he has so far overreached that he may be forced to give up a room he had claimed (possibly as compensation to Sir John?). This error about blocking his neighbor's windows, as well as the last minute decision on enlarging the hallway at the expense of Wayneman's room suggests to me that he is also feeling his way through the details of the project. (I too suspect that room will be found for Wayneman elswhere in building.) I agree with Mary that Sam knows that "if there were to be any dispute with Authority about the scope or detail of the work" he alone would have to answer for it -- reason enough for his recent close attention to the project.

Bradford  •  Link

Shane, a post a few days back revealed---to general disappointment---that in the "Companion" to their edition of the Diary, editors Latham and Matthews say that no representation of this combination apartment house-office building exists. One would think that, since the Diary's first publication, some anorak would have attempted a hypothetical reconstruction, but the evidence is just too complicated and circumstantial. See Mary’s note at…
and David Q.'s extract from Picard, "Rooms in Pepys's Seething Lane home," at…

Australian Susan  •  Link

I still think it should be possible to get *some* representation of the Seething Lane house: after all (with scantier material) if you go to the Harry Potter Lexicon site, you can get plans of 4, Privet Drive and Hogwarts (not that I have, you understand...)(well, only once)

Bradford  •  Link

Perhaps this view was discovered since the assertion Mary quoted; but it begs more questions than it answers, to this humble mind. Surely whoever could draw up some hypothetical blueprints would earn a starry crown in Pepys annals. Any takers? Maybe Susan has the right idea, and we should approach the proper member of the Hogwarts faculty, for surely magic would be required.

Pauline  •  Link

'magic would be required'
To date, we have almost no information as to how rooms are linked withing Sam's household (though I think at one time we knew whose household was on either side of him).

We really do need a place to accumulate hints so we can see if we can come up with a fair idea of the layout. We have information at:
Naval Office…
Seething Lane…

Anywhere else?
Ideas on where we should put our clues to the layout of the Navy compound on Seething Lane? It would interest me and others to give this a try.

dirk  •  Link

The interior, non-structural, walls are likely also pretty flimsy. "Lath and plaster" rather than brickwork.

Re - Dave Bell

Looking at other houses from the 16th & 17th c, certainly no brickwork. More likely to be wood - so easily removed, without too much dust. Lath & plaster was usually limited to the outside.

Australian Susan  •  Link

What the Harry Potter addicts did (the anoraks in Bradford's parlance)was go through what they refer to as the "canon" (the 6 JKR novels as opposed to the FanFiction or the movies)and simply list all references to the buildings in questions and then they drew up plans, having also (in the case of the Dursley's house) visited similar homes in Surrey). We could have a go at this, trawling the Diary for references to the house in Seething Lane. Maybe there are also other accounts of the Navy Office buildings and perhaps information in letters or the Public Record Office or Parish records. I know (because I own it) that there is an HMSO publication of *all* references to William Shakespeare in the PRO: is there one for Sam? This would give such things as taxes, Poor rates and so on. Wills are a great source of "time capsule" type information. Obviously Sam did not die whilst at this house, but maybe one of the other tenents did and left a will which could give information about the building (wills could even list such things as curtains, fire irons and so on, from which it is possible to deduce number of rooms and other information). Although we know each dwelling was different, it might adumbrate the situation, if we resisted a 21st century hermaneutic.

Ramona Higer  •  Link

I am always very offended when I hear that men exclusively planned and decorated their homes. I am convinced this is because the documents that are extant were written by them. I for one believe that the head of the household was required to execute these contracts.
Men and women couldn't have changed THAT much.

Second Reading

Louise Hudson  •  Link

A. Hamilton took the words right out of my mouth. I, too, wonder who is paying for the work and how much control Sam has over how it's done. It certainly can't be under his exclusive control because he has worried since the beginning that he would lose "my chamber," presumably against his will. Someone else must be making the final decisions. It would be interesting to know exactly how these renovations were decided upon and who is paying. Does Sam pay anything toward the cost? I, too, wonder about his use of "my workmen," since he apparently has not hired them nor does he seem to pay them. So far he has managed to wield a fair amount of control--more than today's average "tenant" would be able to do, unless he had an especially generous and cooperative landlord.

Bryan  •  Link

Mary provide the answer to your question in the annotations for 23 September:
"The cost of Sam's home improvements was indeed being born by the Navy. The Navy Treasurer's accounts give the sum of £320 as the estimated joint cost of the works to Batten’s and Pepys’ houses. "…

Bridget Davis  •  Link

A.Hamilton on 27 Sep 2005 • Link • Flag

Sam's house & the Navy

Although Sam constantly refers to "my workmen..."

I really appreciate your description, A. Hamilton. I had been woefully confused and your offering is the best I've ran across so far, even ten years later. Thanks!

Louise Hudson  •  Link

Thanks for the tip, Bryan. So,"my workmen" and "my house" are merely conventions.

Log in to post an annotation.

If you don't have an account, then register here.