Monday, December 24, 2012


Devastation at Sayes Court

William Henry Hart, "Peter the Great at Sayes Court, Deptford," Notes and Queries 2nd Series, Number 19 (May 10, 1856) 365-367 (at 365):
In the latter part of the seventeenth century, Sayes Court, Deptford, the seat of the celebrated John Evelyn, was honoured by the temporary residence of the Czar of Muscovy, Peter the Great, who was then on a visit to this country. He was desirous of obtaining a knowledge of shipbuilding, and consequently chose this spot in order that he might be near the dockyard at Deptford, where he would have ample opportunity for pursuing his studies in naval architecture. Until about this period Evelyn had made Sayes Court his residence, where he bestowed great pains in cultivating and laying out his garden. In 1696, he let the premises to Captain Benbow, afterwards Admiral, of whom he thus speaks in his Diary:
"I have let my house to Captain Benbow, and have the mortification of seeing every day much of my former labours and expense there impairing for want of a more polite tenant."
In the commencement of the year 1698, Benbow underlet the house, together with all his furniture, to the Czar, but he soon had to regret the accommodation he had afforded to his Majesty, for in the month of May in that year we find him petitioning the Lords of the Treasury that compensation be made him for the damage the Czar had done to his house, garden, and furniture.
An excerpt from the petition (id., p. 356):
May 9th, 1698.

Some observations made upon the gardens and plantations which belong to the honourable John Evelyn, Esquire, att his house of Sayes Court, in Deptford, in the County of Kent.

During the time the Zar of Muscovie inhabited the said house, severall disorders have been committed in the gardens and plantations, which are observed to be under two heads: one is what can be repaired again, and the other what cannot be repaired.

1. All the grass works is out of order, and broke into holes by their leaping and shewing tricks upon it.
2. The bowling green is in the same condition.
3. All that ground which used to be cultivated for eatable plants is all overgroune with weeds and is not manured nor cultivated, by reason the Zar would not suffer any men to worke when the season offered.
4. The wall fruite and stander fruite trees are unpruined and unnailed.
5. The hedges nor wilderness are not cutt as they ought to be.
6. The gravell walks are all broke into holes and out of order.

These observations were made by George London, his Majesties Master Gardener, and he certifies that to putt the gardens and plantations in as good repair as they were in before his Zarrish Majestie resided there will require the summe of fifty-five pounds, as is Justified by me.

                                                                                                           GEORGE LONDON.

Great dammages are done to the trees and plants, which cannot be repaired as the breaking the branches of the wall fruit trees, spoiling two or three of the finest true phillereas, breaking severall holleys and other fine plants.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.


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