The National Maritime Museum is hosting a new exhibition on the life of Samuel Pepys and, while we’ve looked at the life of the famous diarist before (see our earlier post here), we thought we’d take a look at his not-so-famous manservant and clerk William Hewer.

“Will” Hewer, who is mentioned several times in Pepys’ diary and, as well as being a business partner also became a fast friend of Pepys, is thought to have been born in about 1642.

He was first introduced to Pepys when still a young man – about 17 – by his uncle Robert Blackborne in 1660. They obviously hit it off because Hewer, who was the son of a stationer, was soon working as a manservant and clerk for Pepys in his role as Clerk of the Acts to the Navy Board.

Hewer, who was subjected to some bullying by Pepys who apparently could reduce him to tears (but at the same time Pepys also defended him at work from attacks from others), at first lived with Pepys at his Seething Lane home. However, by late 1663 – apparently thanks to his misbehaviour which included staying out late, drunkenness and corrupting maids – he was told to leave Pepys’ house and moved into his own lodgings.

Pepys moved to the Admiralty in 1673 and Hewer went with him, appointed Chief Clerk the following year. In 1677, he was appointed as Judge Advocate-General.

Hewer’s star continued to climb and in 1685, he was appointed MP for Yarmouth, on the Isle of Wight. The following year he was appointed to the Special Commission which replaced the Navy Board and had a special responsibility for accounts.

After King James II fled the country in 1688, Hewer, along with Pepys, lost their patronage from the Crown; both were briefly imprisoned, but were released without trial.

Thanks largely to his involvement in trading with his uncle Blackborne – who served as both Secretary to the Admiralty and Secretary to the British East India Company and to an inheritance he received from his father, Hewer became a wealthy man (as was the case with Pepys, there have been suggestions he may have made considerable illicit sums from people doing trade with the Navy thanks to his position, but these claims have not been substantiated).

Hewer, who never married (but he did apparently have a special attachment to Pepys wife Elizabeth who was of a similar age), owned a house near The Strand which became the Admiralty Office when he followed Pepys from the Navy Board. Pepys lived with him in the house when he was at the Admiralty.

He also owned other properties, including a country retreat on Clapham Common which he bought in 1688. It was here that Pepys lived in during his latter years (and where he died in 1703).

Hewer was the executor of Pepys’ will and kept his library – including, of course, his famous diary until his own death on 3rd December, 1715. He was buried in St Paul’s Church, Clapham. In an odd twist, his estate was left to his godson Hewer Edgeley but only on the condition that he change his surname to Hewer, becoming Hewer Edgeley-Hewer.

Hewer is depicted in a painting by Godfrey Kneller (1689) now in the National Maritime Museum’s collection. It was a pair with another painting by Kneller of Pepys.

WHERE: Samuel Pepys: Plague, Fire, Revolution is at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich (nearest DLR station is Cutty Sark; nearest railway stations are Greenwich and Maze Hill; and nearest river pier is Greenwich); WHEN: 10am to 5pm daily; COST: £12 adults/£6 children WEBSITE: www.rmg.co.uk/see-do/exhibitions-events/samuel-pepys-plague-fire-revolution-exhibition.

For more on Pepys, see Margarette Lincoln’s book Samuel Pepys: Plague, Fire, Revolution.

Advertisements

Over the past couple of months our special Wednesday series has looked at “10 small, ‘secret’ and historic gardens in central London”. So we’re finishing the series by taking a quick look back at the 10 gardens we featured (and providing a single point where you can find any you may have missed)…

10 small, ‘secret’ and historic gardens in central London…1. Goldsmiths’ Garden…

10 small, ‘secret’ and historic gardens in central London…2. Whittington Garden…

10 small, ‘secret’ and historic gardens in central London…3. St Dunstan in the East Garden…

10 small, ‘secret’ and historic gardens in central London…4. St Mary Aldermanbury Gardens…

10 small, ‘secret’ and historic gardens in central London…5. Seething Lane Garden…

10 small, ‘secret’ and historic gardens in central London…6. Red Cross Garden, Southwark…

10 small, ‘secret’ and historic gardens in central London…7. St Swithin’s Church Garden…

10 small, ‘secret’ and historic gardens in central London…8. Postman’s Park…

10 small, ‘secret’ and historic gardens in central London…9. Garden of Rest, Marylebone…

10 small, ‘secret’ and historic gardens in central London…10. Geffrye Museum Gardens…

Do you have a favourite? Or maybe there’s a ‘small, secret and historic’ garden we didn’t mention that you love (and we may mention in a future special)?

 

Seething-Lane-Garden

This small, simply laid out garden in the City of London is redolent with history.

It was once the site of the Navy Office, the workplace of diarist Samuel Pepys, and it was in the garden of this building that he and Sir William Penn buried their wine and parmesan cheese for safety during the Great Fire of London in 1666.

The office survived the Great Fire but was, oddly enough, destroyed by fire only a few years later in 1673 (there is a blue plaque commemorating it in the garden) and a new office, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, was built here in the early 1680s before it was demolished in 1788.

Seething-Lane-Garden2It’s due to its association with Pepys (who also lived in the street and was buried in the nearby church of St Olave Hart Street) that it boasts a bronze bust of him which was erected by the Samuel Pepys Club in 1983, designed by Karin Jonzen and funded by public subscription. It was presented to the garden by Fred Cleary who played an instrumental role in encouraging green spaces in the Square Mile in the 1970s.

The garden, which was laid out in about 1950, is also notable for its beds of red roses, planted to commemorate the deal struck in 1381 in which the Sir Robert Knollys was belatedly granted permission for a footbridge his wife had built over Seething Lane. She had done so contrary to planning rules while he was away fighting with John of Gaunt (ostensibly so she could avoid the dust of the street when crossing from her house to her rose garden), and so when he returned, the City of London Corporation allowed the bridge (now long gone) to remain, but only in exchange for the symbolic “penalty” of one red rose a year.

The occasion is still marked each June in a ceremony overseen by the Company of Watermen and Lightermen of the River Thames in which a red rose is plucked from the garden and delivered to the Lord Mayor of London at Mansion House.

WHERE: Seething Lane Garden, Seething Lane, City of London (nearest Tube stations is Tower Hill); WHEN: Daily; COST: Free; WEBSITE: www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/green-spaces/city-gardens/Pages/default.aspx.

Where is it?…#55

January 25, 2013

Where-is-it--#55

Can you identify where in London this picture was taken? If you think you can, leave a comment below. We’ll reveal the answer early next week. Good luck!

Well done to Jennifer and Parktown, this is indeed the gateway to the church of St Olave Hart Street, located on the corner of Hart Street and Seething Lane in the City of London. The church – which has a history going back to at least the 13th century – is named after St Olaf of Norway and, as mentioned, is indeed, burial place of the diarist Samuel Pepys. Charles Dickens referred to the church as “St Ghastly Grim” thanks to this rather macabre gateway. For more on the history of the church, see our earlier post here.

One of a few London churches to have escaped the Great Fire of 1666 (the flames are said to have come within 100 metres before the wind changed direction), St Olave Hart Street is named after the patron saint of Norway, St Olaf – a figure more known for his ability as a warrior than as a saint.

King Olaf II was King of Norway in the early 11th century and an ally of the Saxon King, Ethelred the Unready. The Norwegian king won the thanks of the English after he fought alongside Ethelred against the Danes in 1014 in what some refer to as the Battle of London Bridge.

According to some, the church was built on the site of where the battle was fought – many also believe the battle was also the inspiration for the nursery rhyme, London Bridge Is Falling Down, for it was during that battle that Olaf, who was helping Ethelred retake London, is credited with using his longships to pull down London Bridge in a effort to thwart the Danish occupiers.

The church, meanwhile, was rebuilt a couple of times in the Middle Ages, when it was said to have been known as St Olave-towards-the-Tower. The church which now stands on the site was built in 1450 with the distinctive red brick on the tower added in the early 18th century.

Having survived the Great Fire in 1666, the church was not so fortunate during the Blitz when it was struck by German bombs. It was subsequently restored with King Haakon VII of Norway attending the re-opening in the mid-1950s (there is a stone laid in front of the sanctuary which he brought from Trondheim Cathedral).

Other features inside include a recently returned 17th century bust of a prominent physician Dr Peter Turner – part of a monument which went missing after World War II, it resurfaced at an auction in 2010.

The church’s most famous parishioner was the 17th century diarist Samuel Pepys who lived and worked in the nearby Naval Office (for more on Pepys see our earlier entry here). The door through which he would have entered the church is marked with a 19th century memorial.

Pepys and his wife Elizabeth are both buried in the church (the memorial Pepys commissioned for her is still there) as is his brother John. Samuel Pepys’ life is commemorated at a service held close to the day he died – 26th May – each year.

Others associated with the church include Sir William Penn, an admiral and father of the William Penn who founded Pennsylvania in what is now the United States, and Charles Dickens, who gave it the name “Ghastly Grim” thanks to the skulls above its Seething Lane entrance.

St Olave’s is also the chapel of the The Clothworker’s Company, The Worshipful Company of Environmental Cleaners and Trinity House, a charitable organisation dedicated to the safety, welfare and training of mariners established by Royal Charter from King Henry VIII in 1514.

WHERE: Corner of Hart Street and Seething Lane in the City (nearest Tube stations are Tower Hill and Monument). WHEN: See website for detailsCOST: Free; WEBSITE: www.sanctuaryinthecity.net/St-Olaves.html

A London tradition which has its origins in the fourteenth century, the Knollys Rose Ceremony surrounds the presentation of a single red rose to the Lord Mayor of London at Mansion House.

The ceremony, which was held in the City yesterday, relates to a judgement of 1381 in which the fine was the annual payment of a single red rose.

The fine was levied after Lady Constance Knollys, the wife of prominent citizen Sir Robert Knollys, bought a property opposite her own in Seething Lane and then added a footbridge linking the two without first gaining planning permission (it’s suggested that she bought the property which had previously been used as a threshing ground because she was annoyed with the constant chaff in the air).

Following discovery of her breach, it was agreed that she would pay the annual ‘peppercorn rent’ of a single red rose from the new property’s garden to the Lord Mayor.

Lady Constance’s footbridge is long gone but the tradition of paying the annual rent was revived last century and is now presided over by the Company of Watermen and Lightermen of the River Thames.

The ceremony starts at the church of All Hallows by the Tower and then involves a procession to Seething Lane Gardens (a modern garden close to where the original may have been; the gardens were once the site of the Navy Office) where the Master of the Company of Watermen and Lightermen snips off a rose before heading on to Mansion House where it is presented to the Lord Mayor on a velvet altar cushion from All Hallows.

The ceremony usually takes place on the second Monday in June.

A navy administrator and an MP who lived in London for much for the 17th century, it is for his remarkable diary – filled with reflections on great events and the intimate goings on of daily life – that Samuel Pepys is renowned around the world.

Born the son of a tailor in Salisbury Court, Fleet Street (the site is now marked with a plaque), on 23rd February, 1633, Pepys (pronounced ‘peeps’) attended St Paul’s School before moving on to Cambridge University. After graduation, he entered the household of one of his father’s cousins, Sir Edward Montagu, as a secretary around 1655 – the same year he married Elisabeth de St Michel.

Under the patronage of Sir Edward – after he became the Earl of Sandwich – Pepys was appointed Clerk of the Acts to the Navy Board – a task which saw him playing a key role in shaping the English fleet which fought (unsuccessfully) in the Second Anglo-Dutch War (1665-1667).

In 1673, he became Secretary to the Admiralty and the same year was elected an MP for Castle Rising in Norfolk (he later became an MP for Harwich). Pepys also served as president of the Royal Society from 1684-1686, and even visited Tangier where he was involved in the evacuation of the short-lived English colony there. He was imprisoned twice in later years – at least once on suspicion of supporting the Jacobites – but the charges were dropped and he retired at the age of 57 in 1690.

In 1701 he moved out to a house in Clapham and lived there until his death on 26th May, 1703 (his wife Elisabeth had died many years earlier in 1669 and they’d had no children). His extensive library – including his six volume diary – were bequeathed to Magdalene College at Cambridge.

Despite an illustrious public career, it is his diary for which Pepys is most celebrated. Covering the years from 1660 to 1669 (he only stopped writing for fear he would go blind), it records his reactions to such monumental events as Charles II’s coronation (he was present as a youth at the beheading of Charles I), the Great Plague of London in 1665 and the Great Fire of London the following year as well as intimate details from his personal life including how he spent his leisure time, his various illnesses and his sexual liaisons. Written originally in a form of shorthand, it was first published in 1825 – and only fully published in 1976 – and has since gone on to enthral and entertain millions around the world.

Among places in London which still hold a Pepys connection are St Bride’s Church (he was baptised there), All Hallows by the Tower (it was in the tower from which Pepys watched the Great Fire), St Olave’s on Seething Lane (pictured above) where Pepys and his wife are buried (he was living in Seething Lane when he started the diary and St Olave’s served as his parish church between 1660 and 1674). Further down Seething Lane, there is a bust of Pepys in the gardens which now cover the Navy Office where Pepys once lived and worked.

There is also an exhibition on Pepy’s in Prince Henry’s Room at 17 Fleet Street (the building dates from around 1610 and was a pub when Pepys was alive), although it is currently closed.  An online version of Pepys’ diary can be found at the website Pepys’ Diary. For more on Pepys’ life, we do recommend Claire Tomalin’s best-selling biography Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self.