Pepys and Deal

The great diarist Samuel Pepys had many connections with Deal.

Our story starts in 1660 and a new Royalist Council in charge in England with a mission to bring Charles II from Holland to rule in conjunction with Parliament. Sir Edward Montagu of Hitchinbrooke was appointed General-at-Sea by the new Council and in turn he wanted family round him (those that could be trusted) so he asked Samuel Pepys to be his Secretary, his first appointment in the Navy.

Pepys began organising the fleet to set sail to fetch the King. He accompanied it, first on the Swiftsure then on the Naseby. They set sail on the 5th to reach the Downs on the 9th April and anchored in the middle of the English battle fleet. Pepys became very well acquainted with Montagu and became altogether in his master’s confidence. As secretary (officially Exchequer Clerk), Pepys had power to word the commissions used in appointing new Vice and Rear Admirals and so, between them, Montagu and Pepys purged the navy hierarchy of Anabaptist captains. Each commission they awarded resulted in Pepys receiving a gift by way of thanks from the person increasing his wealth enormously. Pepys had staff on board – a clerk and a boy – to deal with the correspondence, etc. There were letter packets to and from London daily. His clerk named Burr was an annoyance because he kept disappearing on shore at Deal. Pepys also became firm friends with the chaplain on the ship, the Rev Edmund Ibbot who also became Rector of St Leonard's, Deal.

On the 30th April, Pepys’ Diary records

‘We took a boat and first went on shore, it being very pleasant in the fields. But a very pitiful town Deale is. We went to Fullers (the famous place for ale); but they had none but what was in the vat. After that to Pooles, a tavern in the town, where we drank; and so to boat again….’

The operations off Deal were all secret and Pepys had to dispense passes to various people negotiating with the King.

Come May 1st, there was no further need for secrecy because the King’s letter from Breda was read out to the House of Commons. He was at once invited to return and govern his native land.

Come the 11th May, the fleet set sail to go and fetch the King, having made necessary arrangements for his homecoming (a rich barge, silk flags, scarlet waistcoats, noise of trumpets and fiddlers). They left the Downs and, via Dover, sailed to Holland. A London pamphlet of the time brought the news of the fleet to the folks back home. They got to Holland after a few days and had a good deal of sight-seeing and were well received.

Delayed many days by a storm, they eventually made sail with the King on 23rd May, transporting him and the many Dukes, Lords and persons of great honour, to be received at Dover on the 24th May. The party sent to fetch the King were justly rewarded – a shower of Royal benevolence - £500 for the Naseby crew, £50 for Montagu’s servants. Patronage followed with Montagu and Pepys rising to greater rank. Montagu was made Earl of Sandwich in July, and Pepys (June 1660), was appointed Clerk of the Acts to the Navy Board, a key post in one of the most important of all government departments, the royal dockyards.

Continued Association with Deal

Pepys had married in 1655 into a French family who were in exile, living in Devon - the St Michel's. His wife Elizabeth and a brother Balthazzar ('Balty') and their father Alexandre and mother Dorothy.

In 1668 Balty St Michel – was appointed 'Muster-Master and Navy Agent' at Deal. In the 1670 Collection at St Leonards he is recorded and paid 2 shillings.

Alexandre de St Michel (Pepys Father in Law) died in Deal buried 28th July 1672 in St Leonard's Churchyard. The family were supported financially by Samuel Pepys after Elizabeth died continuing after Alexandre’s death.

The next 'Muster-Master and Navy Agent' at Deal was also appointed by Pepys and this time to Tom Edwards who had become acquanted with Pepys through their love of Music and had married Pepys maid Jane Edwards. He was at Deal from 1678 until his death in 1681.

I think the Muster-Master collected the Muster books from ships as they came into the Downs and sent them off by post to the Navy Office in London, so allowing the sailors to be paid off when they arrived in London. Letters are available from Balty to Pepys to this effect.

Research by Alan Buckman

Samuel Pepys The Man in the Making by Arthur Bryant
Samuel Pepys The Unequalled Self by Claire Tomalin
Mr Pepys of Seething Lane –