Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Map of Deptford Strond hand drawn by John Evelyn

 John Evelyn lived in Deptford at Sayes Court from 1652. Evelyn inherited the house when hemarried the daughter of Sir Richard Browne in 1652. On his return to England at the Restoration, Evelyn had laid out meticulously planned gardens in the French style of hedges and parterres. In its grounds was a cottage at one time rented by master wood carver Grinling Gibbons. After Evelyn had moved to Surrey in 1694, Russian Tsar Peter the Great studied shipbuilding for three months in 1698. He and some of his fellow Russians stayed at Sayes Court, the manor house of Deptford. Evelyn was angered at the antics of the Tsar, who got drunk with his friends and, using a wheelbarrow with Peter in it succeeded in ramming their way through a fine holly hedge. Sayes Court was demolished in 1728-9 and a workhouse built on its site. Part of the estates around Sayes Court were purchased in 1742 for the building of the Admiralty Victualling Yard, renamed in 1858 after a visit by Queen Victoria as the Royal Victoria Yard. This massive facility included warehouses, a bakery, a cattleyard/abattoir and sugar stores, and closed in 1960. All that remains is the name in a public park called Sayes Court Park, accessed from Sayes Court Street off Evelyn Street, not far from Deptford High Street. The building known as Sayes Court that was destroyed during the Second World War was not the old home of John Evelyn, but the St Nicholas's parish workhouse built on its site in the 1720s. After the New Poor Law made it redundant in the 1830s the building had various uses, including that of an almshouse for Evelyn family servants and estate workers.

Map of Deptford, with annotations on population growth by John Evelyn

Original Map layout of Sayes Court.

When the black and white photograph above was taken from Czar Street c. 1910 it was set in an attractive park, but in the emergency of the First World War it was annexed by the army to enlarge its Supply Reserve Depot at the old cattle market. And in colour.....how it looks now........

Peter the Great's House. RENTED.

Evidently Peter and his work mates were not good tenants.
During their stay they caused a great deal of damage at the house and John Evelyn was not unhappy. His estate reported that Peter's partying, which was full of 'right nasty' people, had wrecked the house and garden. Carpets were left filthy with grease and ink, and many paintings were use as targets for shooting. Locks and windows smashed and of the fifty chairs left at the premises none could be found. Probably used to keep the fire going! A keen gardener, Evelyn was shocked by damage to his holly hedges, lovingly cared for over a twenty year period. Apparently Peter and his friends had played a riotous game which involved pushing each other through the hedges in wheelbarrows! The King's Surveyor, Christopher Wren was ordered to report on the damage, and recommended that Evelyn be paid £350 in compensation, a huge sum in the 17th century.

31 Albury Street.

Ink drawing from Fletcher's book (c1965) "London Nobody Knows" shows with the correct door brackets in place.