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IN THE NEWS
TOUR OF THE MONTH
ON THIS DAY IN LONDON
18th January 1973 Born today: Crispian Mills, London, vocalist/guitarist (Kula Shaker)
18th January 1950 Christopher Fry's Venus Observed, premieres in London
18th January 1884 General Charles Gordon departs London for Khartoum
Peter the Great trashed here
This is the house that Peter the Great destroyed while visiting.
Location: 146 Deptford High Street, London
Description: Sayes Court was an Elizabethan mansion which stood at the eastern end of what is now Sayes Court Park. It has historic and attractive gardens.
The Evelyn family were lords of the manor for many generations and its most famous member, John Evelyn, the diarist, lived there from 1652 to 1694.
It was John Evelyn's house when opened to Peter The Great, Tsar of Russia, in 1698 on his tour of Western Europe. He stayed here while studying shipbuilding at the royal dockyard.
The house, Sayes Court, suited Peter well because it removed him from crowded London. Large and beautifully furnished, it was close to the dockyards, where Peter could easily visit ships being built. He was especially keen to study the drawing of ship plans.
During their stay they caused a great deal of damage, and Evelyn was extremely unhappy. His estate steward reported that Peter's party, which was full of 'right nasty' people, had wrecked the house and garden. Carpets were left filthy with grease and ink, and many paintings looked as if they had been used for shooting targets. Locks and windows were broken, and every one of the fifty chairs in the house had vanished, probably burned on fires!
A very keen gardener, Evelyn was appalled by damage to his prized holly hedges, lovingly cared for over a 20-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, Sir 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.
Now all that remains is a rather run down park, but the layouts of fine gardens can still be seen.