The diary of John Evelyn

Regular posts from the diary of John Evelyn

Month: October 1641 (page 1 of 2)

Thursday 31 October 1641

On the 31st of that month (unfortunate for the Irish Rebellion, which broke out on the 23rd1), I was one and twenty years of age.

  1. Upon which day was planned the surprise of Dublin Castle and the rising in Ulster.  -AD 

Wednesday 16 October 1641

I went to see my brother1 at Wotton.

  1. more than likely George -GS 

Sunday 13 October 1641

The next morning by Sittingbourne, I came to Rochester, and thence to Gravesend, where a light-horseman (as they call it1) taking us in, we spent our tide as far as Greenwich. From hence, after we had a little refreshed ourselves at the College (for by reason of contagion then in London we balked2 the inns), we came to London, landing at Arundel stairs3. Here I took leave of his Lordship, and retired to my lodgings in the Middle Temple, being about two in the morning, the 14th of October.

  1. According to Smyth’s Sailors Word-Book, this is “ an old
    name for the light boat, since named gig.” –AD 

  2. Avoided, gave the go-by to.  –AD 

  3. Arundel Stairs provided access to Arundel House, home of the Earl of Arundel, from the Thames. Austin Dobson writes in a footnote “[the stairs] were at the bottom of Arundel Street, near the present Arundel Hotel.”  

Saturday 12 October 1641

About midnight, we weighed; and, at four in the morning, though not far from Dover, we could not make the pier till four that afternoon, the wind proving contrary and driving us westward: but at last we got on shore, October the 12th.

From Dover, I that night rode post to Canterbury. Here I visited the cathedral, then in great splendor; those famous windows being entire, since demolished by the fanatics1.

“South Prospect of Canterbury Cathedral”- by Wenceslaus Hollar (circa 1655) Credit: Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts

  1. In 1643, Richard Culmer, a fanatical divine, known as “Blue Dick,” was commissioned by the Parliament to destroy the stained glass of Canterbury Cathedral. –AD 

Friday 11 October 1641

From hence, the next day, I marched three English miles toward the packet boat, being a pretty frigate of six guns, which embarked us for England about three in the afternoon.

At our going off, the fort, against which our pinnace anchored saluted my Lord Marshal with twelve great guns, which we answered with three. Not having the wind favorable, we anchored that night before Calais.

“Caletum, sive Calesium, vulgo Cales” (Calais)- by Braun & Hogenberg, (1598) Source: & used with permission.

Thursday 10 October 1641

I went by wagon, accompanied with a jovial commissary, to Dunkirk, the journey being made all on the sea sands. On our arrival, we first viewed the court of guards, the works, the townhouse, and the new church; the latter is very beautiful within; and another, wherein they showed us an excellent piece of “Our Savior’s Bearing the Cross.”1 The harbor, in two channels, coming up to the town, was choked with a multitude of prizes.

“Duynkercken a Septent – Dunkerka a Meridies” (Dunkirk)- by Blaeu J (1649) Source: & used with permission.


  1. Probably The Church of St. Eloi which was burned in 1558 with reconstruction started in 1567 – GS 

Wednesday 9 October 1641

The 9th, we arrived at Ostend by a straight and artificial river. Here, with leave of the captain of the watch, I was carried to survey the river and harbor, with fortifications on one side thereof: the east and south are mud and earth walls. It is a very strong place, and lately stood a memorable siege three years, three months, three weeks, and three days1. I went to see the church of St. Peter, and the cloisters of the Franciscans.

“Ostenda Obsessa et Capta” (Ostend)- by Blaeu J (1649) Source: & used with permission.

  1. The Siege of Ostend was a three-year siege of the city of Ostend during the Eighty Years’ War and one of the longest in history. Described as a “long carnival of death”, it is remembered as the bloodiest conflict of the war, and culminated in a Spanish victory by General Spinola. It is said “the Spanish assailed the unassailable; the Dutch defended the indefensible.” -Wikipedia. Austin Dobson remarks “From 1601 to 1604, when it finally yielded to Spinola, but only by command of the States-General, who, owing to its obstinate resistance, had gained their ends. ‘ 

Tuesday 8 October 1641

I passed by a boat to Bruges, taking in at a redoubt a convoy of fourteen musketeers, because the other side of the river, being Contribution-land, was subject to the inroads and depredations of the bordering States. This river was cut by the famous Marquis Spinola, and is in my judgment a wonderful piece of labor, and a worthy public work, being in some places forced through the main rock, to an incredible depth, for thirty miles. At the end of each mile is built a small redoubt, which communicates a line to the next, and so the whole way, from whence we received many volleys of shot, in compliment to my Lord Marshal, who was in our vessel, a passenger with us. At five that evening, we were met by the magistrates of Bruges, who came out to convey my Lord to his lodgings, at whose cost he was entertained that night.

“Bruges” by Antonius Sanderus (1641) Source: Wikipedia

The morning after we went to see the Stadt-house and adjoining aqueduct, the church, and market-place, where we saw cheeses and butter piled up in heaps; also the fortifications and graffs, which are extremely large.

Tuesday 8 October 1641

Being the morning I came away, I went to see the Prince’s Court, an ancient, confused building, not much unlike the Hofft, at the Hague: there is here likewise a very large hall, where they vend all sorts of wares. Through this we passed by the chapel, which is indeed rarely arched, and in the middle of it was the hearse, or catafalque, of the late Archduchess, the wise and pious Clara Eugenia. Out of this we were conducted to the lodgings, tapestried with incomparable arras, and adorned with many excellent pieces of Rubens 1 old and young Breugel2, Titian, and Stenwick3, with stories of most of the late actions in the Netherlands.

The Palace of Coudenberg and it’s gardens by Lucas Vorsterman (1657) Source: eBay listing.

By an accident we could not see the library. There is a fair terrace which looks to the vineyard, in which, on pedestals, are fixed the statues of all the Spanish kings of the house of Austria. The opposite walls are painted by Rubens, being an history of the late tumults in Belgia: in the last piece, the Archduchess shuts a great pair of gates upon Mars, who is coming out of hell, armed, and in a menacing posture; which, with that other of the Infanta taking leave of Don Philip IV., is a most incomparable table.

From hence, we walked into the park, which for being entirely within the walls of the city is particularly remarkable: nor is it less pleasant than if in the most solitary recesses; so naturally is it furnished with whatever may render it agreeable, melancholy4, and country-like. Here is a stately heronry, divers springs of water, artificial cascades, rocks, grots; one whereof is composed of the extravagant roots of trees, cunningly built and hung together with wires. In this park are both fallow and red deer.

From hence, we were led into the Menage, and out of that into a most sweet and delicious garden, where was another grot of more neat and costly materials, full of noble statues, and entertaining us with artificial music; but the hedge of water, in form of lattice-work, which the fountaineer caused to ascend out of the earth by degrees, exceedingly pleased and surprised me; for thus, with a pervious wall, or rather a palisade hedge of water, was the whole parterre environed.

There is likewise a fair aviary; and in the court next it are kept divers sorts of animals, rare and exotic fowl, as eagles, cranes, storks, bustards, pheasants of several kinds, and a duck having four wings. In another division of the same close are rabbits of an almost perfect yellow color.

There was no Court now in the palace; the Infante Cardinal, who was the Governor of Flanders, being dead but newly, and every one in deep mourning.5

At near eleven o’clock, I repaired to his Majesty’s agent, Sir Henry de Vic, who very courteously received me, and accommodated me with a coach and six horses, which carried me from Brussels to Ghent, where it was to meet my Lord of Arundel, Earl Marshal of England ((As already stated at p. 19, the Earl had brought Marie de Médiicis to the Continent. In February, 1642, he left England again for good, ostensibly acting as escort to Henrietta Maria and Princess Mary (see post, under August, 1645). –AD)),  who had requested me when I was at Antwerp to send it for him, if I went not thither myself.

Thus taking leave of Brussels and a sad Court, yet full of gallant persons (for in this small city, the acquaintance being universal, ladies and gentlemen, I perceived had great diversions, and frequent meetings), I hastened toward Ghent. On the way, I met with divers little wagons, prettily contrived, and full of peddling merchandise, drawn by mastiff dogs, harnessed completely like so many coach horses; in some four, in others six, as in Brussels itself I had observed. In Antwerp I saw, as I remember, four dogs draw five lusty children in a chariot: the master commands them whither he pleases, crying his wares about the streets. After passing through Ouse, by six in the evening, I arrived at Ghent. This is a city of so great a circumference, that it is reported to be seven leagues round; but there is not half of it now built, much of it remaining in fields and desolate pastures even within the walls, which have strong gates toward the west, and two fair churches.

Map of Ghent by Unknown (1534)

Here I beheld the palace wherein John of Gaunt6 and Charles V. were born7; whose statue8 stands in the market-place, upon a high pillar, with his sword drawn, to which (as I was told) the magistrates and burghers were wont to repair upon a certain day every year with ropes about their necks, in token of submission and penance for an old rebellion of theirs; but now the hemp is changed into a blue ribbon. Here is planted the basilisco, or great gun, so much talked of. The Lys and the Scheldt meeting in this vast city, divide it into twenty-six islands, which are united by many bridges, somewhat resembling Venice. This night I supped with the Abbot of Andoyne, a pleasant and courteous priest.

(Evelyn may have made an error with the dates between 6th – 8th October.  He skips from the 5th to the 7th and then includes the 8th twice.  It’s possible that this day refers to the 7thth October -GS)

  1. he [Rubens] was court painter to the Archduke and his wife 

  2. Pieter Brueghel the Younger and his father Pieter Bruegel the Elder – GS 

  3. possibly one of the  Dutch painters with the surname Steenwijk including Hendrik van Steenwijk I and II as well as Harmen Steenwijck -GS 

  4. Evelyn probably means “retired,” “suited to contemplation.” –AD 

  5. Ferdinand of SpainGovernor of Flanders from 1633 to 1641, on the 9th November in which latter year he died at Brussels. He was the third son of Philip III., and brother of Philip IV. –AD 

  6. In 1338-39 it had been the residence of Edward III., and thus became the birthplace of Queen Philippa’s son-AD 

  7. John of Gaunt or Ghent was born in St Bavon Abbey -GS 

  8. It was destroyed in 1792; and its site is now occupied by a bronze statue of Jacques van Artevelde, by P. Devigne-Quyo (1863) –AD 

Monday 7 October 1641

We arrived at Brussels at nine in the morning. The Stadt-house, near the market place, is, for the carving in freestone, a most laborious and finished piece, well worthy observation. The flesh-shambles1 are also built of stone. I was pleased with certain small engines, by which a girl, or boy, was able to draw up, or let down, great bridges, which in divers parts of this city crossed the channel for the benefit of passengers. The walls of this town are very entire, and full of towers at competent distances. The cathedral is built upon a very high and exceeding steep ascent, to which we mounted by fair steps of stone. Hence I walked to a convent of English Nuns, with whom I sat discoursing most part of the afternoon.

Antique map of Brussel – Bruxelles by Braun & Hogenberg (1572)

(Evelyn may have made an error with the dates between 6th – 8th October.  He skips from the 5th to the 7th and then includes the 8th twice.  It’s possible that this day refers to the 6th October -GS)

  1. The term “flesh-shambles” likely refers to the shelves used to display wares at the market’ the phrase is probably from the Anglo-Saxon Fleshammels (literally ‘flesh-shelves’), the word for the shelves that butchers used to display their meat. -GS 

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