Why Samuel Pepys got out the silver after his escape from the Great Fire of London
PUBLISHED: 10:00 05 October 2019
Museum of London
A rare silver dinner plate belonging to the 17th century diarist Samuel Pepys has been acquired by the Museum of London and is now on public show.
It was unrecognised until recently as belonging to the famous diarist and Member of Parliament who fled the Great Fire of London in 1666 from his home near Aldgate.
Pepys is famous for his day-by-day account of the Great Fire which began at a bakery by London Bridge and lasted five days.
His own 10-room house at the Navy Office in Seething Lane, near Tower Hill, just escaped the spreading inferno by two blocks which eventually destroyed almost the entire square mile of the City.
Pepys fled eastward with his wife Elizabeth to Bethnal Green where rumour has it he buried some of his valuable possessions in a field behind the Blind Beggar.
The dinner server acquired by the museum, which bore the Pepys family's coat of arms, is one of only three items of silver plate known to have belonged to him and is now the only one on show in the country.
"We hope Pepys would appreciate seeing his silver on display with pride 300 years later," museum curator Hazel Forsyth said.
"This object is exceptionally rare to be able to identify the owner from the 17th century. The fact that it belonged to Samuel Pepys makes it even more special."
Pepys began his diary in 1660 which provides unique detail of 17th century London life. He writes everyday observations of interactions and customs with accounts of events such as the Great Plague of 1665 as well as the Great Fire and King Charles II's coronation.
Pepys expresses a passion for silver and would serve his dinner guests on silver plates rather than pewter.
His diary entry for April 8, 1667, reads: "I home and there find all things in readiness for a good dinner. We had twelve at table and a good and pleasant company and a most neat and excellent but dear dinner, but to see with what envy they looked upon all my fine plate was pleasant, for I made the best show I could."
The plate on display in the museum in London Wall has visible knife and fork scratch marks, so might have been used to serve supper to his guests.