In 1698, Peter I was in London to acquire some personal insights into how the shipbuilding industry could be organized and run. A large group of his countrymen was with him whose aim, as declared, was to also observe, take notes, and learn. To accommodate Peter and his retinue, King William III asked famous English writer John Evelyn to lend his three-storied opulent mansion known as the Sayes Court to the visitors for a couple of months. During their conversation, Peter’s pet monkey jumped at the King and history is silent whether Peter apologized for it or not. But it turned out just the beginning. John Evelyn describes what happened next, and it is better to quote his first-hand impressions. First, there was a message from Evelyn’s bailiff, John Strickland, who wrote to his employer: “There is a house full of people, and right nasty. The Tsar lies next your library, and dines in the parlour next your study…” Then there was the following petition to the King right after Peter I left for Moscow: “That your petitioner did some time since take the house of John Evelyn Esquire, called Sayes Court at Deptford, and is bound by agreement to keep the same (together with the gardens), &c., in good and sufficient order and repair. And to leave them in the same at the expiration of his Term. And so it is (may it pleas your honours), that, his Czarish Majesty coming to your petitioner about three months ago, did request the use of his house, during the time of his stay in England, as also the furniture in it, as it stood. He freely consented thereto, and immediately removed his family out of it, and gave him possession. Soposing it might be a pleasure to his good master the King, and that he would have used his house, goods, and gardens otherwise than he finds he has; which are in so bad a condition that he can scarcely describe it to your honours; besides much of the furniture broke, lost, and destroy’d. Your petitioner, therefore, humbly prays that your honours will please to order a survey upon the house, &c., to see what damage he has sustained and that reparation be made him, that so he may not be a sufferer for his kindness”. The publishers of Evelyn’s Diary mention one other damage that hurt John Evelyn the most: “When the Czar of Muscovy came to England, in 1698, proposing to instruct himself in the art of shipbuilding, he was desirous of having the use of Sayes Court, in consequence of its vicinity to the King’s dockyard at Deptford. This was conceded; but during his stay he did so much damage that Mr. Evelyn had an allowance of £150 for it. He especially regrets the mischief done to his famous holly hedge, which might have been thought beyond the reach of damage. But one of Czar Peter’s favorite recreations had been to demolish the hedges by riding through them in a wheelbarrow.” That fence took John Evelyn more than 20 years to grow.
List of things that were needed to repair the damage done to the mansion: