Czar Street, SE8

Place Name

Peter the Great (June 9, 1672 – February 8, 1725) or Pyotr Velikiy, was the nightmare tenant and Czar of Russia, who came to Deptford in 1698. It was here that he saw a Royal Navy Fleet Review while staying at Sayes Court, while on tour as part of the Grand Embassy. It was here that Peter also studied shipbuilding at the royal dockyards and later went on to learn about English techniques of city-building that he would use to great effect at Saint Petersburg. These intellectual pursuits besides did not stop the young man and his party kicking up a storm. Sayes Court, had been chosen as it was adjacent to the Deptford Dockyard. They had subleased the property from John Benbow, who was at the time renting it from John Evelyn. The Russian party did great harm to both house and grounds. Sir Christopher Wren, the royal surveyor, added up the bill. It totalled £305 9s 6d and included £3 for “wheelbarrows broke by the Czar”. The damage was so extensive that: “No part of the house escaped damage. All the floors were covered with grease and ink, and three new floors had to be provided. The tiled stoves, locks to the doors, and all the paintwork had to be renewed. The curtains, quilts, and bed linen were ‘tore in pieces.’ All the chairs in the house, numbering over fifty, were broken, or had disappeared, probably used to stoke the fires. Three hundred window panes were broken and there were ‘twenty fine pictures very much tore and all frames broke.’ The garden which was Evelyn’s pride was ruined. On his departure, Peter gave his mistress, Letitia Cross, £500 to thank her for her hospitality. Cross said it was not enough while Peter replied that he thought her overpaid. The Czar left England on April 21, 1698.


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