Image of Samuel Pepys


Lifetime: 1633 - 1703 Passed: ≈ 320 years ago


Diarist, Administrator



Samuel Pepys

Samuel Pepys was an English diarist and naval administrator. He served as administrator of the Royal Navy and Member of Parliament and is most famous for the diary he kept for a decade. Pepys had no maritime experience, but he rose to be the Chief Secretary to the Admiralty under both King Charles II and King James II through patronage, diligence, and his talent for administration. His influence and reforms at the Admiralty were important in the early professionalisation of the Royal Navy.

Pepys was born in Salisbury Court, Fleet Street, London, on 23 February 1633, the son of John Pepys (1601–1680), a tailor, and Margaret Pepys (née Kite; died 1667), daughter of a Whitechapel butcher. His great uncle Talbot Pepys was Recorder and briefly Member of Parliament (MP) for Cambridge in 1625. His father's first cousin Sir Richard Pepys was elected MP for Sudbury in 1640, appointed Baron of the Exchequer on 30 May 1654, and appointed Lord Chief Justice of Ireland on 25 September 1655.

Pepys was the fifth of eleven children, but child mortality was high and he was soon the oldest survivor. He was baptised at St Bride's Church on 3 March 1633. Pepys did not spend all of his infancy in London; for a while, he was sent to live with nurse Goody Lawrence at Kingsland, just north of the city. In about 1644, Pepys attended Huntingdon Grammar School before being educated at St Paul's School, London, c. 1646–1650. He attended the execution of Charles I in 1649.

He was imprisoned on suspicion of Jacobitism from May to July 1689 and again in June 1690, but no charges were ever successfully brought against him. After his release, he retired from public life at age 57. He moved out of London ten years later (1701) to a house in Clapham owned by his friend William Hewer, who had begun his career working for Pepys in the admiralty. Clapham was in the country at the time; it is now part of inner London.

Pepys lived there until his death on 26 May 1703. He had no children and bequeathed his estate to his unmarried nephew John Jackson. Pepys had disinherited his nephew Samuel Jackson for marrying contrary to his wishes. When John Jackson died in 1724, Pepys's estate reverted to Anne, daughter of Archdeacon Samuel Edgeley, niece of Will Hewer and sister of Hewer Edgeley, nephew and godson of Pepys's old Admiralty employee and friend Will Hewer. Hewer was also childless and left his immense estate to his nephew Hewer Edgeley (consisting mostly of the Clapham property, as well as lands in Clapham, London, Westminster and Norfolk) on condition that the nephew (and godson) would adopt the surname Hewer. So Will Hewer's heir became Hewer Edgeley-Hewer, and he adopted the old Will Hewer home in Clapham as his residence. That is how the Edgeley family acquired the estates of both Samuel Pepys and Will Hewer, sister Anne inheriting Pepys's estate, and brother Hewer inheriting that of Will Hewer. On the death of Hewer Edgeley-Hewer in 1728, the old Hewer estate went to Edgeley-Hewer's widow Elizabeth, who left the 432-acre (175-hectare) estate to Levett Blackborne, the son of Abraham Blackborne, merchant of Clapham, and other family members, who later sold it off in lots. Lincoln's Inn barrister Levett Blackborne also later acted as attorney in legal scuffles for the heirs who had inherited the Pepys estate.

Pepys's former protégé and friend Hewer acted as the executor of Pepys's estate.

Pepys was buried along with his wife in St Olave's Church, Hart Street in London.

Books by Samuel Pepys

The Diary of Samuel Pepys 1663 Cover image

The Diary of Samuel Pepys 1663

Civil War Social political Life London Memory

On 1 January 1660 Pepys began to keep a diary. He recorded his daily life for almost ten years. This record of a decade of Pepys's life is more than a million words long and is often regarded as Britain's most celebrated diary. Pepys has been called...

The Diary of Samuel Pepys 1664 Cover image

The Diary of Samuel Pepys 1664

War Struggle Life Relationships Memory

On 1 January 1660 ("1 January 1659/1660" in contemporary terms), Pepys began to keep a diary. He recorded his daily life for almost ten years. This record of a decade of Pepys's life is more than a million words long and is often regarded as Britain'...

The Diary of Samuel Pepys 1665 Cover image

The Diary of Samuel Pepys 1665

Politics Culture Experiences Historical Memory Criticism

It is a fascinating primary source document chronicling the everyday life of the English administrator and member of Parliament, Samuel Pepys, during a pivotal year in English history. This book provides an intimate look into the thoughts and experie...