From Guernsey to Norwich, 1682-style

Another interesting letter from the physician Sir Thomas Browne to his son, describing his beloved daughter Elizabeth's voyage from Guernsey in May 1682 to visit him in Norwich, in the King's yacht Monmouth. Browne died later that year.

Monday, May 29th, 1682

Dear Son,

My daughter Lyttelton¹ came to my house this day, about six o'clock in the morning; she came from Guernsey on Thursday last in the afternoon; and arrived at Yarmouth on Sunday, about five or six o'clock in the afternoon. She had a most pleasant passage, and was not sick all the while, though she could have been contented to have been sea-sick, as she was when she went from Portsmouth to Guernsey. When she came by Deal, by a ship that was going to Deal, she writ a letter unto you, and the master of the ship promised that he would put it into the post office of Deal; that as soon as you received it, you might write to my son Lyttelton, and give him notice that she was come safe as far as the Downs, on Saturday last. If they had come a day sooner, they had met with his Royal Highness: who I thought would have a tedious passage, in such disadvantage of winds as I told you. Captain Cotton, commander of the Monmouth² yacht, which attendeth on Garnsey, did not come to an anchor in Yarmouth road, but sailed into the haven's mouth, and came up the stream as far as Gorlston, and there anchored; then put out his boat, and the mariners rowed your sister up into the town; and she landed on the key and went to the Three Feathers, where she had a light supper provided, and came away by boat that night, and to Norwich by six o'clock, praised be God. She came not on shore all the way, which is a hundred leagues, nor cast anchor, but only two hours off of Lowestoft. When Captain Cotton had come so near as Gorlston, he discharged all his guns, and also a loud kind of gun, though but small, called paturaines, which had been taken from the Turks; whereupon, it being Sunday, a great many run out of the town to see what ship was come in, the greater part having never seen one of the king's yachts so near hand, and that newly trimmed and painted, took much delight to look upon it. Captain Cotton, having never seen Norwich, intends to be here tomorrow, to see the place, and then return with as much speed as the winds will give leave.

May 8th 1682

We hear from Guernsey on Saturday, by a letter dated April 27, when the Monmouth yacht is mended, and fitted, and returns to Guernsey by Captain Cotton, she intends to take the advantage of the first wind, and they expect the yacht daily. If the Duke of York were at sea, he had a tempestuous night, and the like he had before he got to Yarmouth. I believe the Monmouth yacht is fitted at London or Portsmouth. My service to my cousins Cradock, cousins Hobbs, my Lady Adams, Madam Burwell, Mr. and Madam Suckling.

Two more letters from Sir Thomas, listing the fine qualities of Guernsey food. See also What's for hunting in 1610?

¹ Elizabeth Lyttleton was married to Captain George Lyttleton, Lieutenant-Governor from 1681-1683. He was appointed by the Governor, Christopher Hatton; his arrival coincided with the removal of Hatton to his family estates in Northamptonshire, leaving the Bailiff and Jurats in charge, with Lyttleton as Hatton's representative in the island. See Turner, H.D., 'Viscount Hatton and the Government of Guernsey', in the Report and Trans. of the Société Guernesiaise, 1969, pp. 415 ff. Elizabeth's commonplace book, which originally belonged to her mother Lady Dorothy Browne, is in the Cambridge University Library. Lyttleton remained in office until 1683 when he was replaced by Hatton's younger brother Charles. A year later, the government took over the choice of appointees and replaced Charles Hatton with a papist. Lyttleton's father-in-law, Sir Thomas Browne, was a great friend of John Evelyn, who was related to Hatton and with whom Evelyn seems to have shared very specific information about the origin of the Guernsey lily. There is an original letter from Browne in the Greffe collection, as well as a set of instructions from Hatton to Captain Lyttleton, dated 1681.

² HMS Monmouth, a "third-rate" provided by the King to serve the islands, built in 1667. Captain Andrew Cotton is mentioned many times in the letters and correspondence of Lord Christopher Hatton. In 1672 he was blown out of his bed by the explosion at Castle Cornet; unscathed, in 1678 he was commanding the sloop HMS Hound. Like Sir Thomas, Hatton was always unsure whether any of his mail would reach its intended recipients within a reasonable time, as the weather could hold up the ships in port up by months at a time. Captain Cotton was involved in a very violent brawl with members of the garrison in 1678: see Booth, Rosemary, "The Army and the Navy and Governor Hatton", from the Transactions of the Société Guernesiaise XXII (1), 1986, p. 62, based on documents in the Finch-Hatton collection.