PITT, Joseph (?1759-1842), of Cirencester, Glos. and Eastcourt House, Crudwell, Wilts.
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Family and Education
b. ?1759, s. of Joseph Pitt, carpenter, of Badgworth, nr. Cheltenham, Glos. by w. Ann of Brokenburgh, Wilts. m. (1) Ann (d. 13 July 1792), da. of Andrew Daubeney of Bristol, Glos. 1s.; (2) Ann Orlidge (d. 11 July 1819) of Bristol, 4s. 2da.
Pitt was of humble origin and not connected with the distinguished family of the same name, although his tomb at Crudwell bears their arms:
He used to hold gentlemen’s horses for a penny; when, appearing a sharp lad, an attorney took a fancy to him, and bred him to his own business. Pitt soon scraped together a little money by his practice in the law, and by degrees entered into speculations as a brewer, a banker, a farmer, and a land-jobber. Everything has thriven with him. He has now a clear landed estate of £20,000 a year, and returns four Members to Parliament. He has besides two magnificent houses, one of the best libraries in the kingdom and £10,000 worth of pictures. On such a scale are things conducted in England ... tomorrow Pitt himself is returned for Cricklade ... by no means a rotten borough, but his property there is so great that he commands one seat.1
Thus the young lawyer, John Campbell, to his father, 13 Oct. 1812, after acting as assessor to Pitt, who was returning officer at Cirencester where he had made his fortune. By 1790 he was bailiff of the borough and from 1793 steward and clerk to the court of requests and had some influence in elections. His banking activities were at Cheltenham, as a partner in the house of Pitt, Gardner, Croome, Bowley and Wood, and from about 1810 in London, as a partner in Bosanquet, Beachcroft, Pitt and Anderson. His Cheltenham partner Gardner owned a brewery there and Pitt possibly had an interest in it. He had a sharp eye for advowsons.2
Pitt’s interest at Cricklade dated from his being the 1st Earl of Carnarvon’s steward at Chelworth (1793). He bought property there and in 1811 purchased most of Carnarvon’s property (the rest in 1815). When he offered himself as candidate at the next general election, 25 Oct. 1811, he informed the electors that they had known him for more than 30 years: ‘I am averse to great professions, from the facility with which they are made, and the frequency with which they are broken’.3 By January 1812 his success was considered as ‘certain’ and he came in unopposed. In addition, he purchased Edmund Estcourt’s interest at Malmesbury and nominated both Members. He was further negotiating the purchase of the interest of James Kibblewhite* at Wootton Bassett—the deal (said to have cost Pitt £22,000) was not completed until after the new Parliament met and then gave him another two nominations. With some exaggeration Lord Suffolk could write of Pitt to Lord Holland, 28 Mar 1812, that he was
a very strong instance why some reform in the representation is necessary. He will from a corrupt influence return 2 Members for Malmesbury, 1 for Cricklade, 1 for Cirencester and 1 for Wootton Bassett all including the votes in the town of Cricklade notoriously corrupt, and all this from his influence as an attorney, a banker, a land jobber and a money lender.4
Pitt was listed a supporter by the Treasury after his election and a steward of the Pitt Club in 1814, but he was not interested in politics as such, only in profitable investment. No speech of his is known, except that he presented the Malmesbury petition against the property tax on 1 Mar. 1816. He opposed Catholic relief throughout in 1813 and again in 1817. All his other known votes were with government; on the exiled Spanish Liberals, 1 Mar. 1815; on civil list questions, 13 Apr., 31 May 1815, 6, 24 May 1816; on the army estimates, 6, 8 Mar. 1816; for the property tax, 18 Mar. 1816; on the Admiralty question, 25 Feb. 1817; on government employment of spies against radicals, 5 Mar. 1818, and on the imprisonment of radical booksellers, 21 May. On 23 May 1817 he had taken six weeks’ leave of absence. He appeared on a ministerial dinner list of 1818.5
Pitt’s colleague Thomas Calley was quite wrong in supposing him the unpopular candidate in the contest for Cricklade in 1818: with ministerial backing, he headed the poll with ease. At that election he sold the nominations for Malmesbury to Lord Rosebery. His interest at Wootton Bassett was less secure: it had been contested at a by-election in 1816 and survived another in 1818, before crumbling at the next election. Pitt’s only known gesture in that Parliament was to vote against Tierney’s censure motion, 18 May 1819.
Pitt later damaged his fortune by speculative investment, notably in the development of Pittville, Cheltenham. His estates were sold before his death, but he left his family well provided for. He died 6 Feb. 1842, aged 83.6
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Authors: Lawrence Taylor / R. G. Thorne
- 1. Life of Lord Campbell ed. Hardcastle (1881), i. 286-7, 291.
- 2. Hilton Price, London Bankers, 19; PCC 1842, f. 125 (Pitt’s will).
- 3. Materials for a Hist. of Cricklade ed. Thomson, 164; Salisbury and Winchester Jnl. 4 Nov. 1811.
- 4. Add. 51826, Peterborough to Holland, 11 Jan. .
- 5. Add. 38366, f. 135.
- 6. Gent. Mag. (1842), i. 340.