Peter Pitts - Correspondance
Letters from Peter Pitts:
14 November 1999
Thank you for your letter of 9th November. I am very interested to hear that you now have the picture of my ancestor, which I believe is one of several that my wife and I sold following the death of my father in 1991.
The Pitts side of my family is the most difficult one to trace back, first appearing in the late eighteenth century when a Walter Pitts married a Prettejohn who lived at Northern Town and as far as I can gather had the present house built on the site of a much older building, the Prettejohn family had been in the area for a long time and my father had traced them back to the early seventeenth century.
I shall be away for a short time, but on my return will go to Stokenham church where the earlier members of the family are buried and take down some dates.
When I have made sure of some facts I will write to you again with more details.
Peter H. Pitts
5 December 1999
I have now had time to check various grave stones and monuments in the churches of Stokenham and Chivelstone where most of the Pitts and Prettejohn family are buried.
I enclose a family tree showing where I am and going back to my great, great grandfather. I rather think that it was his father who had the present South Allington House built on the site of a farm house which I believe was called “Cornish's” the foundations of which can be seen in the cellars of the present house.
Both the Pitts and Prettejohn families were as far as I can make out yeoman farmers who probably made money before the repeal of the Corn Laws, however there are tales handed down of involvement in the smuggling of spirits etc which was widespread along the Devon coast during the Napoleonic wars.
The land that went with South Allington was originally about 1000 acres, but my grandfather sold approximately 500 acres at the end of the Second World War.
Following a disagreement between us my father sold the house and remaining land in 1964, to the various tenants of the three remaining farms.
The house itself was sold to the tenant of the largest farm who went in for bed and breakfast accommodation. However, it became very “run down” until at his death it was purchased by the present owners Edward and Barbara Baker who have renovated it to a very high standard and offer accommodation to the large number of tourists who come to the area.
Apart from the South Allington branch of the family there was another branch of the family at Wympstone House at Modbury about twelve miles to the west which consisted of approximately 1200 acres. This was last held by my grandfather's eldest brother Nicholas who died in 1915. Great uncle Nicholas lost a lot of money due to investment in Germany before the First World War and by the time the estate was sold and death duty paid there was little left.
5 March 2000
Thank you for your letter and for the wine, which we rather thought must have come from you, but could not be quite sure. We have not drunk it yet but will probably have it at our ruby wedding at the beginning of April.
I am so glad that Elizabeth is giving you such pleasure. We live in a bungalow here which is very nice, but not suitable to hang large paintings of that type.
I am sorry that I do not have much detail of the Pitts family as such, though I do know that one of the Wympstone side of the family married a Miss Harris from Chantry House, at Aveton Gifford, near Kingsbridge, who was descended from Sir Thomas Harris who lived in the early seventeenth century, and is buried at Cornworthy near Totnes and has a very impressive effigy in the church.
I myself have been very interested in my grandmother's family, the Pelliers who came from the island of Jersey and could trace back their history to a French Huguenot who escaped persecution in Normandy, fled to Jersey in 1689, and his boat becoming wrecked, he was said to have landed with only one shoe and the clothes he wore. However he did well in Jersey and his descendents became wealthy ship owners running some of the biggest ships trading from the Channel Islands at that time.
Thanking you once again and wishing you all the best for the future.