The Pitts and Prettejohn and Harris Families of South Hams

Nicholas and Elizabeth Prettejohn Pitts had nine children, all of whom were born at South Allington House. Two sons died in infancy and a daughter died aged about 24. She had some physical or mental deficiency and special financial provisions were made for her during her lifetime.

The Pitts family followed the social convention of the time when naming their children. This meant that children were given additional Christian names which were derived from the family names of the other landowning families in the region from whom either (or both) Elizabeth and Nicholas were directly or indirectly descended. It was a common practice of the time to marry first cousins, so it was often the case that both marriage partners had the same forebears. This was certainly the case with both the Pitts and the Prettejohn families. And in some instances this can cause considerable confusion. For example there is another Elizabeth Prettejohn Pitts. The second Elizabeth Prettejohn Pitts and Nicholas Pitts have a common great-great-grandfather, Laurence Pitts, who was born in 1660. Elizabeth Prettejohn Pitts (nee Harris), a primary focus of this web site, is only a Pitts by marriage to Nicholas Pitts wheras the other Elizabeth Prettejohn Pitts was the daughter of John Pitts of Stokenham. However both these people are also descended through the Prettejohn family. To add to the confusion, both Elizabeths in this case were born about the same time (one in 1813 and the second in 1814) and they both died in the same year, 1877.

The Prettejohn family name (sometimes spelt Pretyjohn or Prettijohn) first appeared during the 16th century in the vicinity of Stokenham. Over the centuries the family have expanded to many other locations in South Hams and in more recent times ever further afield. (See Prettejohn by Peter Cowell)

The Harris family who are the focus of this family research (i.e. Thomas, father of Elizabeth Prettejohn Pitts) were essentially a Loddiswell-based family and were known to have been  minor landowners in the Aveton Gifford area at that time. (Harris is a common family name in Devon, as elsewhere). There is virtually no information available concerning Thomas Harris of Great Gate. Who was he? What lands did he farm? Who were his parents and siblings (if any)? The family ‘myth’ is that the Thomas Harris in this instance was a direct descendent from Sir Thomas Harris of Aveton Gifford, but so far there is no evidence to support this contention. Does anyone have any information about this branch of the family??

The Lambles were a Chivelstone family as were the Clarkes.

It was a feature of these times that children were often named after the more affluent relatives in the hope that when those relatives died they would bequeath some of their real or personal property to the children so named. In the case of Elizabeth Prettejohn Pitts (nee Harris) this convention certainly paid dividends. (See the Will of Walter Prettejohn and Walter Lamble Prettejohn)

Prettejohn Family Plaque in St. Sylvester's Church, Chivelstone
St Sylvester's Church, Chivelstone
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