South Allington House - 3
However, the transcription of the wills of Walter Prettejohn, Walter Lamble Prettejohn and Nicholas Pitts together with other associated family documents revealed certain anomalies from which some conclusions may be drawn.
One thing that was a little bizarre about the will of Nicholas Pitts drafted in 1862 (it was not executed until 1870) was that the greater proportion of the Pitts property in terms of land value and income, the farming lands in and around South Allington, were bequeathed to the younger son - Thomas Harris Pitts. Nicholas, the elder son, inherited the properties in and around Modbury and Loddiswell including the Whympstone farm and manor house. It is true that both sons took over the day-to-day control of the farming lands they both subsequently inherited, some years prior to the death of their father; but this does not explain the value differential. In practical terms Thomas inherited 75% of the total farm income. Nicholas also imposed on his younger son Thomas, the greater proportion of the charges against the estates. Rightly so. These charges were established, firstly, to repay a jointure, or financial commitment (reflecting the properties brought into the marriage by Elizabeth through the Prettejohn connections) between Nicholas and his wife Elizabeth which was secured by a marriage settlement prior to their marriage in 1833. The marriage settlement created an obligation on the part of Nicholas to ensure that his wife received certain lump sums, property and an annuity after his death. Secondly, the charges were to fund annuities for their daughters to ensure a degree of financial independence. In any case, it was unusual at that time among the gentry for the younger son take the 'home' property and manor house - in this case South Allington House.
To return to the issue of the "jointure". The definition of "jointure" is "an estate secured to a prospective wife as a marriage settlement in lieu of a dower". The wording of the will is “.... a jointure .... secured by the settlement executed previous to my marriage, and charged on certain of my lands situate at South Allington .....”. This strongly suggests that the South Allington property had come to Elizabeth from either the Prettejohns or the Harrises. But it seems we can discount the Harris connection because of the following:
In the Stokenham Occasional Papers Book 3 published by W.A. Roberts in 1981 there is an article called Prettejohn by Peter Cowell. The article gives some credence to the proposition that South Allington House and the adjacent lands came through the Prettejohn family, rather than the Pitts family. His source for the following extract is the Pitts family papers in the Devon Records Office. He says:
“…. The senior branch of the Prettejohn family descended from Nathaniel, the eldest son being called Nicholas in the four succeeding generations, the first of whom was the last to be described, when he was buried at Stokenham in 1684, as being of Dunstone. He had married into the March family of Chivelstone and from them it seems that some acres of land at South Allington came into the family.
“After Nicholas Prettejohn of the fourth generation died (in 1765) without issue the land at South Allington went to his brother Walter Prettejohn, and it was through Walter's daughter's daughter' (Elizabeth Prettejohn Harris) 'who married Nicholas Pitts, that the land there went to the Pitts family who retained it until the 1960's.' (When, about 1964, William Nicholas Charles Harris Pitts sold it to the then major tenants of the farm.)