PITT, Matthew (1576-1624), of St. Edmund Street, Weymouth, Dorset and Cricket Malherbie, Som.
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Family and Education
bap. 1 Sept. 1576, 2nd s. of Richard Pitt (d.1622) of Weymouth, merchant, and his 1st w. Margaret, da. of John Baily of Nether Cerne, Dorset. m. (1) 1597, Christian, da. of John Barnard of Downside, Shepton Mallet, Som., 1s.;1 (2) 1600, Philippa (admon. 4 Feb. 1689), da. and coh. of John Daniel of Beaminster, Dorset, 3s. (2 d.v.p.) 8da.2 d. 18 Apr. 1624.3 sig. Mathew Pytt.
Pitt’s ancestors settled at Causeway, Radipole, just outside Weymouth, by the end of the fifteenth century. They became wealthy merchants, and Pitt’s father and elder brother both served as mayor of Weymouth. His uncle, John Pitt, sat for Bridport, Dorset in the 1604-10 Parliament, but the family was apparently not closely related to the Pitts of Blandford Forum, Dorset, who also supplied two Members during this period.7 As a younger son, Pitt probably inherited only some watermills at Causeway and a few houses in Weymouth. However, he too flourished as a merchant, trading with France and North America, and by 1602 he could afford to purchase a country estate at Cricket Malherbie, Somerset.8 While this step paved the way for his formal recognition as a gentleman during the heralds’ visitations of 1623, Pitt actually described himself as a merchant throughout his life. Maintaining a household at St. Edmund Street, Weymouth, he became an active member of the borough’s corporation.9 As mayor in 1610 he presided over the parliamentary by-elections occasioned by the death of his uncle, Thomas Barfoot, and the retirement of Robert White.10
During his second mayoral term a decade later, Pitt was authorized to withhold part of Weymouth’s levy for the government’s expedition against the Algerian corsairs, on the grounds of the borough’s poverty. He subsequently converted some of this money to his own use.11 This behaviour was presumably not widely known when he was returned to Parliament as Weymouth’s senior Member in December 1620. As a novice Member he made little impact on the Commons, being named to just one committee, on the bill concerning lighthouses (27 Feb. 1621).12
Pitt retained his seat at the 1624 parliamentary election, whereupon the corporation resolved to pay him wages of 3s. 4d. a day.13 Although he attracted no appointments during this session, he attended three meetings of the legislative committee concerning fishing rights in North American waters.14 Pitt presumably helped to provide the Commons’ grand committee on trade with a letter from Weymouth complaining about the new imposition on groceries. He certainly informed the committee on 6 Apr. that his constituents were being overcharged by the collectors of the pretermitted custom on cloth, an issue which probably affected him personally.15 Pitt died 12 days later, and was buried in London. The writ for the consequent by-election was ordered on 26 April.16
Pitt had drawn up his will on 10 Oct. 1623, designating Cricket Malherbie as his preferred final resting place. He divided his lands there between his surviving sons, though all his Dorset property descended to the elder of the two. His seven unmarried daughters were each assigned dowries of £400, while he bequeathed £5 and £2 respectively to the poor of Weymouth and Cricket. One of the will’s overseers was his son-in-law Francis Crossing*.17 Although the Crown had no right to the wardship of Pitt’s estates, four inquisitions post mortem were taken on them during the next eight years, each return incorrectly giving his death-date as 30 Apr. or 1 May 1624. No other member of this family is known to have sat in the Commons.18
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Authors: John. P. Ferris / Paul Hunneyball
- 1. Hutchins, Dorset, ii. 480.
- 2. PROB 11/144, f. 250; 11/179, f. 170v; Hutchins, 480.
- 3. William Whiteway of Dorchester (Dorset Rec. Soc. xii), 62.
- 4. C219/35/1/121; Hutchins, ii. 438.
- 5. Hutchins, ii. 431.
- 6. Dorset RO, Weymouth corp. order bk., f. 90.
- 7. Hutchins, ii. 480; Dorset Tudor Subsidies ed. T.L. Stoate, 105; H.J. Moule, Docs. of Bor. of Weymouth and Melcombe Regis, 56, 95, 131, 137.
- 8. C142/688/22; E190/869/6; C54/1719.
- 9. Vis. Som. (Harl. Soc. xx), 4; PROB 11/144, f. 250; Dorset RO, Weymouth corp. order bk., f. 58.
- 10. C219/35/1/119, 121; Hutchins, ii. 480.
- 11. APC, 1623-5, p. 374; SP14/115/57.
- 12. CJ, i. 529b.
- 13. Dorset RO, Weymouth corp. order bk., f. 93.
- 14. C.R. Kyle, ‘Attendance Lists’, PPE 1604-48 ed. Kyle, 221.
- 15. ‘Spring 1624’, p. 194; ‘Nicholas 1624’, ff. 115v-16.
- 16. Whiteway Diary, 62; CJ, i. 775a.
- 17. PROB 11/144, f. 250r-v.
- 18. C142/425/78; 142/470/20; 142/488/82; 142/688/22.