George Frederick Pitt was baptized at Holy Rood church on 19 February 1766. He and his elder brother, William Henry Pitt (c.1759-1823), were illegitimate sons of Nathaniel St Andre. Their mother was Mary Pitt, a maid servant in the house of St Andre. The two brothers were given their mother's surname. St Andre died in 1776, aged 96 years. A wealthy man, he left the bulk of his estate jointly to his two base-born sons. He also left instructions that they were to be "instructed in every academical accomplishment such as fencing, dancing, music and horsemanship" and to be educated "for some lucrative public employment and honourable profession". Both brothers entered the army. George Frederick became an officer in the South Hants Militia: gazetted lieutenant on 30 July 1792 and captain on 24 February 1795. He resigned his commission on 24 November 1813. A water colour of George Frederick in full uniform by Robert Dighton (1752-1814), dated c.1804, is in the Royal Collection. He was also a deputy lieutenant of Hampshire. William Henry became a cornet in a highly prestigious cavalry regiment: the 10th (Prince of Wales's Own) Regiment of Light Dragoons on 10 August 1779, promoted successively to lieutenant (23 February 1782), captain (13 May 1786) and major (10 December 1793). Beau Brummel joined the regiment as a cornet in June 1794.
George Frederick lived in Southampton or its immediate neighbourhood until his death on 4 April 1835. We know that he lived in the Polygon in 1795 and, according to Lawrence Burgess, later lived in Millbrook. Indentures in Hampshire Archives and Local Studies (23M58/668 and 669) show that in 1795 he leased, from Sir Charles Hill of Mottisfont, Bart, wharves, quays, storehouses, a malthouse yard and dwelling houses in Eling and a parcel of meadow in the east part of Eling marsh. George Frederick was buried in Chilworth church on 14 April 1835 and was laid in the family mausoleum, adjacent to the south nave wall, built a few years earlier for the interment of his elder brother, buried on 27 December 1823, aged 64 years. At his death, William Henry was resident in Laverstoke. The connection with Chilworth possibly came through Peter Serle, whose family had been lords of the manor since the 18th century. Serle was a fellow officer with George Frederick in the South Hants Militia, becoming Colonel-Commandent in October 1806. The church was rebuilt by Serle in 1812, the same year that George Frederick donated a collection of churchplate: two cups, a flagon, a standing paten and an almsdish. By his will - dated 17June 1828 - he also left an annuity of £100, the interest of which was to be applied in the distribution of bread at Easter and Christmas. The annual ceremony was still being performed in the early 20th century.
Nathaniel St Andre left a sizable collection of paintings and a library of over a thousand books to his sons. In 1818, George Frederick sold the books on medicine and surgery to the Royal College of Surgeons for £152. The residue of the library was donated in September 1831 to the mayor, bailiffs and burgesses of the town and county of the town of Southampton "in order to encourage the pursuit of literature and general information amongst the inhabitants of the town". It was housed, largely forlorn and unloved, in the Audit House, overseen from May 1849 by a bust of the donor bequeathed by John Rushworth Keele, mayor at the time of the original donation. It formed the core of the free town library established in 1857. George Frederick was elected a burgess of Southampton on 23 December 1831 in recognition of his donation both of the library and of a collection of paintings which went to adorn the walls of the council chamber. This was in contradiction of a council resolution of 28 October 1831 that no resident of the town should be elected to such a honorary position.
A Catalogue of the Pitt Collection, by City of Southampton, Public Libraries Committee, (introduction by L A Burgess). (HS/lt)
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