Symonds Street Cemetery: Major General George Dean Pitt (K.H)

Major General George Dean Pitt (KH)


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Major-General George Dean Pitt. KH (1781-1851).

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Pitt was one of the major military figures in early colonial Auckland. His son and two of his sons-in-law were also military officers in Auckland in the 1840s.

He had been present at the Seige of Badajoz where Sir George Grey's father, Colonel Grey was killed.

The Grave of Major General George Dean Pitt and his son Lt William Augustus Dean-Pitt (1833-1890) lie directly adjacent to William Hobson's grave in the Anglican sector.

Major-General George Dean Pitt (1781-1851) was the Commander of the Military Forces in New Zealand and from the 3rd of January 1848 the Lieut.-Governor New Ulster (the North Island) until the 8th of January 1851 (his death).

During Grey's absences from Auckland he would have been the senior government Official in the Capital.

Pitt and Grey had known each other for years, indeed George Dean Pitt had been one of his father's friends and had been present at the Seige of Badajoz where Sir George Grey's father, Colonel Grey was killed. Lieutenant Colonel George Grey, of the 30th Regiment.

George Grey had never known his father (he was born just after his father's death) and it is probable that he viewed Dean Pitt as something of a father figure.

Interestingly it seems that George Dean-Pitt was illegitimate; probably being the child of George Pitt, Baron Rivers of Stratfield Saye (1751-1828), who never married, and a woman referred to as 'Mrs Dean' (Patianse Dean born 1749). As a 19 year old plumber and glazier he joined the Marines in 1797 as a private.

Through a great deal of hard work and application George Dean Pitt made his way through the Army ranks and achieved promotion after promotion. Being known as a 'protégée of Lord Rivers' was probably a great advantage.

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The Guelphic Order of Hanover.

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Pitt was a Knight of the Royal Hanoverian Order - this was only bestowed between 1815 and 1837 and thus is a comparatively rare award. It appears to have been in the personal gift of the monarch (as opposed to an official state decoration) and was superceded by the Royal Victorian Order.

The Order appears to have been usually awarded to relatives or people who had served the Monarch or the Monarchy in a very personal capacity - it therefore implies an intimate connection with either of the late Kings - George IV or William IV. As Pitt's presumed father (Lord Rivers) had been a very close friend of George IV since the 1780s the inference is probably correct.

As the Royal Hanoverian Order was technically a "foreign" title it seems the appellation "Sir" was not used, which is why the Camerons were always called General and Mrs Pitt. (The connection with Hanover had been formally severed in 1837 when Victoria ascended the throne of England - women could not rule in Hanover so the throne there had gone to a male relative).

In 1819 Pitt had been allowed, by Royal Licence, to adopt the surname Dean-Pitt, but it doesn't appear that he actually went by that name.

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Pitt had arrived with his family on the barque Minerva, (a 691-ton barque, Captain McBrath), on the 8th of October 1847 (his wife Susan Ballie had given birth to their youngest child Susan Augusta Dean-Pitt in Meerut, Bengal, India on May the 29th 1847) .

The Pitt residence was located near the top of Grey Street. Indeed the names given to both Pitt and Grey Street are probably directly derived from the fact that the two men resided in the area.

In 1848 three of Pitt's daughters got married; two of them married by Bishop Selwyn on the same day:

24th May 1848

On Tuesday, 23rd May, at St. Paul's Church. Auckland by the Rev. John F. Churton, J. H. Laye, Esq. Captain in H.M. 58th Regiment, second son of the late Lieut-General Laye, Royal Artilleiy, to Emilia Maria Dean, second daughter of His Excellency Major-General Dean Pitt, K.H., commanding the Forces in New Zealand.

22 November 1848

On the 18th November, at St. Paul's Church, Auckland, by the Right Rev. the Lord Bishop of New Zealand, Charles Lavallin Nugent, Esq., Captain in H.M. 58th Regiment to Charlotte Marcia, fifth daughter of his Excellency Major-General George Dean Pitt, K.H., commanding the Forces in New Zealand.

On the same morning, by the Right Rev. the Lord Bishop of New Zealand, George Hyde Page, Esq., Lieutenant in H.M. 58th Regiment, to Louisa, third daughter of his Excellency Major-General George Dean Pitt, K.H., commanding the Forces in New Zealand.


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As Commander Pitt was, amongst other things, in charge of the armed forces for most of the North Island, amounting to some 1,000 imperial troops and the 500 Fencibles in the Auckland pensioner settlements.

Pitt was 68 years old at the time he was sent out to New Zealand which seems rather old for an important military position in a frontier position. Presumably the British Government still had confidence in his abilities and Grey apparently concurred with them as he quickly appointed Pitt as Lieutenant-Governor of New Ulster.

On the other hand it is possible that Dean-Pitt's appointment to the New Zealand Command was seen as somewhat of a sinecure position carrying little actual responsibility.

It is likely that some of the workload was done by Robert Wynyard (his eventual successor) and his personal Secretary (His eldest son George Dean Pitt who was an officer in the 80th Regiment). What is certain is he got very ill very soon after his appointment.

Major-General George Dean Pitt died at the age of 70 in January 8th 1851. His Obituary stated he had been very ill for two years - which was actually most of his time as Lieutentant-Governor, and more or less admitted that his duties had been largely symbolic.

"It is our melancholy duty to record the death of His Excellency Major -General George Dean Pitt, K. H., Lieutenant-Governor of the Province of New Ulster, which took place at his residence in Princes-street at three o'clock on Wednesday morning last. For about two years past his health had been so broken down that the continuance of his life for any lengthened period could not reasonably have been anticipated; and when the final hour arrived, he expired without a struggle —having attained the period said to be allotted to human existence — "

"During the periods in which the Governor-in-Chief being absent, he wielded this authority, scarcely anything was called for beyond routine official acts, and few, if any, political associations are connected with his memory." (New Zealander 11 January 1851)

Upon news of Pitt's death on Wednesday morning most of the retail stores in town apparently closed up shop. Official notice was given that no business would be transacted in the Government Departments which also closed, and Fort Britomart and the Ships in port displayed the Union Flag at half mast until after the funeral the following day.

On Thursday the 9th of January Pitt was buried in the Symonds Street Cemetery with full military honours; the Colonial Treasurer, Colonial Secretary, and the Chief Justice were amongst the Pall Bearers. Robert Henry Wynyard was in charge of the Firing Party.

Grey was unfortunately not in attendance, doubtless due to yet another of his many absences from Auckland on official business. No mention is given of any of Dean Pitt's female family being present (or Lady Grey either) - at this period it was not unusual for women not to attend funerals especially military ones (often they would attend the church service but not follow the coffin to the gravesite).

His grave is located next to the tomb of Governor Hobson. His youngest son is buried with him; "William Augustus Dean Pitt (1833-1890), late of the 60th Rifles died 8 November 1890 aged 56 years".

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Pitt Family.

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Following Dean-Pitt's death most of the Dean-Pitt family returned to Britain, although at least two of his sons stayed on in Auckland; George Dean-Pitt junior and William Augustus Dean-Pitt.

George Dean-Pitt junior (1823-1883) was appointed Lieutenant-Colonel 'for special service' in the 1st Batallion Auckland Regiment of Militia. He became prominent in Australia in the enlistment of military settlers for the New Zealand government in Australia in 1863-64. His service in New Zealand ended in 1874.

Lieutenant-General George Dean-Pitt had, on the 22nd of November 1842, married Louisa Jones, (1816-1889) the natural daughter of Sir Horace Cholwell St. Paul, 1st Bt.

He was invested as a Companion, Order of the Bath (C.B.), and died at the Tower of London in 1883 as the Keeper of the Crown Jewels. Portrait of George Dean-Pitt by Major Thomas Bunbury (1791-1862) 80th Regiment.

His son Chowell Dean-Pitt (1844-1926) was the father of Captain William Tutepuaki Pitt (1877?-1937) of the 28th Maori Battalion (portrait) who served in the South African War, 1899-1902 and World War I, his mother was Maata Te Owai Pitt.

William Pitt with Princess Te Puea