The Pitt family in Stratford sub Castle

Probably the family best-known in national history to live in Stratford was the Pitt family.  

Thomas Pitt (1653 - 1726), known as "Diamond Pitt", was born at Blandford, the son of the Rector of Blandford St Mary.  He made a siginificant fortune from the East India trade.   Like many merchants, he entered Parliament, sitting in 1689 for Old Sarum.  In 1691 he bought the Manor of Stratford and Old Sarum for £1,000 from the Trustees of James Cecil, 4th Earl of Salisbury, and thus obtained control of a nomination borough.  Such boroughs returned two members to Parliament but had small electorates and could be used by their patrons to gain unrepresentative influence within the unreformed House of Commons.  The nomination boroughs became known as Pocket or Rotten Boroughs and Old Sarum was the most notorious of them all.
(click to read our article about rotten boroughs)

Thomas Pitt lived at Mawarden Court 

In 1699 he became Governor of the Company of Fort St George in India and, in order to get his acquired riches back to England, he bought diamonds which were easily transported - hence his nickname of "Diamond" Pitt. 

He held the Old Sarum seat again for three further parliaments between 1710 and 1726.

 

(Attrib: image capture Apr 2009 Google streetview).

In addition to helping to restore St Lawrence Church, Thomas Pitt made several valuable gifts to it.  In 1713 he gave a new velvet pulpit cloth and cushion; a large silver flagon and chalice; a communion cloth, a large Bible and prayer book, the Royal Arms carved in high relief, and "likewise he beautified the Church, all at his own charge."  [1]

The west tower of the church bears the inscription 'THO. PITT ESQR BENEFACTOR ANNO 1711'.

Mawarden Court was only one of several properties that Thomas Pitt owned.  He died at his Swallowfield home in Berkshire in 1726 aged 73.

 

 

Thomas Pitt was the grandfather of William Pitt (the elder) first Earl of Chatham.  A blue plaque sited on the outside wall of Mawarden Court records that William Pitt 'spent part of his boyhood here'.

 

 

 

 

Sources:

[1] Cornelius Neale Dalton: The Life of Thomas Pitt (first published 1915) Cambridge University Press p576

http://www.berkshirehistory.com/bios/tpitt.html Accessed 4 April 2017

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rotten_and_pocket_boroughs Accessed 4 April 2017

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Pitt Accessed 4 April 2017