Thomas Pitt (also known as Camelford, Camelford)

Thomas Pitt, 1st Baron Camelford, was a politician and an amateur architect active in the 18th century. He was born at Boconnoc, Cornwall, England on 3 March 1737, the only son of Thomas Pitt of Boconnoc, the elder brother of William Pitt, the 1st Earl of Chatham, and Christian Lytttelton, the daughter of Sir Thomas Lyttelton, Baronet of Hagley. Pitt was educated at Marylebone, Middlesex, from 1744 and later, financed by William Pitt and his maternal uncle Sir Richard Lyttelton, at Clare College, Cambridge from where he graduated in 1754 and received his M.A. in 1759.

In 1760, after accompanying Lord Kinnoull on his embassy to Lisbon, Pitt travelled around Portugal and Spain, observing Gothic and Moorish architecture with John Earl of Strathmore and Philip Francis. He later spent some time in Italy, where he stayed with his uncle Sir Richard Lyttelton and with Sir Horace Mann, as well as in Germany.

Upon the death of his father in 1761, Pitt inherited the family estate at Boconnoc in addition to the borough of Old Sarum and parts of Okehampton, Devonshire. Pitt entered Parliament as a member for the Old Sarum in December that year, a post in which he remained for the next 7 years.

In March 1762, Pitt took a small house in Twickenham, Middlesex, England which he deemed to be the 'Palazzo Pitti'. From here he is known to have both advised Horace Walpole on his interiors at nearby Strawberry Hill, to which he was a frequent visitor, as well as to design ornaments for both the Gallery and Chapel there. He joined the Dilettanti Society on 1 May 1763.

It was at this stage that Pitt appears to have embarked on a career as an amateur architect designing, in 1763, a conservatory, Gothic cottage, and rock bridge at Park Place, near Henley-on-Thames, for General Henry Seymour Conway, a cousin of Wapole's and, a year later, the Palladian Bridge at Hagley in Worcestershire, England. At Stowe House in Buckinghamshire, England Pitt designed both the Corinthian Arch (erected 1765-6) and parts of the south front of the house (rebuilt between 1772 and 1777). Later, at Boconnoc, he added between 1771 and 1772 a new south wing to the house and an obelisk, erected in memory of his uncle Sir Richard Lyttleton (died 1770), in the park.

Pitt married Anne Wilkinson (born 1738, died 1803) in 1771. He continued to build, as well as to advise on interior decorations of, country houses, museums and churches, concentrating in particular on the Gothic style. As well as the Gothic, Pitt was also adept in the classical and employed Sir John Soane, whom he had met in Rome, to undertake some repairs and alterations to several of his buildings.

From 1774 to 1784 Pitt was a Member of Parliament for Okehampton. In 1784 he was created Baron Camelford. In 1788 he was in Rome and it was in Italy that he spent much of his remaining years.

Pitt died in Florence, Italy on 19 January 1793. He was buried in Boconnoc in March. He was survived by his wife and their two children, Thomas (born 1775, died 1804) and Anne (born 1772, died 1864).

Bibliography

Cassidy, Brendan, 'Gavin Hamilton, Thomas Pitt and statues for Stowe', Burlington Magazine, 1221 (2004), pp. 806-14.

Colvin, Howard, A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects 1600-1840, 3rd edition (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1995), pp. 758-759.

National Archives, National Register of Archives, Person Details, 'Pitt, Thomas (1737-1793) 1st Baron Camelford, GB/NNAF/P139162', <http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/nra/searches/subjectView.asp?ID=P22974> [accessed 28 April 2008]

Thorne, Roland, ‘Pitt, Thomas, first Baron Camelford (1737–1793)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, Sept 2004, online edition, Jan 2008) <http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/22335> [accessed 28 April 2008]