Thursday, December 30, 2010

Finding the Pitts

In an earlier post this week, part one of my wanderings through the Wesleyan section of the Symonds Street cemetery, I found this stone cross (left) -- belonging to an Anglican burial, out of place there on the grave site for the Gribble family.

Along came Sandy, who with additional info in the comments section, pretty well set down the challenge (in a nice way, don't get me wrong) of finding William Augustus Dean Pitt's true resting place. Hey, if anyone knows about cemeteries, it's Sandy. So, knowing I'd have to do some more photography in one of the scariest parts of Auckland personal-safetywise (Symonds Street Cemetery is home to the homeless and the spooky among the city's community)  anyway -- my curiousity called to me -- I said I'd go looking.

The result is -- yes, Sandy, I've found the Pitts (and I'm still in one piece!). Here they are:

Their graves are at left of this shot, right next to Governor William Hobson's resting place (they weren't removed in the great tidy up around Hobson's grave which set up the present day tourist attraction, thankfully).

His Excellency Maj.-General George Dean Pitt was Lieutenant-Governor of New Ulster (the North Island, before the days of the Provincial Councils) from 3 January 1848 (sworn in 14 February 1848) until his death on 8 January 1851.

Death of His Excellency Lieutenant- Governor Pitt.

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 — " three-score years and ten " — and having had his declining days cheered by a solace especially sweet in a land so far away from that of his birth, the presence and anxious care of a numerous and affectionate-family circle.

On the afternoon of Wednesday, a Government Gazette Extraordinary was issued, announcing the lamented event, and stating that in consequence of it, no business would be transacted at the Public Offices, and they would remain closed until the remains of His Excellency should have been interred. The spirit of the direction thus given with regard to the Public Offices, was spontaneously acted on —or rather anticipated — throughout the town, on most of the shop windows in which shutters were immediately put up. The colours of the ships in the port were also exhibited half-mast high, as was, of course, the Union Jack at Fort Britomart. The Funeral was fixed to take place at three o'clock on Thursday, according to a programme which also was published in the Gazette Extraordinary. About that hour, amidst the firing of minute guns from Fort Britomart, the procession moved forward in the following order :

The number of attendants at the Funeral included in the last-named class, was very large indeed, extending for a long line of road; while crowds of spectators were gathered at those localities from which a view of the procession could best be obtained, so that it might seem as if Auckland had sent out almost its whole population to manifest, in one way or another, an interest in the melancholy occasion. At the entrance of the Burying Ground, the Body was met by the Rev J F Churton, Colonial Chaplain and Chaplain to the Troops, by whom the sublime Funeral Service of the Church of England was read.

The remains were deposited in a grave near that of Governor Hobson, in a plain black coffin, having no ornament beyond the simple plate on which was inscribed :
George Dean Pitt, K. H.
Died January 8th, 1851.
Aged 70.

While the grave was being filled in, thirteen minute guns were fired from field-pieces brought up for the purpose. The 58th Regiment then fired three volleys, and the final military honours to the deceased having thus been completed, the proceedings terminated.

The first commission in the army borne by the deceased gallant Officer was dated June 4, 1805; he became Lieutenant on the 5th of December in the same year, — Captain on the 10th of August 1809, and Major on the 13th of January 1814. On the 18th of April, 1822, he was appointed to the Lieutenant-Colonelcy of the 80th Regiment. His subsequent steps of promotion were a Colonelcy on the 10th of January 1837, and the rank of Major-General on the 9th of November 1846.

The deceased had seen much service, having been engaged at the capture of the Danish West India Islands in 1807, and of Martinique in 1809. He served also in the Peninsula from 1811 to 1814, and was engaged in the most memorable operations of those eventful years, including the battles of Albuhera, Vittoria, Pampeluna, and the Pyrenees, and also the siege of Badajoz. He was subsequently employed as one of the Inspecting Field Officers in Great Britain, and then appointed to the command in New Zealand.

His entrance on the Lieutenant-Governorship of this Province took place on the 14th February, 1848, the Governor-in-Chief having appointed him to that office pursuant to the authority vested in him by the Charter of 1846. 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)

And here is what is left of William Augustus Dean Pitt's headstone. I've let David Verran of Auckland Central Library know (David does great tours of the cemetery during our Heritage Festival each year), and hopefully whoever handles things at the cemtery maintenance-wise will be able to rectify things for the younger Pitt.

Update 28 November 2011:
I received an email today from Garth Cockerill, a descendant of George Dean Pitt's sister. He's looking for further information on the family, and I have his permission to publish his email to me.

"I read with interest your article concerning George Dean Pitt.  Have you any information on his parents?

"As I understand it - he was one of two children born to  Miss Patience Dean, fathered by George Pitt, the Second Baron Rivers, in Swallowfield, Hampshire, ENG.  The Baron Rivers never married.

"The children were Susannah Rivers, and George Dean.  This has never been proven, though many attempts have been made to verify the relationship between Miss Dean and George Pitt - the upper classes were very adept at 'cleansing' records.

"It is interesting that both children came out to the Antipodes - Susannah married a John Vincent in England, and they came out to Australia in 1823, where they raised their family.  And, of course, George came to NZ in a military situation.

"If you have any further information I would be very interested to hear from you.  I am descended from Susannah, albeit a few generations ago.

"Your article on the burial of George Dean Pitt was most fascinating, and the photos add to the story. Thank you.

"Regards, Garth Cockerill, Napier, NZ."


  1. Ohhh that is so awesome Lisa! Well done you :-))) and it's hilarious because i've seen those myself earlier this year LOLOL! Never clicked probably because i don't think i ever took photos to put them onto flickr therefore the name never stuck in my head! That's hilarious :-)

    Thanks for being a brave girly! Didn't mean for you to go hunting by yourself!


  2. Hey, no worries. You sent through the links to the plans, so I thought -- hey, why not? Glad I did. David Verran has emailed the person responsible for the cemetery area -- hopefully something can be done in the new year.

  3. That is just fabulous :D a satisfying outcome!

  4. Do you still have the contact details of Garth Cockerill, Napier, NZ? If so, may I garnish this information from you please.

    Christopher Strachan (

    1. I've forwarded your email to him, Christopher. Hopefully, he'll get back to you soon.

  5. I am a descendant of Susannah. I have seen a painting of Major General George Dean Pitt and there is no mistaking the physical similarities he has with my family, including myself. I suppose the only way to prove the familial connection is to DNA test.

    1. Hi,

      What is your descent from Susannah?


  6. Hi all,
    Can anyone tell me where the info. on Miss Dean and her children has come from ? On the family Search website it says Patianse Dean was baptised by John & Susanah Dean at Swallowfield on 24/09/1749 but I cannot find any records to substantiate this.
    Any info. would be much appreciated.

    1. Hi, please contact me at