Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Pitt, Richard (1765–1826)

by John Reynolds

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

Richard Pitt (1765-1826), constable and settler, was born on 3 March 1765 at Tiverton, Devon, England, son of John Pitt and his wife Ann, née Cross. He married Jane Tanner (1768-1836) of Tiverton; they had four children. The eldest remained in England with Mrs Pitt when the father, with one daughter, Salome, and two sons, Philip and Francis, sailed as free settlers in the Ocean with David Collins's expedition which settled by the Derwent in 1804. In December he received a 100-acre (40 ha) grant from Governor Philip Gidley King and began farming at Stainsforth's Cove (New Town), a district for which he was also appointed constable. Pitt made an unspectacular but sound job of each occupation. He grew wheat and barley, built up herds of sheep and pigs, and by 1809 he and his children were no longer victualled by the government. He leased grazing land at the Green Ponds (Kempton) district, where his children also located grants. A bushranger, William Martin, confessed on 21 April 1815 that he had stolen sheep 'from Richard Pitt at the Green Ponds Water Holes'.

Pitt retained his farming interests, but gave increasing attention to official duties as district constable at New Town. The Hobart Town Gazette, 27 December 1817, noted 'the vigilance and attention of this peace officer in apprehending absentee convicts'. On 14 February 1818 Pitt was appointed chief constable for Hobart Town. In recommending him to Governor Lachlan Macquarie for the appointment, Lieutenant-Governor William Sorell called Pitt one of the most respectable settlers. Pitt seized the opportunity of his new standing to ask for a free passage to the colony for his wife. Macquarie sent the request to London, but Mrs Pitt did not come. She died at Tiverton on 18 May 1836.

In evidence to Commissioner John Thomas Bigge in May 1820 Pitt said his salary of £50 from the Police Fund was supplemented from fees on warrants at 2s. each, and summonses at 1s. each, although half the warrant fees went to the magistrate's clerk. He had fifty-two constables under his charge, but he personally examined goods and baggage in carts taken north to Port Dalrymple by free settlers, and every evening it was his duty to clear the inns of prisoners after bell-ringing at 8 p.m.

This old and most respectable colonist remained chief constable until his death at Hobart on 14 May 1826. He was buried in St David's burial ground and his tombstone was among those preserved to mark the jubilee of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1951. His character, reputation and sense of public responsibility were somewhat rare in the young colony.

The three children who came with him in the Ocean all settled in Van Diemen's Land.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vol 4, series 3, vols 1-3, 6
  • Hobart Town Gazette, 27 May 1826.

Citation details

John Reynolds, 'Pitt, Richard (1765–1826)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/pitt-richard-2554/text3479, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 25 April 2019.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

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