The Fitt family

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Some of the Fitt family graves in the new churchyard at Ayot St Peter

Visitors to the churchyard often remark upon the large number of graves with the surname “Fitt” in the row nearest the lane.

The Fitt family became a local dynasty, and there are still family members living in the area today.

John Fitt (1803 to 1865)

The family originated from Norfolk and the Hertfordshire branch began when John Fitt moved from Norfolk to Hertfordshire. John was born in Coltishall, Norfolk, in 1803, the son of Spooner Fitt and his wife Amy (née Lee). Spooner and Amy married in Great Hautbois, Norfolk in 1799 and went on to have 14 children baptised in Coltishall. John was their fourth child and the third son.

John Fitt married Mary Platts on 1 February 1830 at St Mary’s church, Islington. Mary was born in Ashby de la Zouch, Leicestershire and baptised in the nearby village of Coleorton in 1804.

By 1831, John and Mary were living in Digswell, near Welwyn in Hertfordshire, and had started what turned out to be a large family. John was working as a gardener and their home was Digswell Rectory, presumably the staff quarters. By 1836 (when their son William was baptised at Digswell) their address had changed to “Whitehill Farm”. It is not known whether this was the farm in Ayot St Peter, or another property with the same name. By 1840 (when their son William was baptised) they had moved to Codicote.

Altogether John and Mary had ten children, and nine of them were sons:

* Joseph Henry was baptised in Digswell in May 1831 (see below)

* John was baptised in Digswell in May 1832

* Twins Reuben and Thomas were born in Digswell on 14 March 1834 and baptised there in May 1834. Both twins died later, whilst the family were living in Codicote – Thomas in 1840 aged 7, and Reuben in 1846 aged 12.

* William Pryor was baptised in Digswell in July 1836

* Matthew was baptised in Digswell in May 1838

* Septimus George was baptised in Codicote in August 1840; buried in Welwyn in 1863

* Robert was baptised in Codicote in March 1843; buried in Welwyn in 1864

* James was baptised in Codicote in July 1845, died aged 10 weeks and buried in Codicote

* Mary was baptised in Codicote in April 1847

The grave of John Fitt in St Mary’s churchyard, Welwyn. The inscription reads – “Sacred to the memory of John Fitt who died May 31st 1865 aged 62 years”.
The grave of John Fitt’s sons in St Mary’s churchyard, Welwyn. The inscription reads “Sacred to the memory of Septimus George Fitt born February 2oth 1840 died February 22nd 1863; also of Robert Fitt brother of the above who died October 25th 1864 aged 22 years”

The family were living in Welwyn by the time of the 1851 census. John was still employed as a gardener, a role he continued through the 1861 census. He died in Welwyn in 1865 and is buried there. His memorial in the churchyard at St Mary’s church in Welwyn  was recorded by the Welwyn Archaeological Society in the 1980s. The Society also recorded a memorial to two of his sons, Septimus George and Robert.

By the time of the 1871 census, John’s widow Mary was living in Camberwell with their daughter Mary, who had married Charles Adams. Mary died there in 1876 aged 72 and is buried in Camberwell Old Cemetery.

Joseph Henry Fitt (1831 to 1903)

The eldest son of John and Mary Fitt was Joseph Henry, born on 1 November 1830, who also worked as a gardener. He married Juliet Annie Marchant from Somerset on 27 October 1850 at St. John the Evangelist, Westminster, London. Juliet’s name was often recorded as “Julia”. Her widowed mother Elizabeth married James Offer (a gamekeeper) at St Saviour’s church, Southwark in 1842 and by 1851 was living at Rustling End, in Knebworth parish.

Joseph Henry and Juliet Fitt had fourteen children:-

Joseph Henry Fitt

* Amy Elizabeth (often transcribed as “Mary Elizabeth”) was born in December 1851 and baptised on 1 February 1852 at Welwyn

* James Henry was baptised in Knebworth in August 1853 – the family’s address was given as Welwyn

* Twins Charles Reuben and Matthew Thomas were privately baptised in Knebworth in September 1855. Again, the family’s address was Welwyn. Matthew Thomas was buried in Welwyn in January 1857.

* Joseph was born and baptised in Welwyn in August 1857

* Arthur was born in July 1859 and baptised in Welwyn in September 1859

* Julia was born in May 1861 and baptised in Welwyn in August 1861

* Unity Mary was baptised in Welwyn in January 1863

The grave of Joseph Henry and Juliet (Julia) Fitt in the old churchyard at Ayot St Peter. The inscription reads:- “Joseph Henry Fitt, born Feast of All Saints 1830, died Feast of St. Thomas 1903. Also Juliet, his wife, died 30 March 1911 aged 80”.

* Louisa Violet was baptised in Welwyn in November 1864

* Ida was baptised in Welwyn in December 1866

* Patience Emily was baptised in Welwyn in January 1869

* Bertha was baptised in Welwyn in December 1870

* Robert Frank was baptised in Welwyn in July 1873

* Septimus George was born in October 1876 and baptised in Welwyn in February 1877

By 1857 the family were living in the gardener’s cottage at The Frythe. In the 1871 census their son Joseph was a gardener’s boy

Joseph Henry Fitt of The Frythe died on 21 December 1903 aged 73, and was buried on Boxing Day in the old churchyard. Juliet died 30 Mar 1911 aged 80 and was buried on 5 April.

Joseph Fitt (1857 to 1939)
Panshanger House 1868

Joseph moved around to advance his career as a gardener. In the 1881 census he was living in Chesham, Hertfordshire, working as a gardener at Latimer House. He was working at Cassiobury Gardens in Watford by the end of 1883, as the banns for his forthcoming wedding were read there in St Mary’s church. His bride Anne Pring from Awliscombe, near Honiton, Devon had been working at Cassiobury as a dairymaid in the 1881 census. They married in Awliscombe on Boxing Day 1883. Anne’s younger sister Eliza (by then a young widow) married Joseph’s older brother Charles Reuben in 1886.

The Frythe 1877

Joseph and Anne Fitt started their married life in Cassiobury Park, where Joseph worked as a gardener. There must have been a year or so in Hampton Lucy, Warwickshire, where their son Arthur was born in 1889, but they were back in Hertfordshire – at Panshanger estate for the 1891 census. By the 1901 census the family had moved to Reigate, Surrey. It seems likely that there was a job in Whittlebury, Northants but by the 1911 census the family had moved to The Frythe where Joseph was head gardener. He may have taken over the role following the death of his father in 1903.

Exeter & Plymouth Gazette 19 January 1934

Joseph and Anne Fitt had ten children in total:-

* Annie Pring born 12 November 1884 and baptised at St Andrew’s Church, Watford on 7 December 1884 (Cassiobury Gardens)

* Joseph Henry baptised at St Andrew’s Church, Watford on 18 July 1886

* Louisa Ethel baptised at St Andrew’s Church, Watford on 31 July 1887

* Arthur James and Ernest George were both baptised on 2 August 1891 at Hertingfordbury. Arthur had been born in Hampton Lucy, Warwickshire in 1889 and Ernest in 1891 in Hertfordshire. Arthur died later the same year, aged 2 years. Ernest was killed in WW1 and is listed on the War Memorial

* Florence Alice baptised on 11 December 1892 at Hertingfordbury

* Marie May and Francis Arthur were both baptised on 8 March 1896 at Hertingfordbury, although Marie had been born in 1894.

Hertford Mercury and Reformer 10 February 1939

* Robert James was born on 16 March 1900 in Reigate, Surrey and baptised at Whittlebury, Northants on 31 August 1902

* William Edward was born on 18 September 1901 in Reigate, Surrey and baptised at Whittlebury, Northants on 31 August 1902

Joseph and Ann both died in the first half of 1939 – Joseph on 6 February and Ann on 16 April – both were aged 81. They are buried together in a double-width grave with in the new churchyard. The ashes of Dorothy Constance Fitt (née Sharp) the widow of Francis Arthur Fitt were buried in her parents-in-law’s grave in 1990. Francis had died in 1970.

Several children of Joseph and Anne (née Pring) are buried in the new churchyard –

Louisa Ethel Fitt (born 1887) who died 24 September 1964 aged 77

Florence Alice Fitt born 1893; died 1978 and her sister Marie May Fitt born 1894 and died 1980

Robert James Fitt born 1900 and died 1972. The ashes of Robert’s wife Elizabeth Jane Purves Fitt (5 December 1911 to 18 January 1998) are in the same grave but not recorded in the burial register.

William Edward Fitt, born 18 September 1901, died 24 October 1987 and his wife Kathleen (née Uffold) born 17 August 1908, died 29 January 1968. Their son and daughter-in-law are buried in another grave in the same row.

Robert James Fitt (1900 to 1972) in Welwyn FC around 1930. He is third from the right in the back row.