William Baker Pitt

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William Pitt
Born William Baker Pitt
(1856-01-18)18 January 1856
Exeter, England
Died 21 November 1936(1936-11-21) (aged 80)
Bournemouth, England
Cause of death
Pneumonia
Occupation Vicar
Religion Church of England
Spouse(s) Alice Mary Kinneir
Children 5

Reverend William Baker Pitt (18 January 1856 – 21 November 1936) was the founder of Swindon Town Football Club and also curate of Christ Church, Swindon until 1881 and rector of Liddington from then on.

Early life[edit]

Pitt was born in Exeter, England. His father, Thomas, was a grocer of some standing in his local community. In 1861 the family was moderately well-off to the extent that they employed a servant and also a governess for William, who was 5 years old at the time.[1]

He chose to become an Anglican Clergyman rather than a grocer as his father had suggested to him, and he attended the London College of Divinity in 1879. He was ordained as a Deacon of the Church of England in 1879 with his first role being that of Curate of Christchurch, Swindon.[1] Lodgings in the town were provided in Bellevue Road by Frederick Osman, a grocer and business associate of his father.

Pitt, 23 years old at this point, moved into a parish in turbulent times with the Swindon Advertiser reporting on 29 March 1879 "The circumstances attending the leaving of curate after curate are too vividly remembered in the town to need recapitulation".[1]

In the same article; Dr Charles Ellicot, the Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol, regarded Christchurch as "the one black spot" in his Diocese.[1] The reason for this was that the Vicar of Christchurch, Henry Bailly, was an outspoken figure who frequently denounced powerful figures in the community. Amongst the Vicar's enemies were Member of Parliament and Lord of the Manor Ambrose Goddard and the editor of the Swindon Advertiser, William Morris.[1]

Pitt quickly settled into his new parish and established a good working relationship with Bailly and became a popular figure in the town. This was especially so amongst the younger members of the church through his involvement with the YMCA.

Football[edit]

After the arrival of the Great Western Railway in Swindon in the 1830s, Swindon's population soared from 1,200 to 19,000. This was divided between the communities of Old and New Swindon, with the majority in New Swindon where the GWR Works were located. Pitt used the formation of a football team to attempt to unite the communities.[1]

Whilst curate of Christ Church, the high church of Swindon, he was recorded as being the captain of Swindon Association Football Club in 1879.[2] Pitt had formed this club to provide recreation for the young men of his parish, part of the diocese of Clifton, which was a theme for the creation of many football clubs founded in this period with 'muscular Christianity' being the vogue.[3][4] The team played their only recorded match on November 29, 1879 against Rovers F.C.[5]

Pitt recalled the foundation of this club in speech given in September 1911 -

"He thought he might venture to say that he was the father of the Swindon Football Club. It was in the autumn of 1879 that some young fellows belonging to the Swindon factory met with him in the King William Street school to organise a club [...] They decided to call it the Swindon Association Football Club, but they found the name rather a mouthful to shout out, so they [later] changed the name to the Spartans. They played the first game on a field not far away, it being kindly lent by Mr Hooper Deacon, who was always a friend of sport."[2]

Pitt was still a member of the Spartans F.C. team when they played St. Mark's Young Men's Friendly Society on November 12, 1881, after which the two teams merged under the name Swindon Football Club.[3]

Appointed as the rector of Liddington in 1881, Pitt ceased his active involvement in the club, relating in 1911 (then a prebendary) -

"the rev. gentleman mentioned that his removal from Swindon caused his severance with the club"[2]

The team was renamed Swindon Town Football Club in 1883, but confusion as to the official date of establishment remained until 2007. The current club used the date of the 1881 match with St Marks, whilst some fans and researchers insist upon 1879. This led to the club's researcher and retail manager Paul Plowman integrating an "Est. 1879" tag onto the teams kit in 1995 which was removed in 1996.

The club officially recognised the 1879 establishment in 2007 and integrated the date onto the teams badge.

Liddington[edit]

Pitt left Swindon in 1882 to become Rector of All Saints' Church in Liddington.[1] He married Alice Mary Kinneir in 1882 in Christchurch. Alice was the daughter of Solicitor and Churchwarden Henry Kinneir.[1]

Pitt was to remain at Liddington for the next 54 years; the only time he lived elsewhere was during the period 1916–1917, when he served with the Church Army in France.[1]

William and Alice had five children, Alice born in 1884, William in 1886, Edith in 1887, Clifford in 1889 and Audrey in 1892.

Clifford died on 1 February 1915 in Baumu, British East Africa. An Oxford graduate, he had embarked on a career in Colonial Administration and died aged 26 of acute Sunstroke. His parents placed a memorial window for him in Liddington Church.

Alice died in mysterious circumstances on 23 June 1928; she was found dead at the bottom of a well amongst the farm buildings close to the Rectory. The coroners report stated "found drowned in a Well, there being no evidence of her state of mind".[1]

Death[edit]

Pitt resigned as Rector in 1935 due to severe Bronchial disorders and moved with his wife to Bournemouth in the hope that the sea air of the South Coast might alleviate his problems. His condition gradually worsened and he suffered long periods of unconsciousness. He contracted pneumonia and died at the age of 80 on 21 November 1936.[1]

Four Choristers from Liddington travelled to Bournemouth to bring his body home for burial, with the funeral taking place on 25 November 1936 and conducted by the Bishop of Malmesbury.

Buried in Liddington Churchyard next to his daughter Alice, his wife survived him by seven years before dying on 17 November 1943 in Braintree, Essex, where she lived with the youngest daughter Audrey. Her body was transported back to Liddington, where she was buried alongside her husband. They lie facing the west door of the church in a grave marked by a large stone cross.[1]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Lupson, Peter (2007). Thank God for Football!. London: Ashford Colour Press. ISBN 1-902694-30-9. 
  2. ^ a b c "Mythbusters". swindon-town-fc.co.uk. Retrieved 2007-01-14. 
  3. ^ a b Mattick, Dick (1989). The Robins - The Story of Swindon Town Football Club. Buckingham: Sporting and Leisure press. ISBN 0-86023-460-6. 
  4. ^ Conn, David (20 December 2006). "Football's forgotten mission for the poor". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-02-10. 
  5. ^ "In the beginning...". swindon-town-fc.co.uk. Retrieved 2007-01-14.