Family’s 1,000-year link is a delight for Betty, 95

Grandchildren Hellen (left) and Gillian show Betty Baxter their family tree which stretches back to William the Conqueror MLNF16PB05291 ANL-160525-131845001
Grandchildren Hellen (left) and Gillian show Betty Baxter their family tree which stretches back to William the Conqueror MLNF16PB05291 ANL-160525-131845001

For much of her life, Betty, now 95, had not even know of her Norfolk roots until a chance family connection was established by, of all things, a pigeon fanciers’ periodical.

She had been resigned to the fact that when she and her four sisters died the family line would die out.

She made the trip from her home in Buckinghamshire with daughter, Carole, and two grandchildren, Gillian and Hellen (Hellen) in what turned out to be an intriguing and surprising fact-finding journey.

It added yet more knowledge to a researched history of a family that came to England with William the Conqueror and settled in North Norfolk.

Betty was born Betty Dusgate and survived the death of her brother, Jack, in the First World War and her father, Arthur, some years later.

She said: “We believed I and my four sisters were the last of the Dusgates and our name would die out with our deaths especially as our grandfather never talked about our family.”

Now trips to Norfolk Lavender, at Heacham, and Fring Hall, near Docking, once the family home, and the nearby Fring churchyard where Dusgates are buried, have added to her knowledge of the chequered history of her family.

This included, on the one hand, discovering how wealthy the Dusgates became after been given land in Norfolk by William I whilst, on the other, learning that one descendant was burnt at the stake in Exeter.

The family crest still exists above a door at Fring Hall but the Norfolk Lavender connection is equally interesting.

In 1932 the expertise of local nurseryman, Linn Chilvers, allied to the money of Francis Dusgate, developed the growing and processing of lavender and they founded the company in 1932.

The realisation that the Dusgate line might not have died out first came to light when Mrs Baxter’s husband, William, a pigeon fancier, spotted the Dusgate name in a pigeon magazine.

This led to a Frank Dusgate who between him and his father had spent 40 years building their family tree. It stretched back to 1066 and on it was both Mrs Baxter’s name and Francis Dusgate’s, showing that she and the Norfolk Lavender founder were second cousins.

During her tour of Norfolk Lavender she was shown a picture of her second cousin, Francis Dusgate, together with Linn Chilvers which hangs in the cafe. There she and her family were entertained to tea by Norfolk Lavender tour guide, Lynn Shannon, and presented with a range of lavender products.

She said: “Coming here felt like home to me. I couldn’t believe how warmly I was received and feel really grateful to Norfolk Lavender for being so kind and hospitable.”