“I SHOULD BE IN MY LANDS AT BOSWORTH”
The fully developed myth, as initiated by Annie Dawson; developed by her daughter Jane Archer; heard by her daughter Florence Annie Starkey; and told by her to her three sons, is a classic case of an impossible liaison across the class divide resulting in disinheritance.
20 miles south east of Amington, Warwickshire, is the ancient town of Market Bosworth, Leicestershire, fiefdom since the 1600’s of the Dixies – a line of country squires elevated to the Baronetage by Charles II, who made their mark on history more by eccentricity than intellect or politics.
Annie’s mother was a Dixie daughter (one of her sisters was a Lady in Waiting to Queen Victoria) – Lady Jane, who fell in love and eloped with the Bosworth Hall groom George Dawson. Her father Sir Wolstan Dixie cut her off with nothing and declared that “I never had a daughter Jane; from this day onwards she does not, and has never, existed”. All trace of her was expunged from the records.
The Dawsons, condemmned to Staffordshire peasantry, had many children including Annie, who married Jack Archer son of the miller of Witherly, settling in Amington, having Jane, and instilling in her that they were really Dixies, denied their inheritance.
My mother reported that Annie was, very unusually for a village girl, extremely well educated – being able to read and write fluently (she read aloud from ancient and yellowed paperbacks with titles like ‘Little Mother Mannikin’ and ‘Rosalie’). She often took tea at the big house with Mr Florendine, way out of her apparent social class; and would reminisce about Attleborough near Nuneaton.
When the old age pension was introduced one had to prove one’s age (October 1908) – Annie had no birth certificate so Jane wrote for a duplicate to Somerset House, to be told there was no such birth registration. Annie claimed to have been baptised in the private Dixie chapel in Bosworth Hall, and after a letter from the vicar of Market Bosworth confirmed this, her old age pension was paid.
When Annie died innumerable gold sovereigns were found sown into the hems of her clothes and hidden in her coal – were they Dixie blood money?
What had my mother Florence actually heard her grandmother Annie say firsthand, as opposed to any elaboration by her mother Jane?
“There are those who know who I am”
“I should be in my lands at Bosworth”
“I can read and write because they had me educated”
1878 November 4th Marriage Shuttington Church: Annie Dawson 19 & John Archer
Name and occupation of the bride’s father left blank. Witness George Dawson. [1878 Dec Tamworth 6b 613]
1881 Census Boar Green, Failsworth, Lancashire: John Archer, born Witherly and Annie 22 his wife born Cadeby, Leicestershire with Ethel 2 born Shuttington.
(1889 March 1st Death Amington crossing: John Archer 39)
1891 Census 12 Dog Lane, Amington: Annie Archer 30 born Cadeby with Ethel 12 born Shuttington, and Sarah 9, Jane 7, and Mary Ann 5 all born Blackley (ie Failsworth) Lancashire
This establishes that this is Annie Dawson mother of Jane Archer, and that she was born c 1859 in Cadeby. In 1878 she did not know(or prefered not to say) who her father was. You do not, on a marriage certificate, have to give your mother’s name and occupation of course. Cadeby is a small village 2 miles south of Market Bosworth.
The Registrar General does NOT have a birth registered for Annie Dawson in Cadeby in or about 1859, as asserted in the Myth.
So I think it is established there is something odd -
The Dixie Baronetage self destructed in 1883. The 11th Baronet Alexander Beaumont Churchill Dixie (A.B.C.D, known as ‘Beau’) married Lady Florence Douglas, a wild daughter of the 7th Marquis of Queensbury (sister of ‘Old Q’ who persecuted Oscar Wild), thus combining two notoriously eccentric families. He was completely unable to understand that even a large fortune was ultimately limited and whatever was left of the Dixie fortune was rapidly dissipated in such projects as a trans-
Lady Florence was forced to supplement their income by journalism (she became a Zulu War correspondent for the Times) and wrote 19 books including her seminal Across Patagonia and 10 romantic novels of the type Annie Dawson read. She was notorious for her feminism and originality of thought and action.
Lady Florence Dixie
However, in 1883 Beau’s debts became too great and after 300 years the Hall was sold and the Dixie’s moved to humbler circumstances in Eastbourne. With the 13th Baronet’s death in 1975 the title became extinct, despite a legal challenge by his two daughters. There are some Dixie tombs in Brompton Cemetery (right hand side main path just south from northern entrance). Even if the Myth were true we had no claim on the Baronetage, being descended through the female line.
Bosworth Hall, after a long spell as a Local Authority old people’s home, was sold in 1988 and is now a (luxury?) hotel where one may stay “on my lands at Bosworth”! Nothing remains of the Dixie furnishings or fittings. The Dixie Grammar School (where Dr Johnson taught) closed, and has been re-
Copyright Roger J Morgan 2016