Walt Visits Norton Disney

The world loves Walt Disney's animated movie about those adopted 101 Dalmatians, his version of the classic tale of the forsaken stepchild  Snow White and Dumbo the baby elephant who was separated from his mother. 

But not so well known is the tale of an American boy, Walter Disney, with no birth certificate. What birth record there was for a child of his name was dated 10 years before he could have been born. This niggling ambiguity about his origins and the possibility that he had been adopted were to trouble him throughout his adult life.

So in the late Forties he arrived in Lincolnshire, England, to find his purported Disney ancestors; in a small village known as Norton Disney. Although few local guide books acknowledge that "the world's favourite uncle" has roots to a Lincolnshire family.

St.Peter's Church, Norton Disney

It is possible to trace the family lineage right back to Walt’s Norman forbears who came over to Britain with the invading Norman army of William the Conqueror in 1066.
Amongst William’s soldiers were several members of the d’Isigne family, who took their name from their town of origin situated near Bayeux. One of the d’Isignes is known to have received property at Norton on the Nottinghamshire / Lincolnshire border, and established himself as a farmer and Lord of the Manor.

Disney is an anglicisation of d'Isigny. In 1834 some members of the family emigrated, first to the United States and then to Canada. Elias Disney (Walt’s Father) was born in Huron County in 1859. Elias married Flora in 1888, eventually moving to Chicago. In1901 their fourth and final child, Walter Elias Disney, was born.

This was sent in by Neil:

"[Norton Disney] is a place you'd expect to have outgrown its rather quaint guidebook description, given there are at least three separate signs diverting traffic to the village off the A46; yet the place is indeed small, with just a string of plain houses, a church and a pub.
In my view, the pub is always a good place to start, and although I was greeted in the St Vincent Arms with customary village suspicion, I found what I was looking for. Pinned above the fireplace were the cuttings I had failed to locate in Lincoln Central Library. Dated 30 July 1949, they reported the events of Walt's brief visit.

"Private and personal. Norton Disney, Lincolnshire, England. Arrived just after lunch." 

Walt Disney

Walt had scratched in his diary before strolling off to point his cine-camera around the village. The fading photographs show Walt absorbed in the search for facts about his family name. He is pictured studying the tombs and gravestones and with the vicar, leafing through reams of ancient church registers signed by past generations of Disneys. But he didn't stop for long. 

"Afraid I must pop off now - learnt that expression over here. You English are always popping places."'


Clement Glen said...

Special thanks to Neil for finding the information on Disney's visit.

Neil said...

Walt Disney was over here a great deal during the making of Treasure Island and then The Story of Robin Hood and he seemed to enjoy and be inspired by his visits. Certainly the films he made here proved a turning point in both his film production and his finances. I think and have said so often that this period in the film life of Walt Disney is the most fascinating time of his whole history - certainly between 1949 and 1954 I think.

Clement Glen said...

I agree Neil. It would make an interesting book.