Adrian Burford

Adrian Burford

Born in London in 1962, I have been married, divorced, re-married and am blessed with three lovely children who amaze and delight.

I was brought up by my mother and grandparents in Sussex, with Pooh Sticks and Shetland ponies and lots of garden cricket and the Bluebell Railway.  An idyllic, fun, rather old-fashioned, country childhood.

Adrian Burford about 1970

Cricket, dogs and ponies were the major concerns of my early years. My first puppy was a beagle who we called “Toggles” – I ran away from prep school so as not to miss her first litter.  A great shetland pony called “Hector” showed me that you could spend just as much time on the ground as on a pony’s back and still have fun.

Subsequently a broken-down 10 year old chestnut gelding, Ebro, who a vet said was “on his last legs, and that unsteadily”, gave me six years of wonderful days riding at full tilt across the Oxfordshire countryside. A mad cocker spaniel, Atticus, was also a great friend for 12 slightly nutty years.

Adrian Burford at the Ashdown Forest Cricket Club
Ashdown Forest Colts Cricket Club – the best colts team ever! (Well, in 1970s Sussex terms at least.)

Cricket has been a constant.  From hours of daily batting practice in the garden as a six year old, to years of press-ganging friends to let me play in all sorts of teams, to falling asleep listening to TMS under the sheets, to decreasingly successful attempts these days to bowl my own eldest son out.

Adrian Burford: Caius College, Cambridge

After a comic failure to arrive in time for the Winchester “Election” exam I went to Lancing and thence to Cambridge (History at Caius) which was more fun than anyone could conceivably have suggested. I spent too much time on politics, about which I became moderately serious and a CUCA Chairman, trying to organise the “wet” resistance to Thatcherism (which didn’t work out so brilliantly!)

After no significant career direction emerged at Cambridge I was lured into the world of management consultancy by McKinsey and subsequently worked as an investment manager and business start-up consultant with interesting periods at Pitcher & Piano, Boden, Serenade, cubic egg, Hedgerow and others.

Adrian Burford's favourite PG Wodehouse: Summer Lightning

I was a devourer of books from a very young age and became a PG Wodehouse superfan and a devotee of Anthony Trollope, Anthony Powell, Robert Graves, Evelyn Waugh and Lawrence Durrell. An equally enthusiastic reader of CS Forester, Kingsley Amis, Patrick O’Brian, I became obsessed with JRR Tolkien for about five years from 8 to 13 and at one stage, rather worryingly, I had memorised about 10 chapters of The Lord of the Rings from ‘The Council of Elrond’ to “Farewell to Lórien.’ Quite the party piece.

Adrian Burford's passport

While Paddy Fermor, Bruce Chatwin, Eric Newby and Colin Thubron held me enthralled by their travels, my own favourite destinations have been Guatemala & Central America, Nevis & the Caribbean, Botswana & Southern Africa, and Provence & the South of France.

I have been a dedicated and enthusiastic (if not entirely safe) skier of the Matterhorn’s lower slopes since I first visited in the 1970s and have kept on returning despite the ever-glitzier and pricier milieu. Although slightly safer on water, I have become an only occasional fair-weather sailor since first learning to sail in the freezing waters of Poole Harbour while at prep school.

Adrian Burford's children

Greatest achievement?Undoubtedly, three amazing children who are a constant source of amazement and delight.

Making sense out of chaos, separating joy from doubt, simply by being lovely.

Optimist Adrian Burford

Always an instinctive optimist, I continue to believe that everything will be OK in the end. Our inevitable disasters seem to set us back less far than before. So as our rate of progress accelerates the significance of our inevitable setbacks declines. Learning from all-too-frequent mistakes must be the key and ought to make us value our successes, even small ones, more highly.

JK Rowling says, through Sirius Black, “If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.” (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, 2000.) Give it a go.

family tree

Mapping your family tree is an obvious history starter project. Researching my family, however, is not very challenging as they have been a straightforward bunch.  All four of my grandparents came from large families of relentlessly English stock – no exotic travels and no marriages to families from afar. Sadly, it would not make for fascinating television!

The Burfords were a Surrey farming family settled outside Wimbledon by the 17th century (slightly before tennis became such a  local feature.)  Sons were generally called John, Thomas, George and James and daughters were mostly named Ann, Mary, Rebecca and Louisa. They married their neighbours and scarcely moved more than five miles from their Wimbledon headquarters in 200 years. The repetition of Christian names between generations with large and overlapping numbers of children is the most challenging feature of Burford family research.

– A farmer, Thomas Burford, born in Wimbledon in 1731 married a local girl, Elizabeth Parker. They had a son, John, in 1766.

– John Burford was a bit of a slow starter and married Sarah quite late, but then had six children: Ann, John, Rebecca, Thomas, George and James between 1803 and 1815. He lived in Wimbledon all his life.

– John’s second son, Thomas Burford,  was born in 1809 and was the first of the Burfords to make a match outside the village, marrying Sophia Wellington at St Luke’s Church in Chelsea in 1837 and going on to have four children: Mary, George Thomas, Emma and Ann. Although Thomas and Sophia remained in Wimbledon, as did their oldest child, Mary, who sadly died aged only 12, their three younger children all moved to London in the 1850s, living and marrying in Chelsea, Battersea, and Hackney and reflecting the mid-nineteenth century demographic trend from country to town.

– George Thomas, who had been born in Wimbledon in 1839, married Ursula Day in Southwark in 1864. He was an unusually short-lived Burford, perhaps reflecting the differing health patterns of London life versus his ancestors’ more agricultural existences. However, while he died in Southwark aged only 38 in 1877, George Thomas and Ursula had five children: Richard, Thomas George, Louisa, Henry and Edwin.

– Thomas George, son of George Thomas, was therefore of the first generation of “London” Burfords. Born in Southwark in 1867, he married Louisa Lacklan in 1890 and, conforming to their times, had 8 sons and one daughter: another Thomas George, then Sarah, Frederick, William, Walter, Edward, Robert, Herbert and Ernest.

– Of these, Thomas and Louisa’s sixth son Robert, born in London in 1905 was my grandfather.  Sadly because of my own parents’ separation and divorce I never met either Robert, or his wife, my grandmother, Margaret who died in Brighton in 1992, before Robert too died in Eastbourne in 1995.

– However, Robert and Margaret’s son, Peter, my father, was born in 1935.

My mother’s family were of strangely similar origins to the Burfords. They emanated from the farming communities of rural Surrey in the 17th century, although perhaps moving around slightly more than the Burfords (although still determined to stay in Surrey!)

– Robert Chuter, born in Ash, near Aldershot in Surret in 1660, married Sarah and had a son, John, in 1683 but then moved 10 miles North-East to Woking in about 1690.

-John, clearly a bit of a live wire,  married Suzanne Darling in Woking in 1714 and had a son the next year and, perhaps not so creatively, named him John too, before they all moved 10 miles South again, to Wonersh just South of Guildford.

– John, son of John and Suzanne, born in 1715, then moved 5 miles South to Cranleigh in 1735. There John soon had a son he clearly did not pause too long before also naming John in 1736.

– This John, son and grandson of John, however, moved from Cranleigh 15 miles North-West to Farnham, just 5 miles West of Ash where his family had lived a century earlier. Here he married Martha in 1791 and, clearly not a traditionalist, when his son was born in 1811, called him James.

– James was a dedicated Farnham man, marrying his wife Hariett Burchett there in 1834 and living his entire life at a house called Hoghatch in Farnham (there’s still a Hoghatch Lane in Farnham, but the houses now standing are rather newer than the Chuter’s old home. In Farnham, however, James and Hariett had 10 children, including a son, George, who was born there in 1846.

– It was George, however, who, like the Burfords who moved to London from Wimbledon around the same time, moved from Farnham to London aged just 19 in order to marry Eliza in 1865.

– George and Eliza Chuter then had a son, also perhaps predictably George, who was born in 1873 and who then married Emily Pittman in the City of London in 1896.

– George and Emily Chuter had seven children of whom the sixth, Horatio, or “Horace”, my grandfather, was born in 1907 and who, after the premature death of his younger brother Sydney in 1912 was the baby of the family and was clearly doted on by two of his older sisters, Gertrude and Ivy.

– Horatio married my grandmother, Dorothy Thurston in 1932 and they had just one daughter, my mother, Vivien, in July 1939 just five weeks before the outbreak of the Second World War. My grandfather, who had been a Territorial, joined up immediately and headed off with the Western Desert Force and the Eighth Army. He fought through Egypt to Tobruk and then up through Italy before being sent off to Palestine after the war had ended.  When my mother first met him aged seven she said “that’s not my Daddy!” which became something of a family running gag.

– After my own parents married they lived in Twickenham and it was from here, following the collapse of their marriage in 1964, that my mother moved back to my grandparents’ house in Sussex where I was brought up and which became our home.

As family trees go, this is very far from exotic! Surrey farmers all around, some of whom then moved to London in the mid-nineteenth century. No dramas.

A little tree tracing my ancestry back only to my great-grandparents reveals the more recent simplicity and the simplicity of the Burfords and the Chuters is matched by the Lacklan, Nibbs, Travis, Pittman, Thurston and Jones families from which my great-grandparents were numbered.

Adrian Burford's great-grandparents
Three generations back…

This reminds me of a time when at a medical a few years ago a doctor asked me whether there had been any history of serious diseases in my family.  I didn’t know of any, so she asked me whether my grandparents were still alive. I said that they had all died in the last few years, aged 88, 90, 92 and 93. “Oh – well you may be the one to take the average down!” Lord knows what she must have been like in hospital situations…

I notice from the family tree above, however, that my eight great-grandparents managed an average lifespan of 74 – so the trend was “improving” at least


Some random thoughts of enlightenment and entertainment

“No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted.”
Aesop’s Fables: The Lion and the Mouse, ~580BC

“Don’t underestimate Gilbert & Sullivan. Or Jilly Cooper.”
Adrian Burford, 2016

“‘Didn’t Frankenstein get married?’
‘Did he?’ said Eggy. ‘I don’t know. Never met him.’
‘Harrow man, I expect.’ ”
PG Wodehouse: Laughing Gas, 1936

“There is no day, however fair, that can not be enhanced
by the addition of some of the wit and wisdom of PG Wodehouse.”
Adrian Burford, 2016

“Above all things, never think that you’re not good enough yourself. A man should never think that. In life people will take you very much at your own reckoning.”
Anthony Trollope: The Small House at Allington, 1864

“For myself I am an optimist.
It does not seem to be much use to be anything else.”
Winston Churchill: Lord Mayor’s Banquet, 1954

“My policy on cake is pro having it and pro eating it.”
Boris Johnson: TIME, 2007

“Non quia difficilia sunt non audemus,
sed quia non audemus difficilia sunt.”
“It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare,
but because we do not dare that things are difficult.”
Seneca: Epistulae Morales ad Lucilium, CIV, ~50AD

“I can’t stand Paris. I hate the place. Full of people talking French, which is a thing I bar. It always seems to me so affected.”
PG Wodehouse: Big Money, 1931

“I seldom go to the opera,
it is to music what a bawdy house is to a cathedral.”
HL Mencken: Letter to Isaac Goldberg, 1925

“There is always a real and an imaginary person you are in love with; sometimes you love one best, sometimes the other.”
Anthony Powell: The Acceptance World, 1955

“Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind.
The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.”
Henry James, overheard by his nephew, Billy James, 1902
Leon Edel: Henry James – A Life, vol V: The Master 1901-1916 (1972)

“The trouble with you, Spode, is that just because you have succeeded in inducing a handful of half-wits to disfigure the London scene by going about in black shorts, you think you’re someone. You hear them shouting ‘Heil, Spode!’ and you imagine it “the Voice of the People.” That is where you make your bloomer. What the Voice of the People is saying is: ‘Look at that frightful ass Spode swanking about in footer bags! Did you ever in your puff see such a perfect perisher?”
PG Wodehouse: The Code of the Woosters, 1938

“If you are unlucky enough to find an opera-lover under 60 – run!”
Adrian Burford, 2009

” ‘You can’t be a successful Dictator and design women’s underclothing.’
‘No, sir.’
‘One or the other. Not both.’
‘Precisely, sir.’ ”
PG Wodehouse: The Code of the Woosters, 1938

“All men are cremated equal.”
Spike Milligan