In the first part of this post, I discovered that Branshaw Teleragh – location of Edward and Leonora Ashburnham’s house in Ford’s The Good Soldier – was based on a misprint on a map of the New Forest, an area that Ford visited several times between 1902 and 1913. The nearest large house, Lyburn Park, fits the novel’s description of Branshaw Manor.
Lyburn Park had been purchased in 1904 by Richard Cecil Leigh (1866-1931). Known to his friends as “Shaver” Leigh, he allowed Bramshaw Cricket Club to play at Lyburn, and Ford might have watched or played the game there (though there is no evidence of this). Leigh also shared interests with Ford’s friend W H Hudson (he was, for example, a member of the Royal Geographical Society and the Avicultural Society), although, again, there is no evidence of a connection.
Leigh was the sort of character that might well have appeared in a Ford novel. In 1885 he was a Lieutenant in the 3rd Battalion of the Oxfordshire Light Infantry. He owned (and designed) Lingfield racecourse, and in 1890 he commissioned a 200-foot steam yacht White Heather, on which he went round the world with his wife Louisa Eleanor (a name pleasingly reminiscent of “Leonora”). In 1893 he eloped with Kathleen, Sir Henry Meredith’s wife, whom he married after Louisa (1857-1902) divorced him the following year. He divorced Kathleen in 1910 for adultery, and by 1913 he had married again, as suggested by reports of the death of his chauffeur that year, in a collision whilst driving “Mr & Mrs R C Leigh” near Tunbridge Wells.[i]
Between 1900 and 1904, Lyburn Park was leased to lawyer Arthur Francis Anderdon Weston (1870-1937). Ford might – possibly – have known him via Gerald Duckworth, with whom Weston had joined Cambridge University’s Pitt Club at the same time. Duckworth founded his publishing business in 1898, and Ford was an early client with Rossetti in 1902, going on to publish many books with Duckworth, especially in the 1920s.
Weston rented Lyburn from Frederick Ashe Bradburne (1838-1913), a name pleasingly reminiscent of “Ashburnham”. (Ford may have been reminded of the real aristocratic Ashburnham family from his native Sussex.[ii]) Lyburn was the Bradburne family estate, but after his wife died in 1897, Frederick had moved out to live with his sister Laura a couple of miles away at Bramshaw Lodge. Frederick’s wife, Mary Anna Trollope (1841-97), does not seem to have been closely related to her literary namesake.
Bradburne, a local magistrate in his sixties, is unlikely to be a character in this novel. He did, however, have four sons. The eldest, Frederick Arthur (1863-1925) appears to have never married and was still living with his father at the 1911 census. Henry Humphrey Brucker Bradburne (1869-1900) was a Lieutenant in the 3rd battalion Hampshire regiment, was posted to New Zealand, and died in the second Boer War. John Edward Bradburne (1875-1961) married in 1898 and moved to Guernsey for a few years before returning to England. The youngest, Charles Wyndham Bradburne (b.1879), was working in Singapore by 1913, and emigrated permanently to Malaysia in 1928.
The most significant thing about Frederick Ashe Bradburne, however, might be the fact that he died in early 1913. In his dedicatory letter to Stella Bowen in the 1927 US edition of The Good Soldier, Ford states that “I had it hatching within myself for fully another decade … because the story is a true story and because I had it from Edward Ashburnham himself and I could not write it till all the others were dead”. If this is true, then somebody involved in the story that Ford had heard about ten years previously must have died not long before he started writing the novel in December 1913. Having said that, most of the other people mentioned above were still alive, but it is quite possible that the death of Frederick Ashe Bradburne reminded Ford of the accounts he had heard and prompted him to write the novel.
We may never know whether Ford knew of Lyburn Park, or whether The Good Soldier was inspired by the stories of any of its various occupants. There are, however, a few plausible but speculative possibilities which might reward some more detailed research.
[i] These details have been gleaned from the British Newspaper Archive and various genealogical sources.
[ii] See the discussion in Alan Judd’s essay ‘A Kind of Haunting: Ford and “The Good Soldier”’ in Last Post, vol.1, no.1 (2018), pp.24-29.