Ford, Henry (DNB00)

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FORD, Sir HENRY (1619?–1684), secretary of state, born in or about 1619, was the eldest son of Henry Ford of Bagtor in Ilsington, Devonshire, by Katharine, daughter and heiress of George Drake of Spratshays in Littleham, in the same county. He was absurdly supposed to have been grandson of John Ford the dramatist [q. v.] (Lysons, Magna Britannia, vol. vi. Devonshire, pt. ii. pp. 291-2); his grandfather was Thomas Ford, son and heir of George Ford of Ilsington (Visitation of Devonshire in 1620, Harl. Soc., p. 108). He was for a time fellow-commoner of Exeter College, Oxford (Boase, Reg. of Exeter Coll. p. lxi), but his father dying, and his mother marrying again, he went home to look after his patrimony. With his step-father, John Cloberry of Bradstone, Devonshire, he had many hot disputes over the property, which had to be settled in the law courts. In the reign of Charles II he purchased Nutwell Court, in the parish of Woodbury, near Exeter, which he made the place of his future abode. He was put in the commission of the peace for the county, and was lieutenant-colonel, under Sir John Drake of Ash, his kinsman, in the militia for the eastern division of the shire, of which he was likewise a deputy-lieutenant. On the death of Sir Thomas Stucley he was elected member for Tiverton, 6 April 1664, and kept his seat until the dissolution of Charles's last parliament, 28 March 1681 (Lists of Members of Parliament, Official Return, pt. i. pp. 522, 535, 541, 547). Prince, who knew him well, describes Ford as 'an excellent orator,' and witty, but the single specimen he gives of his wit is by no means brilliant (Worthies of Devon, ed. 1701, p. 315). In 1669 he accompanied John, lord Robartes, the lord-lieutenant, to Ireland as secretary of state, but 'to his no little damage and disappointment' was recalled along with his chief the very next year. In 1672 Ford, having been knighted at Whitehall on 20 July in that year (Le Neve, Knights, Harl. Soc., p. 279), acted in the same capacity to Arthur Capel, earl of Essex. He did not, however, continue in office long, 'for being sent into England on some important affair, contrived by those who were willing to put him out of the way, he returned no more unto Ireland' (Prince, p. 316). The fact was that his brusque, overbearing manner made him everywhere disliked. He died in 1684, aged 65, at Nutwell Court, and was buried in Woodbury Church (Lysons, Magna Britannia, vol. vi., Devonshire, pt. i. pp. cxcv-vi, pt. ii. pp. 291-292). He left a son Charles, supposed to have died in his minority, and three daughters, married to Drake, Holwell, and Egerton (ib. vol. vi. pt: ii. p. 571). On 22 July 1663 he was elected F.R.S. (Thomson, Hist. of Roy. Soc., appendix iv.), and remained in the society until 1682 (Lists of Roy. Soc. in Brit. Mus.)

[Prince's Worthies of Devon, 1701, pp. 314-16.]

G. G.