FORD, Edmund (by 1524-68/79), of Harting, Suss.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. by 1524, s. of Erasmus Ford of Norbiton Hall Kingston-upon-Thames, Surr. by Julianne, da. of William Salford of Derbys. m. by 1551, Joan, da. of John Cheseman of Lewisham, Kent, 1s. 3da.1

Offices Held

J.p. Suss. 1547-59, q. 1561-4; commr. relief 1550, 1559.2


Edmund Ford came of a Surrey family. Both his grandfather and father had prospered in their careers, the one as a clerk in the Exchequer rising to be King’s remembrancer and the other as a mercer and merchant of the staple, and both had invested their profits in modest estates scattered through Surrey and Sussex. Nothing has come to light about Ford’s early upbringing (unless the writing of his own will suggests a legal education) or his career before 1545, when he bought the manor of Hall and other property in the locality of Midhurst from a London grocer and when he also led 160 men to Portsmouth to resist the threatened French invasion. Two years later, on the surrender of a lease of the manor of Lewisham and its rectory by his father-in-law, he obtained the new lease, this arrangement perhaps arising from an agreement on his wife’s dowry.3

Ford’s Membership of the first Parliament of Edward VI was doubtless the work of Sir Anthony Browne, the lord of Midhurst, and followed hard on his nomination to the Sussex bench. Ford was perhaps already living at Harting, some seven miles from the borough, and like his fellow-Member William Wightman he may also have been in Browne’s service, although in what capacity is unknown. In a chancery case brought against Robert Bowyer I, John Cressweller referred to a covenant made between Bowyer and Ford at the end of Henry VIII’s reign by which Ford had arrested Cressweller for debt in the name of Browne. As a Catholic, Ford cannot have welcomed the religious reforms introduced during his time in the Commons, but there is no record of his opposing any of them and he was evidently left undisturbed in his seat as his name appears on the list of Members revised before the last session. In February 1551, however, nearly a year before that session opened, he was in trouble for defaming members of the Council, was briefly committed to the Fleet and was bound in a recognizance of 1,000 marks to appear before the Council and to behave ‘as a true subject ought to do’: as this episode coincided with the imprisoning of Sir Anthony Browne’s son and namesake on religious grounds it is likely that Ford had been provoked by the Council’s treatment of the young Anthony Browne I. By the time the following Parliament met in 1553 the elder Browne was dead and his own imprisonment in the Tower since 27 Dec. 1552 debarred Ford from re-election, but even without that he would have been unwelcome in that Parliament, both because he was resisting the enforcement of Protestantism in Sussex and because he and Sir Andrew Dudley, brother to the Duke of Northumberland, were disputing the presentation to the rectory of Harting. Although his wife was allowed to visit him in March 1553 Ford remained in close confinement until the following month, when he was briefly given the liberty of the Tower, a privilege withdrawn within a week. The date of his release is not known and he may have remained a prisoner until the accession of Mary.4

The dispute with the Dudleys was probably linked with the series of lawsuits arising out of Ford’s purchase, in October 1549, of the manors of Harting, West Harting and Nutbourne, including the advowson of Harting, from Henry, son and heir of Sir Anthony Windsor of Harting. The sale was opposed by Henry Windsor’s sister, who claimed that she and her husband Thomas Rithe should have control of the inheritance as Henry had been an idiot under the guardianship of Sir Andrew Dudley. After Windsor’s death, Thomas Rithe, with the assistance of his brother George Rithe, began several suits in Chancery, common pleas, requests and the King’s bench: he alleged that Ford had induced Windsor to leave Dudley’s house and to live with him, had committed adultery with Windsor’s wife and through her had persuaded Windsor to sell him the property for £1,900. Eventually part of West Harting was returned to Sir Anthony Windsor’s widow, who occupied it until her death in 1572, but Ford retained most of the property.5

The accession of Elizabeth did not immediately put an end to Ford’s public career: indeed, for several years he was named to the quorum for Chichester rape, a distinction he had not enjoyed previously. It was only after he had been described by Bishop Barlow in 1564 as ‘extremely perverse’ that he was removed from the commission and left to devote his remaining years to his own affairs. On 29 Mar. 1568 he made a will ‘written with my own hand’ and ‘sealed with my seal’. After asking to be buried in the tomb prepared for him in Harting church, on the south side of the chancel, he provided for his wife, daughters, other kinsfolk and servants: a bequest to his godson William Clerk Booth was to be conditional upon Booth’s remaining a Catholic. Ford left £10 to the church at Harting ‘for the buying of a fair cope for the priests to give a procession in and a fair vestment to sing mass in with my arms and my wife’s to be fair embroidered thereon and written underneath in a fair scroll Ford and Cheseman, or other ornament most necessary if the law will not permit the other’, and another £10 for distribution among the poor parishes around Midhurst. The borough of Midhurst was to benefit by the provision that every Lent the executors were to deliver to its bailiff one barrel of good white herring; barrels were also to go to South Harting and Thames Ditton in Surrey, where Ford’s parents were buried. As his son Thomas had predeceased him, Ford’s property was placed in his widow’s hands: she was to act with the advice of his two executors, his friend and kinsman Master John Ford of the Inner Temple and Henry Fortescue. He appointed Richard Lewknor and John Bowyer as overseers of his will, which was not proved until 2 Sept. 1579. The date of Ford’s death has not been discovered.6

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: R. J.W. Swales


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from first reference. Vis. Suss. (Harl. Soc. liii), 42, 203; PCC 37 Bakon.
  • 2. CPR , 1547-8, p. 90; 1553, p. 359; 1553-4, pp. 25, 37; 1560-3, p. 443; 1563-6, pp. 27, 37, 40, 331.
  • 3. Suss. Rec. Soc. xix. 194; LP Hen. VIII, xx, xxi; CPR, 1550-3, p. 61.
  • 4. C1/1209/62, 1350/20; APC, iii. 187, 216; iv. 196, 201, 211, 236, 257, 262; W. K. Jordan, Edw. VI, ii. 63.
  • 5. Suss. Rec. Soc. xix. 203; xx. 325; C1/1351/35, 1428/35, 1466/74; CP/40/1142; Req. 2/21/22, 23/98; PCC 37 Populwell, 37 Bakon; VCH Suss. iv. 11.
  • 6. R. B. Manning, Rel. and Soc. in Eliz. Suss. 243; Cam. Misc. ix(3), 10; PCC 37 Bakon; Nairn and Pevsner, Suss. 238.