Thomas Ford (architect)
Thomas Francis Ford FRIBA (9 May 1891 – 11 January 1971) was a prolific ecclesiastical architect, Diocesan Architect for Southwark, an Ashpitel Prize winner at the Royal Institute of British Architects, founder of Thomas Ford Architects and with his brother Ralph, who owned the largest and most complete collection of English Bibles in England, a translator in 1948 of the New Testament.
Ford was born in Bedford on 9 May 1891 and educated at Bedford Modern School. In 1908 he moved to London to study architecture and was initially apprenticed to a firm of architects before commencing studies at the Royal Academy School of Architecture in 1912. Ford’s studies were interrupted by the advent of World War I during which he was a conscientious objector on account of his religious faith. After the war, Ford resumed his studies and won the acclaimed Ashpitel Prize for top marks in his final Royal Institute of British Architects examinations in 1919.
Ford’s architectural career began in the office of W A Forsyth where he was briefly a partner before starting his own architectural practice in 1926, initially concentrating on commercial work. By 1929 the practice was called Ford and Harkess and based at 12 City Road in the City of London. Ford lived at Eltham from 1930 and worked extensively in south east London where he started to specialise in churches and became Diocesan Architect for Southwark.
Ford was ‘not known for his love of advanced modern architecture and his churches derive from a number of styles, though many show primarily the influence of Sir John Soane (1753-1837) and other architects of the Regency’. After World War II, during which he was Head Air Raid Warden, he was engaged in the rebuilding of damaged churches as well as designing new ones. Most of his ‘post-war buildings are modest’, reflecting post-war privation, although he regularly engaged Hans Feibusch ‘to paint murals’.
The New Testament translation
Born in Bedford, both brothers had been influenced at an early age by John Bunyan. In their preface to the Letchworth Version of the New Testament, the brothers praise the King James Version and state their aim to be the simplification of its language so that it could be comprehensible to a modern ear and the vast majority of ordinary people, a view they had gained over the years working with the poor and for Ralph, as a Scripture Reader to the forces during World War II. On 23 June 1945, Thomas Ford ‘read his paper entitled the Need for a Revision of the English Bible before the Ecclesiological Society in London’. Although ‘they were not experts in Greek, Mr. R. E. Ford owned the largest and most complete collection of English Bibles in England’ (the collection was displayed at the Chapter House of Westminster Abbey during the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953) and thus the brothers were able to compare them all to ensure that they were adhering closely to the meaning.
The Letchworth Version was published in 1948 on a print run of 3,000. Due to a ‘misunderstanding the brothers’ aims and the refusal of the university presses to permit the use of the name Authorized Version in the Ford’s preface, reviewers criticized the version rigorously and it has not been reprinted’.
In August 1920, Ford married Grace with whom he had two boys and one girl. Ford’s two sons and son-in-law were employed in Ford’s architectural practice which continues today. Ford’s ‘hobby was bookbinding, at which he excelled, including the intricate gold tooling’.
Selected architectural work
- Crawley – Church of St Alban, Gossops Green
- Eltham – Church of St Barnabas (restored Sir Gilbert Scott’s work following war damage in 1944)
- New Eltham – All Saints Church
- Storrington – Church of St Mary, where Ford added a vestry south of the chancel in 1933
- Tulse Hill – Church of St Matthias (repairs)
- Walworth - The Church of St Peter Walworth, Liverpool Grove and Trafalgar Street (restoration work completed 1953)
- Waterloo - St John’s Church (restored and remodelled after bomb damage)
- Welling – Church of St Mary the Virgin
- Wickham – Church of St Michael
- Woolwich – Church of St Mary Magdalene (repairs)
- "Thomas Ford & Partners website". thomasford.co.uk. Retrieved 10 July 2015.
- "Thomas F. & Ralph E. Ford - Letchworth Version - Internet Bible Catalog". Retrieved 14 January 2015.
- "The Ford Brothers". Retrieved 14 January 2015.
- "Sussex Parish Churches - Architects and Artists F-G". Retrieved 14 January 2015.
- "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 September 2011. Retrieved 5 July 2011.
- "Review: Anglican Church-Building in London 1946-2012". Retrieved 14 January 2015.
- "A Chronology of Translation in China and the West". Retrieved 14 January 2015.
- "The English Novel, 1660-1700". Retrieved 14 January 2015.
- "Bonhams : BIBLE IN ENGLISH GREAT BIBLE. [The Bible in Englyshe of the Largest and Greatest Volume. Rouen: Richard Carmarden, 1566.]". Retrieved 14 January 2015.
- "Sussex Parish Churches - Crawley - St Alban, Gossops Green". Retrieved 14 January 2015.
- "Eltham, St Barnabas - Eltham & Mottingham Deanery - The Diocese of Southwark". Retrieved 14 January 2015.
- "New Eltham, All Saints - Eltham & Mottingham Deanery - The Diocese of Southwark". Retrieved 14 January 2015.
- "Sussex Parish Churches - Storrington - St Mary". Retrieved 14 January 2015.
- "The Church of St Peter Walworth, Liverpool Grove and Trafalgar Street". Retrieved 14 January 2015.
- "Welling, St Mary the Virgin - Plumstead Deanery - The Diocese of Southwark". Retrieved 14 January 2015.
- Church Tours. "Churchtours - London Churches 1915 - 1945". Retrieved 14 January 2015.[dead link]