Richard William Ford was a man whose hands touched many of the developments in Portsmouth during the 19C, whilst at the same time remaining much respected by the population.
He was born in Queen Street, Portsea on 9th January 1822, the second son of Henry Ford Snr., (1789-1870). Little is known of his early life until he reached the age of 15 when he was articled to a solicitor, Archibald Low of St. George's Square. He became a solicitor himself within 6 years and joined his elder brother Henry in partnership at 170 Queen Street and later at 104 Commercial Road. Their business prospered.
Richard married Emma, the daughter of his former sponsor Archibald Low, in 1844 and together they had 10 children, 7 surviving to adulthood. For much of their early life together they lived at 31 St. Thomas's Street, one of the most elegant houses in Portsmouth. It had formerly been the residence of John Madden, father of Sir Frederick Madden.
One of his earlier business ventures was to become Secretary to the new Steam Packet Company which operated ferries between Portsmouth, Gosport and the Isle of Wight. The company had a fractious relationship with it's main competitor but when they amalgamated in 1851 he was welcomed into the United Company to continue as Secretary, a role he performed for over 30 years.
In common with many businessmen of his generation he took an active interest in local politics and became a Councillor for St. Thomas' Ward in 1852, so following his brother who had been elected in 1847. His public service works further included Guardianship of the Portsea Island Union, membership of the Portsmouth Parish Burial Board and a supporter of the proposal for a dry dock in the Camber, the dock being inaugurated in 1859 during his brother's tenure as Mayor of the Borough. A few years later in 1864, Richard also became Mayor. Both Richard and Henry were appointed as Aldermen but both resigned in 1871.
The reason for this is that the post of the Clerk to the Justices had just become vacant and both sought the appointment but in order to submit themselves they were obliged to surrender their aldermanic positions. In the end neither of them were appointed and so both sought a return route to the Town Council. Henry was quickly re-elected as Councillor on the promotion to Alderman of Councillor W. Kent. but Richard had to wait until the annual elections in November before being elected. Both brothers were subsequently re-appointed to the Aldermanic bench and both resigned again in 1879/80 to become Clerks of the Peace.
As he approached retirement Richard took occupancy of Wymering Manor where he spent the remainder of his life, though it was far from a quiet one. A major interest of his was the Eye and Ear Hospital of which he became the first Chairman.
In 1892, Richard William Ford attained the age of 70 years, a fact celebrated in some style by the Portsmouth Times, but that year was also to see the death of his wife Emma on 16th October. She was buried in Wymering Church Graveyard, across the road from St. Peter's and St. Paul's Church. Richard survived another 8 years before he too passed away and was interred with his wife.
Recognition of Ford's contribution to Portsmouth society came in the form of a number of tributes and memorials. There are three in Wymering Church itself, a substantial fresco and plaque in Portsmouth Cathedral and a further plaque formerly in the Royal Garrison Church.
Richard and Emma Ford's children were Charles (Lt. Col. 1845-1918), Archibald Henry (Architect, 1846-1930), Harriett (1847-1903), Annie Emma (1849), Richard McArthur (1850-1851), Douglas Morey (Author & Solicitor, 1851-1916), Edward Carrington (1853-1854), Arthur Vernon (Doctor, 1854-1918), Emma Beatrice (1856-?) and Richard William (Gen. Kt. 1857-1925).
Cynthia Sherwood & Tim Backhouse