The Ford Brothers

by Wilfrid G. Lofft


The Bible Collector – Jan/Mar 1974)

Three years after the end of World War II a blue-bound, 7½”x5” New Testament of 377 pages came off the presses of Letchworth Printers Ltd., at Letchworth, Hertfordshire, England. Entitled The Letchworth Version by its translators, it was the work of two brothers, T. F. Ford and R. E. Ford. Mr. R. E. Ford had been an Honorary Scripture Reader with the Army & Airforce Scripture Readers Association, and while reading to the men he found that he had to update extemporaneously the Authorized Version to make it understandable to them. Mr. I. F. Ford had in his youth held open air services in Peckham, London, striving to aid the very poor people there. Experiences like these persuaded them that the language of the Authorized Version needed to be contemporized. Apparently the brothers were already at work on such a project when Mr. T. F. Ford on June 23, 1945 read his paper entitled “Need for a Revision of the English Bible” before the Ecclesiological Society in London. They spent five years on work on their version, going throughly over the whole New Testament seven times before their Letchworth Version appeared in 1948 with about 3,000 copies being printed. Although they were not experts in Greek, Mr. R. E. Ford owned the largest and most complete collection of English Bibles in England, and thus the brothers were able to compare them all to ensure that they were adhering closely to the meaning of the authographs. Misunderstanding the brothers’ aims, due to the university presses’ refusal 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.

Thomas Francis Ford and Ralph Ewart Ford were sons to Thomas James Ford and Lizzie Duncombe (Mercer). Their mother had Huguenot forebears, and both sons were born in Bedford, the home of the renowned John Bunyan.

Thomas Francis Ford was born May 9, 1891. He was educated at Bedford Modern School, then went on to London in 1908 to study architecture. There he worked three years with a firm of architects. From November 1912 he spent three years studying at the Royal Academy School of Architecture. An Anglican, he was a conscien­tious objector, thus he worked on a farm at Malden, Bedfordshire during World War I, afterwards gaining the highly prestigious Ashpital Prize for top marks in his final Royal Institute of British Architects examinations in 1919. Married in August, 1920, his wife Grace and he had two boys and one girl; the two sons now carry on the architectural firm he began in 1926. Mr. T. F. Ford was Head Air Raid Warden during World War II, and later became a gunnery officer in the Home Guard at Woolwich, London, at the same time be­ing kept busy inspecting bombed churches. His hobby was bookbinding, at which he excelled, including the intricate gold tool­ing. He passed away, still active in his business, on January 11, 1971.

Ralph Ewart Ford was born September 18, 1897. Educated at Hanson School in Bradford, Yorkshire, he was converted at 16, becoming a nonconformist. Married in 1920 to Cicely Taylor, they had one son and two daughters. Mr. R. E. Ford was a precision engineer and the director of his own company, Fords (Finshury) Ltd. For many years he was a Bible Testimony Fellowship lecturer, and he made himself an authority on the works of John Bunyan, amassing a splendid collection of his works which largely went to the Alberta Public Library in Canada. A member of the Bibliographical Society, his collection of rare and uniquely valuable early English Bibles was truly outstanding and went on display all over England, in schools, colleges, universities, churches and libraries, including the Chapter House of Westminster Abbey during the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. Mr. R. E. Ford is still living in Yorkshire.

The Letchworth Version is now very scarce and a copy seen should be picked up at immediately.