FORD, Simon atte, of Bridport, Dorset.
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Family and Education
m. 1386, Agnes, wid. of Richard Suaward (d.1385) of Bridport.1
Bailiff, Bridport Mich. 1391-2, 1397-8, 1401-2, 141-15, 1417-18, 1426-7; cofferer 1393-4, 1402-4, 1410-14, 1427-8; constable 1399-1400.2
Collector, customs and subsidies, Melcombe Regis 22 Oct. 1399-Sept. 1403.
Commr. to prevent ships of over 30 tuns from leaving port, Lyme and Seaton May 1401.
Tax collector, Dorset July 1413.
Simon atte Ford may not have been a native of Bridport, being possibly related to William*, Henry* and John Ford II*, who sat in Parliament for Weymouth, Melcombe Regis and Dorchester, respectively. Indeed, he first appears in the Bridport records in 1386, the year of his marriage to Agnes, the widow of a former bailiff, Richard Suaward. In July that year Suaward’s executor conveyed a messuage in East Street to her and Ford on condition that they kept the obits specified in the deceased’s will. In the same year Ford acquired the easements of the walls adjoining his tenement in the town and ‘Lymhouse’, and he then also took out a lease on a house in ‘Kyllyngeslane’. It was along with his wife that Ford joined the fraternity of St. Katherine in St. Mary’s church.3
Ford was engaged in the manufacture of cloth, but his main business was evidently as a maker of ropes, for in February 1397 he was authorized to purchase canvas, cables ‘hawesers, uppeteys, trusseropes’ and other equipment for the King’s ships; and as late as 1423 he supplied cordage (including cables of untarred Bridport yarn) worth £92 to William Soper*, for the remnants of Henry V’s fleet. Whether his interests extended to overseas trade is not known, but he did serve as customs’ collector in the ports between Sidmouth and Poole, and in 1401, during his term of office, he was commissioned to close the harbours of Lyme and Seaton to ships of more than 30 tons burden. On 24 July the same year he entered into recognizances in Chancery for payment of £64 to two local clerics, and before the mayor of the Westminster Staple for £75 to Thomas Fulham of London. It was for defaulting on repayment by instalments of the latter debt due in June and November was 1404 that he was eventually imprisoned by the sheriffs of London and not liberated until July 1407.4
Meanwhile, he had continued to be involved in Bridport affairs. It was he who, in October 1390 and with John Palmer II*, put the town’s case before the justices of the King’s bench hearing the burgesses’ dispute with Dorchester over tolls. In 1395 and 1396, on behalf of John Hayward*, he was party to conveyances of property in Dorchester. During two of his six terms as bailiff, 1414-15 and 1417-18, he was elected to represent the borough in the House of Commons, a service he performed in all no fewer than 11 times. He was one of the deputation of four burgesses sent to the county court at Dorchester to report the results of the local elections to the Parliaments of 1413 (May), 1427 and 1429, and he was also present there for the shire elections of 1420, 1421, 1422, 1425, 1426 and 1427. On 17 Nov. 1423 when up at Westminster for his ninth Parliament he entered into a recognizance for £64 with William Allington*, esquire, the former treasurer of Normandy, who was later (1429-30) to be Speaker for the Commons. Ford is last heard of in August 1435, when he was again representing Bridport at the county court.