Ford, Sir Henry (1617–84), politician, chief secretary for Ireland, was born in Devon, posthumous son of Henry Ford of Bagtor, Ilsington, Devon, and his wife Katherine Drake of Sprathayes, Exmouth, Devon. He attended Exeter College, Oxford (1634–6) but took no degree, having returned to manage the family property in Devon. He married (25 February 1641) Eleanor Rowe of Shacklewell, Hackney, Middlesex; they had three sons and four daughters. Royalist in sympathy, Ford played no part in the English civil wars. Identified as a member of the local interest of John Robartes (qv), Baron Truro, after the restoration he served on the commission of the peace for Exeter, and as a lieutenant-colonel of militia in the same county. On 22 July 1663 Ford was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. He was elected MP for Tiverton on 6 April 1664, holding the seat until 28 March 1681. Throughout his parliamentary career he was regarded as an active and independent-minded MP, being active on numerous committees and serving as an occasional emissary to the house of lords.
Ford's career in Ireland is largely obscure. He accompanied Robartes to Ireland as chief secretary from 18 September 1669 to 21 April 1670, when he was recalled. As with Robartes, Ford was disliked for what was seen as a curt and arrogant personality. He was knighted on 20 July 1672, and while suspected of being a catholic was reappointed as chief secretary under Arthur Capel (qv), earl of Essex, on 5 August 1672, replacing Sir Ellis Leighton (qv). Ford took an active role in the government, but by May 1673 he was suspected by Essex of passing information to Peter Talbot (qv) and others. Essex sought to enlist the assistance of Henry Bennett, earl of Arlington, ‘to rid me of this man, who is perfectly my lord treasurer's spy upon me’ (Essex papers, 86). Ford was replaced as chief secretary on 11 December 1673 by Sir William Harbord (qv); it was believed that his recall had been procured. ‘Being sent into England on some important affair, contrived by those who were willing to put him out of the way, he returned no more into Ireland’ (Prince, 316). However, the precise circumstances of his recall remain obscure. While he did not serve in Ireland again, he became a member of the committee for Irish affairs, and the economics of his Devon constituency ensured that he retained a keen interest in the question of the Irish cattle trade. He died in 1684 and was buried in Woodbury church, Devon, on 12 September 1684.