Amelia Ford – Chief Founder of the Bedford Band of Hope Movement
by Linda Ayres
Amelia and her husband James came to Bedford from Devon during the 1800s. They set up home in Gwyn Street with their four sons and one daughter. James was a self-employed tobacco manufacturer in St. Paul’s Square before he became an Excise Officer in 1881. By this time James and Amelia were living in Commercial Road.
It was Amelia’s love for her children and for their benefit, that in 1856 she became chief founder of the Band of Hope Movement in Bedford together with Captain Young and Mr Clough, the town Missionary. The Band of Hope was first proposed by Jabez Tunnicliff, who was a Baptist Minister in Leeds, following the death in June 1847 of a young man whose life was cut short by alcohol. While working in Leeds, Tunnicliff had become a supporter for total abstinence from alcohol. In the autumn of 1847, with the help of other temperance workers, the Band of Hope was founded. Its objective was to teach children the importance and principles of sobriety and teetotalism. A national organization was formed in 1855 in the middle of a sudden increase of the Band of Hope work.
Amelia carried on her work for years single-handed and lived to see the society grow to twenty. Men, who as youths joined the Band of Hope, guarded among their treasures the pledge card which bore the signature of Amelia Ford. In 1897, the Band of Hope Movement in England had an estimate of 3,238,323 members.
Unfortunately, Amelia’s three eldest sons died at an early age. The first son to die was James on 28th June 1866 at his home in Gwyn Street. Their eldest son Ralf, at the time of his death on 21st November 1868, lived at Stockton, Durham, and represented Bolton’s Order of the Sons of Temperance. On 21st October 1870 their third son Sidney died at St Pauls Square, Bedford. Their youngest and surviving son Montague, born in 1850, was appointed Assistant House Surgeon to the General Hospital, Cheltenham in 1873.
Amelia and her husband lived to a great age – she died in March 1899 at their home in the Dame Alice Street Almshouses at the age of 87 years and James died the following year.
The passing of time has faded the memorial of Amelia and James, the word ‘Founder’ is legible, and it is likely the inscription originally read “Founder of the Band of Hope.”
Their sons’ memorial is placed at the front of their parents which is carved in the shape of a rock. Near this rock are deposited the remains of three brothers Ralf Ford aged 29, Sidney Ford aged 26, and James Ford aged 22.
Grave Ref: B.4
The Bedfordshire Mercury March 31st 1899.
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