H. F. Morton: the Ford Motor Company (Britain) Ltd, Trafford Park

Scope and Content

Compiled by H. F. Morton, MBE MIMechE, an executive engineer employed by the Ford Motor Company (England) Ltd from 1917 to 1933. Morton was chosen by Henry Ford to help him with his project to create a Museum of Physical Science in America, and the archive contains material concerning Morton's commissions. The collection includes a typescript book written by Morton about Henry Ford entitled Spend Me Ten Millions.

Administrative / Biographical History

Herbert Frederick Morton was born in Manchester and lived most of his life in the city area. He had two careers - one as an engineer and the other as an army musician. He was apprenticed at 14 as a turner at Galloways (Chester Road), who were boiler makers and steam engine repairers, and later worked for Barber & Co (wire weavers), and British Westinghouse. In his teens he joined the Duke of Lancasters Own Yeomanry as a territorial.

In 1912 Morton decided to make the army his career and joined as a sapper. He was sent to Egypt in 1914 with the 42nd (East Lancashire) Division, and was involved in the defence of the Suez Canal. Wounded at Gallipoli in 1915 he returned home and became a religious education instructor at the Milford Young Officers school. He married Hannah Skellon of Hulme in 1916. He was discharged from the army as unfit for service in 1917.

In 1917 he joined the Ford Motor Car Company in Trafford Park as a turner, and by 1926 had been promoted to plant engineer. In 1928 he began organising the new production for the Model A Ford and was involved in the planning and design and machine procurement for Ford's new factory at Dagenham. During this year he began working personally for Henry Ford, acquiring old steam and gas engines for his new museum at Dearborn, Detroit. Gradually he spent more of his time working directly for Henry Ford, and went across to America to erect the engines in 1930, 1931 and 1932. In all he supplied and erected approximately sixty engines, identifying their historical development. He became Henry Ford's agent in Europe, supplying not only engines but also antiques, furniture and buildings - all for the museum. He left the Ford Motor Company in 1933. He published a book in 1946 about his work entitled Strange Commissions for Henry Ford.

Morton was appointed bandmaster of the Duke of Lancasters Own Yeomanry in 1934, and remained bandmaster until his retirement in 1950.

In 1937 he started his second engineering career with De Havillands, where he was involved in the building of their propeller factory in Bolton in 1937 and was appointed chief engineer.

During the 1939-1945 war Morton was captain in the Home Guard responsible for the defence of the factory. During and after the war he developed other De Havilland factories in old mills sited in and around Bolton.

In 1952 he was awarded the British Empire medal for services to engineering.

He retired from De Havillands in 1958 and died at Whalley Range, Manchester, in 1966. His wife died at Flixton, Manchester, in 1975.


The collection has been arranged into 6 series: Personal papers of H. F. Morton, Personal papers relating to H. F. Morton's work with Henry Ford, Personal papers relating to music, Photograph albums, Books, documents and photographs written and compiled by H. F. Morton and Correspondence.

Access Information

There are no restrictions on access to this collection. Viewing is by prior appointment. Please contact archivist@chethams.org.uk.

Acquisition Information

Deposited in Chetham's Library in 1997 by R. D. Parker, BSc, MI Mech E, of East Keswick, Leeds, H. F. Morton's nephew.


No further accruals are expected.