King James Bible Translators
Personal and Family Life
Robert Ward was likely born in September 1569 in Stepney, East London. Robert's father, Thomas Ward, was schoolmaster of the Coopers' Free School on Ratcliffe Highway, Stepney. Thomas Ward's tenure as the schoolmaster ran from 1562 until 1571.
Thomas Ward was dismissed as school master in 1571 and moved to Kent where Robert Ward was raised. John Venn in his Alumni Cantabridgiensis, states that Robert was "of Hollingbourne" a small village on the ancient pilgrim road to Canterbury. His preparatory schooling was at Eton, commencing his university studies at Cambridge in 1588. He remained at Cambridge as a student, then teacher for twenty years and participated as a Translator of the King James Bible (hereinafter KJB). He left Cambridge in 1609 to serve as a country parson. He finally settled in Bishops Waltham where he lived until his death in 1625. He is buried in the chancel of St. Peter's Church there.
Robert Ward came to Cambridge after his early education at Eton. He was admitted as a student at King's College, Cambridge in 1588 where he graduated B.A. in 1593, proceeded M.A. in 1596, B.D. in 1603 and D.D. in 1609.
Robert Ward was made a fellow at King's College in 1591 and continued in this teaching and administrative post for the next eighteen years. Shortly after proceeding B.D., in 1604 he was chosen as one of the Translators of the KJB. He remained heavily involved in the translation at least until 1609 when he was made a prebendary of Chichester Cathedral, where his fellow Translator and lifelong mentor and benefactor, Lancelot Andrewes was bishop.
He subsequently became the rector of Great Transham and Mileham, both in Norfolk in 1615. Eight years later in 1623, he was made rector of Bishop's Waltham, Hampshire, again, through the good offices of Andrewes, who was by this time, bishop of Winchester.
Robert Ward and the Translation
Ward was assigned to the Second Cambridge Company along with John Duport, William Branthwaite, Samuel Ward (no relation), Andrew Downes, John Bois and Jeremiah Radcliffe. Their assignment was the translation of the Apocrypha. While the Apocrypha is no longer included in most publications of the Bible, and not considered part of the canon of scripture, it was part of the KJB. The men assigned to its translation were equal to the other Translators in scholarly qualifications. Two of this company, John Bois and Andrew Downes, were on the committee of revisers and played a critical role in the revision. Each of the Translators was not only responsible for the portion of the translation given his company, but also was a reviewer and translator of the whole of the Bible under the rules given by Richard Bancroft. As Robert Ward did not have ecclesiastical responsibility during the period of translation, it can be assumed he devoted a great deal of his time to the project.
Since Robert Ward was only thirty-three or thirty-four when the translation began, and without significant prior achievements, his appointment as one of the Translators is likely a result of the exercise of Lancelot Andrewes' influence in his behalf.
Why was Lancelot Andrewes, prominent scholar, translator and churchman, so interested in furnishing Robert Ward with professional opportunities and seeing to his welfare? It was because Robert Ward's father, Thomas, was Lancelot Andrewes' first teacher and mentor at the Coopers' Free School. The school was established in 1536 not far from where Lancelot Andrewes was born, near Tower Hill in London. It was founded by the Coopers' Company as a charity school for poor men's children. Ward was credited with persuading Andrewes' parents to continue him in school rather than in an apprenticeship in a trade. This advice was heeded by the boy's parents, and Lancelot went on to great distinction as scholar, churchman and Translator. Ironically, in 1571 Thomas Ward was dismissed from the school "for his evil demeanour and lack of diligence" near the time his son, Robert, was born. Nonetheless, Lancelot Andrewes never forgot the crucial role his first teacher played in his life and as his biographer, Buckeridge explained: "he studied always how to do good to them and theirs", speaking of his early benefactors and their families. Robert Ward was the great beneficiary of Andrewes' gratitude, kindness and generosity.
A physical symbol of the Andrewes/Ward relationship can be seen today in Robert Ward's church, St. Peter's in Bishops Waltham, where still in use is a magnificent carved wood pulpit, crafted in Venice and presented to Robert Ward by his friend, Lancelot Andrewes.