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Edward Backwell

Edward Backwell (ca. 1618–1683) was an English goldsmith-banker, and politician who sat in the House of Commons at various times between 1673 and 1683. He has been called "the principal founder of the banking system in England",[1] and "far and away the best documented banker of his time".[2]


Backwell was the son of Barnaby Backwell, of Leighton Buzzard. He became a resident of London, and was apprenticed to Thomas Vyner as a prominent London goldsmith-banker in 1635. Like other goldsmith-bankers of the era, he was also played a role in State finance. He received his freedom of the Goldsmith's Company in 1651 and had his goldsmith's shop in Lombard Street.

During the time of the English Republic (1649-1660), Edward was deeply involved in credit finance, and dealt in former Crown property that had been put on the market, e.g. during the Commonwealth he purchased the park at Hampton Court and then resold to the state, at a profit, during the protectorate.

In the 1650s he was involved in bullion transactions and in 1657 helped Thomas Vyner to handle captured Spanish plate. He was also very actively involved as treasurer for the Dunkirk garrison, from the time of its capture and establishment as an English base in 1657 until its sale back to France in 1662. Together with Sir Thomas Vyner he was responsible for provision of money to the royal household and with handling bullion brought in for coinage at the Royal Mint.

In 1660, just before the Restoration, Edward was elected alderman of the City of London, but the following year he paid the customary fine to be excused from continuing to serve. He is the most frequently referred to financier in Samuel Pepys's Diary, which is perhaps indicative of his importance.

He continued to operate in finance during the reign of Charles II. He was selected an alderman for Bishopsgate 1660–1661.[3] The stoppage of the Exchequer in 1672 badly damaged him financially. He and his son John were appointed comptroller of customs in the port of London in 1671, and with his old master Vyner, he was from 1671 to 1675 a commissioner of the customs and farmer of the customs revenue.

Backwell owned land in Buckinghamshire and Huntingdonshire. In 1671 he was elected Member of Parliament for Wendover in a by-election to the Cavalier Parliament. He was re-elected MP for Wendover in the second election of 1679 and again in 1681.[4] He went bankrupt in 1682 and went to the Netherlands.

Backwell died in the Netherlands in 1683, and was buried in London on 13 June 1683.

Backwell married firstly Sarah Brett in 1657 and had one son, John Backwell. In 1662, he married secondly to Mary Leigh (died in 1669) by whom he had three sons and two daughters.


  1. ^  Henderson, Thomas Finlayson (1885). "Backwell, Edward". In Stephen, Leslie. Dictionary of National Biography. 2. London: Smith, Elder & cite.citation{font-style:inherit}.mw-parser-output q{quotes:"\"""\"""'""'"}.mw-parser-output code.cs1-code{color:inherit;background:inherit;border:inherit;padding:inherit}.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-free a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-registration a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-subscription a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration{color:#555}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription span,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration span{border-bottom:1px dotted;cursor:help}.mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{display:none;font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error{font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration,.mw-parser-output .cs1-format{font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-left,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-left{padding-left:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-right,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-right{padding-right:0.2em}
  2. ^ G. E. Aylmer, ‘Backwell, Edward (c.1619–1683)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Jan 2008, accessed 18 Sept 2010
  3. ^ Aldermen of London
  4. ^ History of Parliament Online - Backwell, Edward

External links

Parliament of England
Preceded by
Richard Hampden
Robert Croke
Member for Wendover
With: Richard Hampden
Succeeded by
Richard Hampden
Hon. Thomas Wharton
Preceded by
Richard Hampden
Hon. Thomas Wharton
Member for Wendover
With: Richard Hampden 1679–1681
John Hampden 1681–1683
Succeeded by
Richard Hampden
John Backwell

1893 text

Alderman Edward Backwell, an eminent banker and goldsmith, who is frequently mentioned in the Diary. His shop was in Lombard Street. He was ruined by the closing of the Exchequer by Charles II. in 1672. The crown then owed him 295,994_l. 16_s. 6_d., in lieu of which the King gave him an annuity of 17,759_l. 13_s. 8_d. Backwell retired into Holland after the closing of the Exchequer, and died there in 1679. See Hilton Price’s “Handbook of London Bankers,” 1876.

Edward Backwell, goldsmith and alderman of the City of London. He was a man of considerable wealth during the Commonwealth. After the Restoration he negotiated Charles II.’s principal money transactions. He was M.P. for Wendover in the parliament of 1679, and in the Oxford parliament of 1680. According to the writer of the life in the “Diet. of Nat. Biog. “his heirs did not ultimately suffer any pecuniary loss by the closure of the Exchequer. Mr. Hilton Price stated that Backwell removed to Holland in 1676, and died therein 1679; but this is disproved by the pedigree in Lipscomb’s “Hist. of Bucks,” where the date of his death is given as 1683, as well as by the fact that he sat for Wendover in 1679 and 1680, as stated above.

This text comes from a footnote on a diary entry in the 1893 edition edited by Henry B. Wheatley.

8 Annotations

vincent  •  Link

A banker who was involved in payment of the Dunquerke Garrison :
history of
Portrait of the banker

"...Statements as to money received for pay of the garrison; May-June 1660 Records the remittance of £ 62,400 by Alderman Edward Backwell for the pay of the garrison and its receipt, by order of the Governor, Colonel Harley, by Mr Thomas Browne, Commissary. …"

[Changed the first link from 27 Sep 2009. P.G.]

Terry F  •  Link

Ald Bishopsgate, 13 Jan 1659/60- 13 Jun 1661, disch, F £720 (1) Co Co Langborn, 1676-81 'The Unicorn', Exchange Alley, Lombard Street, 1650, 1672, St Mary Woolnoth, 1652-81, dwelling house in Mark Lane, AH Barking, by 1676 (2) GOLD, appr, 1635, to Thomas VYNER, fr, 1651, PW, 1660 (3) d 13 Jun 1683, bur St Mary Woolnoth, re-bur Tyringham, Bucks (4) Will copy in CRO dated 29 Dec 1679 (5) f Barnaby Backwell of Backwell, Som, m Jane, da of John Temple of Burton Dassett, Warw, and -, Bucks, esq, mar (A) 1657, at St Andrew Undershaft, Sarah, da of - Brett, merchant, (B) Mary, da of Richard Leigh of - Warw (6) Goldsmith, banker, and State financier to Cromwell and Charles II (7) He had £295,995 involved in Stop of Exchequer, 1672 This was paid back at the rate of £17,759 3s 8d p a He possibly broke in 1682 EIC stock £2,000, RAC stocks £1,000 of original stock, 1671 (8) City property, land Bucks, Hunts (9) MP Wendover, 1672/3 (unseated), 1679-81 (10) Commsr for Lieut, 1660, 1676, 1681 Son John (mar only da of Sir Edward Tyringham), MP Wendover, 1689-90, 1695, 1698 G's Tyringham Backwell mar da (? Elizabeth) of Francis CHILD (11)

(1) Beaven, I, p 40 (2) Heal, London Goldsmiths, p 98, Hilton Price, Handbook, p 182, Boyd 15726, VBk, St Mary Woolnoth, will, will of Henry MOSSE (3) Beaven, II, p 90, GOLD, Appr Reg, I, f 300, Index of Appr (4) Boyd 15726 (5) CRO, Deed 121 5 There is no indication of court or date of probate (6) DNB, Boyd 15726 (7) No attempt can be made here to indicate the scope of Backwell's financial activities R D Richards, Economic History, III (1928), pp 334-55, surveys some sources for a study of Backwell's dealings There is an article in DNB Backwell's ledgers are now in the possession of Messrs Glyn-Mills, the London bankers See S Pepys, Diary, passim (8) DNB, will, R D Richards, loc cit (9) Will, see VCH, Buckinghamshire, II, p 324, III, pp 337-8, IV, p 482, for some of his Bucks property (10) Lipscombe, Buckinghamshire, II, p 478+n, Beaven, II, p 90 (11) Beaven, II, p 187, DNB, will of Francis CHILD, Boyd 15726

From: ‘Backwell - Byfield’, The Rulers of London 1660-1689: A biographical record of the Aldermen and Common Councilment of the City of London (1966), pp. 21-42. URL: Date accessed: 18 September 2005.

Pauline  •  Link

from L&M Companion
(?1618-83). The most important goldsmith-banker of his day, and (with the Vyners) one of the founders of the modern banking system in England....He had acted as the government's principal financial agent under the Commonwealth, and performed a similar function under Charles II....

Michael Robinson  •  Link

Per L&M Companion (continuing Pauline's annotation):

M.P. for Wendover 1673 - March '81. Pepys always refers to him as an alderman , although he held office only for about a year (1660-1). He had acted as the government's principal financial agent under the Commonwealth, and performed a similar function under Charles II. He arranged foreign exchange transactions (such as the sale of Dunkirk, the payment of war subsidiaries and after 1670 the transfer of Louis XIV loans to Charles); managed the disposal of secret service money; above all advanced cash and credit. During the war the government relied largely upon him. At the time of the 'Stop of the Exchequer' in 1672 his loans to the government amounted to over 250,000 L. Apart from his considerable property in Lombard Street (Greatly extended after the Fire), he had , at different times, country houses in Middlesex, Huntingdonshire and Buckinghamshire.

Pepys dealt with him as a goldsmith, but principally in arranging his noticeably reluctant loans for the Tangier garrison. Blackwell's assistant Robert Shaw was an old friend of his. Some of the Blackwell ledgers survive in the archives of Messrs Williams & Glyn, successors to the business.

Michael Robinson  •  Link

Customer ledger of London goldsmith Edward Backwell, 1671-72
Customer account ledger of Edward Backwell, goldsmith banker of Lombard Street, London, 1671-72. 600mm x 400mm x 170mm.
Bound in leather, written on handmade paper by quill pen. 666 folios detailing 400 customers’ accounts using double-entry book-keeping.

Bill  •  Link

Edward Backwell, alderman of London, was a banker of great ability, industry, and integrity; and what was a consequence of his merit, of very extensive credit. With such qualifications, he, in a trading nation, would in the natural event of things, have made a fortune, except in such an age as that of Charles the Second, when the laws were overborne by perfidy, violence and rapacity; or in an age when bankers become gamesters instead of merchant-adventurers; when they affect to live like princes, and are, with their miserable creditors, drawn into the prevailing and pernicious vortex of luxury. Backwell carried on his business in the same shop which was afterwards occupied by Child, an unblemished name, which is entitled to respect and honour; but was totally ruined upon the shutting up of the exchequer. He, to avoid a prison, retired into Holland, where he died. His body was brought for sepulture, to Tyringham church, near Newport Pagnel, in Buckinghamshire.
--A biographical History of England. J. Granger, 1779.

Bill  •  Link

BACKWELL, EDWARD (d. 1683), London goldsmith and banker at Unicorn, Lombard Street; probably chief; originator of system of banknotes; had financial dealings with Cromwell; alderman for Bishopsgate ward, 1667; sent to Paris to receive money for sale of Dunkirk to French, 1662; after treaty at Dover, 1670, was a frequent intermediary in money transactions between Charles II and Louis; sued by several creditors, a large sum being due to him from the exchequer, which Charles II had just closed, 1672; took refuge temporarily in Holland after judgment had been given against him; M.P. for Wendover, 1679 and 1680.
---Dictionary of National Biography: Index and Epitome. S. Lee, 1906.

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