BACKWELL, Edward (c.1618-83), of Exchange Alley, Lombard Street, London.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer



29 Jan. - 6 Feb. 1673
10 Feb. - 19 Mar. 1673
Mar. 1679
Oct. 1679

Family and Education

b. c.1618, 3rd but o. surv. s. of Barnaby Backwell, yeoman, of Leighton Buzzard, Beds. m. (1) by 1653, Sarah, da. of one Brett, merchant, of London, 1s.; (2) by 1662, Mary (bur. 25 Nov. 1669), da. of Richard Lye alias Leigh, merchant, of London, 3s. 2da.1

Offices Held

Freeman, E.I. Co. 1651; alderman of London Jan. 1660-1; prime warden, Goldsmiths’ Co. May 1660-1; commr. for assessment, London Aug. 1660-1, Bucks. 1673-80, London and Hunts. 1679-80; asst. Royal Adventurers into Africa 1663-71; member, Hon. Artillery Co. 1663; jt. comptroller of customs, port of London 1671-?82; j.p. Bucks. 1672-d.; dep. lt. London by 1676-d.2

Farmer of customs 1667-71; commr. for inquiry into the Mint 1677-9.3


Backwell’s descent from an esquire who fought at Poitiers in 1356 and his connexion through his mother with the Temples of Stowe are probably equally fictitious. He described himself to the electors of Wendover as ‘born and educated in these parts’, but when he was apprenticed to a London Goldsmith in 1635 his father was living at Leighton Buzzard, some 12 miles away. Nothing definite is known of his career until 1650, when he became a naval victualler. He began to acquire land in Buckinghamshire soon afterwards, though only as a speculator at first, and has been described as the principal banker to the Commonwealth. His responsibility for remittances to the garrison of Dunkirk enabled him to make a smooth transition to the service of Charles II, though in the Convention Thomas Rich attacked his charges as excessive, and a bill to reduce the maximum rate of interest to 6 per cent was introduced. He took over the crown lease at Creslow forfeited by Cornelius Holland, the regicide, and when his credit seemed in danger in 1665, Sir George Carteret remarked that ‘the King and the kingdom must as good as fall with that man at this time’. By 1670 he had gained control of the manor of Tyringham from (Sir) William Tyringham. After the Treaty of Dover, he was a frequent intermediary in the transactions between Charles II and Louis XIV. He was badly hit by the Stop of the Exchequer in 1672 when he had some £296,000 on deposit. His creditors, too, pressed their demands and he had to give up banking, but he continued as the King’s financial agent.4

Backwell first stood for Wendover at a by-election in 1673, with the support of the vicar, who acted as his principal agent. The election was one of those declared void because the writ had been issued during the recess without the authority of the Commons. In the second election he only narrowly defeated the Hon. Thomas Wharton, who petitioned. He was appointed to the elections committee and the committee on the bill to prevent child-stealing, but was unseated in the following month. His financial difficulties were somewhat eased in 1677 when the Government agreed to repay his loans at the rate of £17,760 p.a. out of the excise. It was probably to escape his creditors that he stood again for Wendover for the Exclusion Parliament, and was returned, apparently without a contest. He was marked ‘base’ by Shaftesbury, and became a moderately active Member of the first Exclusion Parliament in which he was appointed to nine committees, including those to remedy abuses in the Post Office and to examine the working of the excise laws. According to Roger Morrice, he voted against exclusion. He left no trace on the records of the second and third Exclusion Parliaments. He visited Holland in 1680 ‘in the King’s special service to the States General’, and may have remained there to avoid arrest for debt. In 1682, after Carteret’s death, Backwell’s lands were extended for over £60,000, which he had pledged to the navy in 1667 but had been unable to pay. He died in Holland in 1683, but his body was brought back to England and buried at St. Mary Woolnoth on 16 June.5

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Authors: Leonard Naylor / Geoffrey Jaggar


  • 1. Beds. RO, Leighton Buzzard par. reg.; Goldsmiths’ Co. Apprentice Reg. 1, f. 330; Lipscomb, Bucks. iv. 376; St. Mary Woolnoth Reg. 52, 58, 226; St. Helen’s Bishopsgate (Harl. Soc. Reg. xxxi), 316; Cases in Court of Chivalry (Harl. Soc. cvii), 53.
  • 2. Cal. Ct. Mins. E.I. Co. ed. Sainsbury, iv. 91; Ancient Vellum Bk. ed. Raikes, 87; K. G. Davies, R. African Co. 64; Cal. Treas. Bks. iii. 926, Guildhall RO, 186/1, pt. 2, p. 21.
  • 3. Cal. Treas. Bks. ii. 25, iii. 1128; v. 751, 986.
  • 4. Stowe 304, f. 32; CSP Dom. 1650, p. 133; J. R. Woodhead, Rulers of London, 21; VCH Bucks. iii. 337-8, 445; iv. 483; R. D. Richards, Hist. Banking, 27-31; Bowman diary, f. 126; Econ. Hist. Rev. ix. 46-47; Pepys Diary, 6 July 1665; Lipscomb, iv. 376.
  • 5. CJ, ix. 255, 270; Econ. Hist. Rev. ix. 53-54; Cal. Treas. Bks. v. 598; vii. 749-50; CSP Dom. 1679-80, p. 633; St. Mary Woolnoth Reg. 250, 252.