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