Edward Backwell (c. 1619 - 1683),
goldsmith and banker
Edward was the son of Barnaby Backwell, a yeoman
of Leighton Buzzard. He was apprenticed as a goldsmith in 1635
to Thomas Vyner, a leading figure in that trade. He received his
freedom of the Goldsmith's Company in 1651 and later, in 1660,
he became a prime warden.
During the time of the English republic, 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, 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.
After the Restoration, Edward advanced considerable
credit to the crown, and was subsequently severely affected by
the stop of the exchequer from December 1671 to January 1672, which
lasted two years instead of the one year originally planned.
In 1671 Edward was appointed, together with his son
John, as comptroller of customs in the port of London. Together
with Vyner he also served a four year term as a commissioner of
the customs and farmer of the customs revenue in 1671.
In 1673 he was twice returned as MP for Wendover,
Buckinghamshire. He also sat for Wendover in all three Exclusion
Parliaments of 1679 - 81, but only seems to have taken an active
part in the first.
In 1682 Backwell became bankrupt: it is believed
as a result of the crown's actions with respect to Edwards dealings
with Sir George Cartaret as treasurer of the navy many years earlier.
His dealings as a banker are very well documented,
as ledger books have descended through his grandson to Child's
Bank and ultimately to the Royal Bank of Scotland. These ledgers
are the earliest systematic achive of any British bank.
Edward married for the first time to Sarah Brett,
the daughter of a London merchant. Through this marriage he had
one son, John (c. 1653). He married for a second time in 1662 to
Mary Leigh (or Lyse), daughter of Richard Leigh. By this marriage
he had three sons and two daughters, but his wife died in 1669.
Edward died, abroad in the Netherlands, and his body was brought
back to England to be buried at St Mary Woolnath in the City on
the 13 June 1683. Two years later his body was exhumed and reburied
at Tyringham, Buckinghamshire, where he had gained control of the
estate from his son's father-in-law, Sir William Tyringham.