BACKHOUSE (BACCHUS, BACKHURST), John (1584-1649), of Sindlesham and Swallowfield , Berks. and Kingsley, Hants.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



Family and Education

b. 29 June 1584, 1st s. of Samuel Backhouse* and Elizabeth, da. of John Borlase† of Little Marlow, Bucks. m. lic. 11 July 1615 (with £4,000), Flower (d. 12 Aug. 1652), da. of Thomas Henshawe, silkman, of Milk Street, London. cr. KB 1 Feb. 1626; suc. fa. 1626.1 d. 9 Oct. 1649.2 sig. John Backhouse.

Offices Held

Member, New River Co. 1619, E.I. Co. 1629.3

Commr. Forced Loan, Berks. 1626;4 j.p. Berks. 1632-42, Wilts. 1641-2;5 commr. assessment, Berks. 1641, subsidy 1641,6 bounds of Windsor Forest 1642.7


Early in 1607 two of Backhouse’s relatives, Sir Rowland Lytton* and Sir William Borlase*, were occupied in pacifying the hot-blooded young man who had ‘sent a challenge lately to a gentleman of the Temple, for misusing his mother at a show there two years since’.8 Sindlesham was settled on him at his marriage eight years later, and shortly afterwards his mother-in-law’s death brought him a further ‘windfall’ of £1,500.9 In December 1618, while in London, he was ‘pitifully berayed with the smallpox all over from top to toe’.10 At about the same time he became involved in his family’s defence of certain pews in Swallowfield church, during which he allegedly assaulted John Phippes with a spear.11 A year later, in more sober mood, he joined his father and other members of the family, including his uncle Borlase, as a shareholder in the New River Company.12 In 1621 he acted as a juror at the trial for the manslaughter of Archbishop Abbot.13 He was returned to the first Caroline Parliament for Great Marlow on the Borlase interest, and re-elected in 1626 and 1628. His only committee was in 1626, and concerned a private land bill. In June 1626 he was excused for being absent during a call of the House after he showed that he had been present the next morning.14

Backhouse was living at Kingsley, in Hampshire, in November 1626, a property that had been acquired by his paternal grandfather and which had been conveyed to his late mother-in-law on his marriage in 1615.15 However, his principal residence remained in Berkshire. In May 1627 he was listed among those ‘to be treated with to give some money to the work’ by the feoffees for impropriations, who remembered, perhaps that he was a nephew of the puritan Nicholas Fuller*.16 In January 1629, perhaps while attending Parliament, he became a member of the East India Company.17 Eight years later he contributed £8 for the repair of St. Paul’s Cathedral, ‘which he was behind for the years 1635 and 1636’.18 His interest in the New River Company involved him in a dispute with Sir William Myddelton, who in 1637 claimed that his father had bought, not leased, the site of the New River head from Backhouse’s father. A portrait of Backhouse painted at this time shows the disputed property. The quarrel was settled largely in his favour.19

On the outbreak of Civil War Backhouse evidently sided with the king, for by October 1643 he was a prisoner in Windsor Castle.20 The following summer he was assessed at £700 in Blackfriars, where he had been a tenant since 1630 or earlier, of which he paid at least £322 in the country.21 In May 1645 he complained that his Berkshire property had been sequestrated without it having been proved that he was a delinquent.22 There were ‘tumults’ at Swallowfield in 1647 or 1648, and in the spring of 1649 Backhouse was summoned before the Council of State to account for his activity in raising the people of Berkshire.23 Acknowledging his ‘manifold transgressions and exceeding unworthiness of the Almighty’s infinite mercies’, he died on 9 October. According to his memorial inscription he was ‘a man imbued with no slight tincture of every sort of learning, highly skilled in languages, particularly in Greek ... neither injuries, imprisonment, flatterers, nor threats drove him astray ... though childless, truly the father of a family’.24 Swallowfield and his New River shares passed to his brother William, the Rosicrucian philosopher, whose daughter and heiress married Henry Hyde†, later 2nd earl of Clarendon.25

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Alan Davidson


  • 1. Ashmole, Berks. ii. 377; Vis. Berks. (Harl. Soc. lvi), 160; C.C.E. Russell, Swallowfield, 110-20; London Mar. Lic. ed. Foster, 60; Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, i. 616; Shaw, Knights of Eng. i. 163.
  • 2. [Footnote]
  • 3. B. Rudden, The New River, 30; CSP Col. E.I. 1625-9, p. 697.
  • 4. T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 2, p. 144.
  • 5. C231/5, pp. 85, 444, 527, 529.
  • 6. SR, v. 82, 149.
  • 7. Russell, 112.
  • 8. Chamberlain Letters, i. 243.
  • 9. VCH Berks. iii. 253; Chamberlain Letters, i. 616.
  • 10. Chamberlain Letters, ii. 189.
  • 11. STAC 8/239/17.
  • 12. Rudden, 282.
  • 13. Chamberlain Letters, ii. 395.
  • 14. Procs. 1626, ii. 312; iii. 346, 368.
  • 15. HALS, DE/HL/12417; VCH Hants, ii. 516.
  • 16. Harl. 832, f. 28v.
  • 17. T.K. Rabb, Enterprise and Empire, 238.
  • 18. GL, ms 25475/1, f. 81v.
  • 19. Rudden, 79-82 (portrait facing p. 82); CSP Dom. 1636-7, p. 271; C8/52/57.
  • 20. CSP Dom. 1625-49, p. 655.
  • 21. CCAM, 417; The Site of Office of The Times, 39.
  • 22. CSP Clar. i. 265.
  • 23. CCAM, 1292; CSP Dom. 1649-50, pp. 112, 119, 135.
  • 24. PROB 11/210, f. 61; Russell, 116-17.
  • 25. Oxford DNB, iii. 111.