BACKWELL, John (1654-1708), of Tyringham, Bucks.
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Family and Education
b. 20 Apr. 1654, 1st s. of Edward Backwell†, banker, of St. Mary Woolnoth, Lombard Street, London by his 1st w. Sarah, da. of one Brett, merchant, of London. educ. I. Temple 1676, called 1680. m. 1678, Elizabeth, da. and h. of Sir William Tyrringham† of Tyringham, Bucks., 11s. (5 d.v.p.) 2da. (1 d.v.p.). suc. fa. 1683.1
Jt. comptroller of customs, London 1671–d.2
Member Hon. Artillery Co. 1675.3
The son of Charles II’s banker, Backwell acquired the manor of Tyringham, near Newport Pagnell, by marriage, and inherited property near Wendover from his father, who claimed to have been born nearby and who ‘purchased an estate’ there. Unfortunately, the repercussions of the stop of the Exchequer were visited upon Backwell and it seems that a parliamentary seat was useful in dealing with his father’s creditors. Upon his election in 1690, Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†) classed him as a Tory and probable Court supporter, and as a member likely to support him in late December 1690 in case an attack was made on his ministerial position. In April 1691 Robert Harley* classed him as a Country supporter. However, most lists of the period merely record the fact that he was a placeman by virtue of his patent office in the customs of London. The main characteristic of his parliamentary career appears to have been absence, for one reason or another. On 31 Dec. 1691 he was given leave on health grounds, but was back in the Commons by 2 Feb. 1692 when he complained of a breach of privilege following the arrest of a menial servant. A further leave was granted on 12 Dec. 1693. In the 1694–5 session Henry Guy* thought him a ‘friend’, presumably in relation to the attacks upon Guy in the Commons. Backwell received leave of absence, again for health reasons, on 9 Mar. 1695.4
Re-elected in 1695, possibly after an intervention by the Marquess of Carmarthen’s son (Peregrine Osborne†), Backwell was ordered on 26 Jan. 1696 to ask Dr Gregory Haskard to preach on the anniversary of Charles I’s execution. He was forecast as likely to vote against the Court in the division of 31 Jan. on the proposed council of trade and received leave for a fortnight on 5 Feb. He signed the Association and voted in March against fixing the price of guineas at 22s. In the following session he was on hand to vote against the attainder of Sir John Fenwick† on 25 Nov. 1696 before obtaining ten days’ leave on 3 Dec. because of an illness of his wife. The 1697–8 session saw the passage of a private act to satisfy his father’s creditors. Despite allegations that he was fraudulently concealing an estate of £3,000 p.a. and that he had received £127,000 since his father’s death, Backwell was able to secure an act whereby 235 creditors accepted only 21.5 per cent of what was owing to them. His opponents appear to have seen his parliamentary privilege as a bar to securing a better settlement.5
Returned again in 1698, Backwell was classed as a member of the Country party in about September 1698 and forecast as likely to oppose the standing army. He received leave again on 17 Feb. 1699 for two weeks. In July he wrote to John Ellis* that he had been indisposed before he had left town, although a second letter announced his intention of returning to London at the start of September. A correspondent of (Sir) John Verney* (Lord Fermanagh) also expected to find him at the customs house that month. Returned again in January 1701 he was listed as a supporter of the Court in February over the ‘Great Mortgage’. On the strength of his activities in this session he was later blacklisted as having opposed the preparations for war with France. Backwell did not stand again, dying in 1708, his remains being buried at Tyringham on 15 Apr.6
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Stuart Handley
- 1. Reg. St. Mary Woolnoth, 52; Lipscomb, Bucks. iv. 376; Burke, LG (1952), 2575.
- 2. Cal. Treas. Bks. iii. 926; xxii. 206.
- 3. Ancient Vellum Bk. ed. Raikes, 105.
- 4. Stowe 304, ff. 132–3; Luttrell Diary, 167–8.
- 5. HMC Lords n.s. iii. 222–3.
- 6. Add. 28884, ff. 103, 206; BL, Verney mss mic. 636/51, Anne Nicholas to Verney, 23 Sept. 1699; Lipscomb, 376.