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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.

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