Backhouseone name study
variants: Bachous, Bakhous, Bakhouse, Backhowse, Bakehouse, Bakehous, Backus, Bachus, Bacchus, Baccas, Bakhus

Backhouse Coat of Arms


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Any individual bearing or related to the Backhouse name is important to this study. However there are individuals that warrant a more detailed description because of their achievements. Below are descriptions of these notable individuals or groups of individuals. You can use the links within the descriptions to explore these individuals in the records section.


John Backhouse, Yeoman of Moss Side

The descendants of John Backhouse, Yeoman of Moss Side is probably the most well known of all the Backhouse family trees. John was a Quaker who was imprisoned for many months in Lancaster Castle for none payment of taxes as a protest against religious persecution in 1661. His youngest son James Backhouse died in the same place and for the same cause in 1697.

It is from this line that the renowned Backhouse Bank, botanists and plant breeders have descended. It is also true that the connections with the Society of Friends and to the Pilgrim Fathers have led this family line to have branches in the United States.

The Backhouse Bank

James Backhouse the great grandson of John Backhouse, Yeoman of Moss Side, was the first of the line to settle in Darlington. Here he, with the help of this sons Jonathan and James, carried on the business of flax dresser and linen manufacturer. In 1774 they established the banking house that played such an important part of the banking system.

Established to help the customers of their flax and linen business the Backhouse Bank became very successful. Under the control of Jonathan Backhouse, son of Jonathan Backhouse, co-founder, the bank promoted and helped to finance the Stockton to Darlington Railway, the first to carry passengers. Later under the control of Sir Jonathan Edmund Backhouse, great-grandson of Jonathan Backhouse, amalgamated with several other banks in 1896. This merger most notably with Gurneys & Co. of Norwich and Barclay, Bevan, Tritton, Ransom, Bouverie & Co, of London formed the joint stock bank of Barclays and Co., now Barclays PLC.

You can see the original South Shields branch of J & J Backhouse in its full glory at the end of the main street of the pre-war town at Beamish Museum.

Naturalists and Nurserymen of York

Thomas and James Backhouse III were the grandsons of James Backhouse, and son of James Backhouse, the founders of Backhouse Bank. They established the successful Backhouse plant nursery when they purchased the York nursery of John and George Telford in 1815.

James Backhouse III was the most famous of all the Backhouse naturalists. He was educated in Leeds and discovered many of the rare plants in Teesdale with the lead miner John Binks. He was also an active missionary, and in the company of George Washington Walker, he boarded the Science, bound for Australia in 1831. During his stay he collected plants and seeds which he sent back to the York nursery and to William Hooker in Glasgow. On the return journey he visited Mauritius and South Africa from 1838 to 1840. His travels are described in two books, his Narrative of a visit to the Australian Colonies and Narrative of a visit to Mauritius and South Africa. Both of these books were illustrated with engravings by Edward Backhouse of Sunderland and grandson of his uncle Jonathan, from the original sketches by James. William Hooker and William Harvey recognised the value of James' botanical observations, naming a Myrtle Backhousia in 1845.

Whilst in Australia James was in correspondence with his son James Backhouse IV and in 1843 they explored the mountainous areas of Europe in search of alpine plants. From 1845 following the death of Thomas, father and son jointly directed the growth of the York nursery and its move to the larger Holgate site in 1853. James Backhouse IV wrote a Monograph of the British Hieracia in 1856 recording his botanical discoveries and was also a keen archaeologist and geologist. He explored the caves of Teesdale in search of archaeological material and with his son, James Backhouse V formed a small private museum.

James Backhouse V had connections with the Yorkshire Museum, York, and was an active member of the Yorkshire Philosophical Society. He is however best known as an ornithologist and as the author of the Handbook of European Birds in 1890. In 1891 he formed a new company, Backhouse Nurseries (York) Ltd., which in the face of considerable competition ceased trading in 1955.

The Backhouse Daffodils

William Backhouse II, was the great grandson of James Backhouse, and grandson of Jonathan Backhouse, the founders of the Backhouse Bank. He continued the family interest in botany, and became a competent entomologist, ornithologist, geologist and meteorologist. William worked at the Newcastle branch of the Backhouse Bank established in 1825 and became a founder member of The Natural History Society of Northumberland, Durham and Newcastle upon Tyne in 1829. He is the first of the Backhouse line to have developed a number of new varieties of Narcissus.

Three of William's sons, kept up the family interest in daffodils. Charles James Backhouse continued to live at St. John's Hall, near Wolsingham, Co. Durham, the residence of his late father. Henry Backhouse lived in Darlington from 1895-1907 and then in Bournemouth until 1925. Robert Ormston Backhouse married Sarah Elizabeth Dodgson in 1884, and moved to Sutton Court, Sutton St. Nicholas, Hereford.

Sarah, achieved national fame, being awarded the Royal Horticultural Society's Barr Cup in 1916, and in 1923 Robert astounded the horticultural world with the first pink daffodil which he named 'Mrs. R. 0. Backhouse'. Robert and Sarah's son, William Ormston Backhouse, worked at the John Innes Institute, before becoming a geneticist for the Argentine Government. William received narcissi from his parents, and in South America continued the family tradition set by his grandfather. He specialised in red-trumpeted daffodils, and on his return to Sutton Court in 1945, continued to develop these varieties.

The Hermit of Peking

Sir Edmund Trelawny Backhouse, 2nd Baronet, was an oriental scholar and linguist. He was regarded as the black sheep of the Quaker family which included many churchmen and scholars. After accumulating large debts whilst attending Winchester College and Merton College, Oxford, he fled the country in 1895. Much of his life was spent in China where he used his language skills and alleged connections to the Chinese Imperial Court to broker deals. Edmund also wrote two books that established him as an oriental scholar.

Many business deals were fraudulent and often came to nothing and as for his writing he was accused of plagiarism. In 1973 after his death, Edmund's many deceptions were revealed, when his memoirs were received by Hugh Trevor-Roper, a British historian. Edmund boasted about having affairs with Lord Rosebery, Paul Verlaine, an Ottoman princess, Oscar Wilde and even the Empress Dowager Cixi of China. These exploits along with his connection to the Chinese Imperial Court were proven to be just a figment of Edmund's imagination. Edmund had misled the learned world for decades.


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Other topics in this section
  • Origin of the name including meaning, early references and variants.
  • Coat of Arms described and explained.
  • myths and other untrue stories associated with the name.
  • notable (this page) individuals that warrant a more detailed explanation.
Backhouse Coat of Arms
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