Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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J. Backhouse and Co

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Jonathan Backhouse and Company of Darlington

1774 The bank was founded by James and Jonathan Backhouse who were linen and worsted manufacturers. They were also members of the Society of Friends (Quakers), and Jonathan married into the Pease family who were also Quaker bankers.

The Backhouses became connected by family and religious ties with two significant Quaker family businesses, the Barclays and the Gurneys: Freame Bank. (founded 1690) was one of the oldest established City partnerships, and Gurney and Co. (founded 1775) was the dominant country bank in East Anglia.

By the 1780s the bank had customers as far afield as Birmingham, Bradford, Hull, Knaresborough, Lancaster, London, Pontefract and Whitby.

From the 1790s onwards the bank embarked on a period of expansion, opening branches throughout the north-east.

1819 Lord Darlington, who had long been in dispute with the Backhouses, tried to break the Backhouse Bank by collecting as many of its notes as possible and presenting them with demand for more than the amount of gold held by the bank. If a bank could not meet its obligations, it would be ruined. Upon hearing of this plot Jonathan Backhouse raced to London to collect extra gold. However, returning home, his carriage lost a front wheel as it crossed a bridge. Time was of the essence so Backhouse piled the gold at the back, "balancing the cash", returning home on three wheels and saving the bank.

Jonathan Backhouse II was a great advocate and investor in the pioneering Stockton and Darlington Railway, and was appointed treasurer in 1825.

His son Edmund Backhouse (1824-1906) was the first MP for Darlington when the town gained a seat in parliament under the Second Reform Act, serving between 1867 and 1880.

1896 Backhouses was the third largest bank in the amalgamation which formed Barclay and Co Ltd.

See Also


Sources of Information

  • [1] Barclays history