Paul Frecker
Fine Photographs

Edward Backhouse
5 May 1863

Volume 10, page 207, sitting number 13,197.

Born at Darlington on 8 May 1808, Edward Backhouse was the eldest son of Edward and Mary Backhouse. In 1819 his parents moved to Sunderland, which remained Edward's home for the rest of his life. On completing his education, he became a partner in the family bank and collieries. ‘He took no active part in business, and was a man of cultivated tastes, fond of travel, a good amateur painter, and a student of natural history. He devoted himself chiefly to the promotion of philanthropic and religious purposes. He was a most generous and judicious supporter of various institutions in Sunderland, and is said to have spent over 10,000l. a year in charities. In politics he was an energetic liberal, and especially interested in questions bearing directly upon morality. In later life he was a prominent opponent of the Contagious Diseases Acts’ (Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 1921-1922).

On 26 March 1856 he married Katharine Mounsey, only daughter of Thomas Mounsey of Hendon Hill, Sunderland. The marriage produced no issue but Edward ‘always delighted in the society of children and the promotion of their happiness’ (DNB). The couple appear on the 1861 and 1871 censuses living at Ashburne House, Bishopswearmouth, County Durham. On both censuses Edward gave ‘Banker’ as his profession.

A devout member of the Society of Friends, he himself began to speak at meetings in 1852 and was recognised as a minister two years later. In 1874 he embarked on writing a history of the Early Church from a Quaker point of view. This task remained unfinished at the time of his death, but his notes were posthumously edited, enlarged and published by Charles Taylor in 1884.

Edward Backhouse died, aged 71, on 22 May 1879 at Hastings in Sussex. He left an estate valued at £180,000.

An extensive obituary the Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette (23 May 1879) refers to his ‘private collection of rarities.’ According to a memorial published by the Society of Friends: ‘When collecting curiosities, of which he had a great number, his whole mind would be in his work.’ The same source also mentions his appreciation of ‘the beauties of nature’ and ‘his keen relish for fun and amusements.’

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