Backhouse, Jonathan (1779-1842) Quaker 1842

Jonathan Backhouse, a banker and financier, was born in Darlington, Co. Durham, the eldest son of Jonathan Backhouse (1747–1826), banker, and his wife, Ann (d. 1826), the second daughter of Edward Pease of Darlington. Jonathan senior was the eldest of three sons of James Backhouse of Westmorland, a yarn and wool dealer, who had moved to Darlington during the 1750s to establish a flax-dressing and linen-manufacturing business. This was the precursor to the foundation, in 1774, of J. and J. Backhouse banking, a partnership shared by James, with his son Jonathan and later also with his nephew James junior. The family had earlier indicated its interest in wider commercial affairs by taking on the local agency of the Royal Exchange Assurance in 1759.

As private bankers, the Backhouses were not untypical of numerous entrepreneurs in the eighteenth-century economy who combined manufacturing ventures with the financing of trade generally. In 1798, following the death of James senior, the title of the bank was changed to Jonathan Backhouse & Co. It was in this form that it became involved in the financing and projection of the pioneering Stockton and Darlington Railway, the first public railway to be empowered to use steam locomotives.

During the first three decades of the nineteenth century Backhouse proved to be the dominant partner in the bank, and he presided over a process of expansion which was to consolidate its position in the commercial infrastructure of co. Durham. In 1805 a branch was opened at Durham and in the following year at Sunderland. In the mid-1820s the network was extended to Newcastle upon Tyne, South Shields, and Stockton-on-Tees. In conformity with the evolution of the banking system in the country as a whole at this time, the north-east of England was afflicted periodically by phases of instability in response to the overextension of credit. Local banking crises occurred in the late 1790s, in 1803, 1815, 1819, 1823, and 1825. Jonathan Backhouse & Co. weathered all of these vicissitudes without difficulty.

Backhouse resigned as treasurer to the Stockton and Darlington Railway in 1833 in order to embark upon full-time ministry on behalf of the Society of Friends. He retained his partnership in the family bank, but bequeathed his authority to his son, Edmund (1824–1880). Jonathan Backhouse died at Darlington on 7 October 1842.