Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Backhouse, Edward

BACKHOUSE, EDWARD (1808–1879), author of 'Early Church History,' was born at Darlington on 8 May 1808. He lived from early boyhood at Sunderland, where he was a partner in collieries and in the bank with which his family had been connected for many years. He took no active part in business, and was a man of cultivated tastes, fond of travel, a good amateur painter, a a student of natural history. He devoted himself chiefly to the promotion of philanthropic and religious purposes. He was most generous and judicious supporter various institutions in Sunderland, and said to have spent over 10,000l. a year 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. He was a devoted member of the Society of Friends, to which his family belonged. He began to preach 1852, and two years later was 'recognised' as a minister. He married Katharine Mounsey in 1856. He had no family, but he always delighted in the society of children and the promotion of their happiness. In 1874 was impressed by the belief that he ought devote himself to writing upon church history. He laboured at this task till his death 22 May 1879. His manuscripts were entrusted to Mr. Charles Tylor, who publish in 1884 'Early Church History to the Death of Constantine; compiled by the late Edward Backhouse; edited and enlarged by Charles Tylor.' The book, which makes no pretense to profound research, is interesting as an account of the early church by an intelligent writer from the quaker point of view.

[Preface to Early Church History by Charles Tylor; Northern Echo, 24 May 1879; Sunderland Daily Echo, 23 and 28 May 1879; information from the family.]

L. S.