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James Backhouse (3)

James Backhouse (3) was a nurseryman and alpine specialist active in the 19th century. He was a member of the noted Backhouse family of horticulturalists and naturalists and a member of the Society of Friends.

Backhouse was born in Darlington, England on 8 July 1794, the son of James Backhouse (2) (1757-1804).

In 1815, together with his brother, Thomas Backhouse (1792-1845), James Backhouse established James Backhouse & Son of York (and later of Leeds), a plant nursery first based at Telford Nursery, York, on what was once the old York Friars Gardens owned by the Telford family.

James married Deborah Lowe (1793-1827) of Worcester in November 1822. Deborah had been very ill when she was young, and suffered ill-health after her marriage to James. She died at the age of 34 on 10 December 1827, and was memorialised by her husband in A Memoir of Deborah Backhouse of York, 1828.

In 1831, Backhouse embarked on a combined missionary tour and plant collecting expedition of Australia, Mauritius and southern Africa, leaving his two young children in the care of family. During his decade abroad, he corresponded with his friends and family in England, including his brother Thomas who was managing and developing the nursery in his absence.

In 1851, together with his son, James (4) (1825-1890), he travelled to Norway. The two also toured the Arctic Circle and several parts of Great Britain in search of plants. Backhouse died in 1869.


Backhouse, James, A Memoir of Deborah Backhouse of York; Who Died the Tenth of the Twelfth Month, 1827; Aged Thirty-four Years (W. Alexander & Son, York, 1828).

Davis, Peter, ‘Backhouse family (per. c.1770–1945)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004) < > [accessed 21 Nov 2008]

- 'The Backhouses of Weardale, Co. Durham, and Sutton Court, Hereford: Their Botanical and Horticultural Interests', Garden History, Vol. 18, No. 1 (Spring, 1990), pp. 57-68.

Hadfield, Miles, Robert Harling and Leonine Highton, British Gardeners: A Biographical Dictionary (London: A. Zwemmer Ltd., 1980), p. 19.

Further reading:

Mary Bartram Trott, 'Backhouse, James (1794 - 1869)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1 (Melbourne University Press, 1966), pp 45-46.

Also online at: Mary Bartram Trott, 'Backhouse, James (1794 - 1869)', Australian Dictionary of Biography at [accessed 12/01/2009] .

Read more about the Backhouse Nurseries in our Historical Profile article:

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