James Backhouse (5) was born in York, North Yorkshire on 14th April, 1861. He was the son of the nurseryman James Backhouse (4) and his wife Mary (née Robson); grandson of the nurseryman, botanist and Quaker missionary James Backhouse (3); and descended from the Backhouse banking family in Darlington.
James (5) went into the family nursery business, and changed it from a family business to a limited company in 1891, re-naming it Backhouse Nurseries (York) Limited.
He was also renowned as a naturalist, and especially for his knowledge of ornithology. Together with his father, he excavated over a 10-year period from 1878 the Moking Hurth Cave (also known as Backhouse Cave, or the Teesdale Cave, or Malkins Cave) at Forest-in-Teesdale, County Durham. He also served as an honorary curator of zoology at the Yorkshire Museum in York.