Babington family

Arms of Babington: Argent, ten torteaux in chief a label of three points azure

The Babington family (sometimes Babbington) is an English and Anglo-Irish gentry family descending from Sir John de Babington, lord of the manor of Babington (now Bavington), in Northumberland, who was living in 1178.[1][2][3] The family were primarily landowners in Derbyshire (Dethick inheritance), Northumberland, Leicestershire, County Cork, County Donegal and County Londonderry. Family seats included Rothley Court, Dethick Manor, Creevagh House, Roe Park House, Chilwell Hall, Curborough Hall and Packington Hall. The family has routinely produced members who have successively occupied posts such as High Sheriff, Lord Lieutenant and Member of Parliament.[4][5][6][7][8]

Babington House in Babington, Somerset, occupies the site of a former seat of the Babington family


Sir John de Babington, Lord of Babington, was recorded in the county of Northumberland in 1178. The family had been seated there since the Norman Conquest of 1066.[10] Sir John de Babington, a great-great-grandson of the first recorded Sir John, was Chief Captain of Morlaix in Brittany during the reign of King Edward III, and was buried in monastery of the White Friars at Morlaix.[11] His son, Sir John de Babington is said to have exclaimed in Norman French: 'foy est tout' ("faith is all"), on being chosen by King Henry IV for dangerous duty in France, which became the family's motto.[12] His son, Thomas Babington of Dethick served with King Henry V at the Agincourt.[13] His own son Sir John Babington of Dethick, was slain at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 fighting for King Richard III.[14]

The family is related by blood or marriage to the Marquesses of Tweeddale, Egerton family and Dukes of Sutherland, FitzHerbert family, Palmer family of Dorney Court, Earls of Cork, Barons of Dunsay and Earls of Elgin.[15][16][17]

Political members

The family has a rich political history with members such as Sir Anthony Babington serving as Member of Parliament for Nottingham from 1529-1536;[18] Thomas Babington, a member of the Clapham Sect, serving as MP for Leicester from 1800-1818 and being a noted campaigner against slavery;[19] Sir William Babington was a King's Attorney, now known as Attorney General for England and Wales, and later Chief Baron of the Exchequer;[20] Matthew Babington was MP for Leicestershire in 1660[21] and Zachary Babington served as High Sheriff of Staffordshire between 1713-1724.[22]

Anthony Babington and co-conspirators are meeting before the Babington Plot is to commence.

Another politically active member of the family, arguably the best known member of the family in history, was Anthony Babington,[23] the orchestrator of the so-called "Babington Plot" which aimed to replace the Protestant Queen Elizabeth I with the catholic Mary, Queen of Scots. The plot led to the execution of both Anthony Babington and Queen, together with other conspirators.[24]

George Babington Parker, a distant relation to the main family, served as MP for Gladstone in New Zealand from 1871-1875.[25]

20th century politically active members of the family include Sir Anthony Babington, MP for two Belfast constituencies from 1925-1937 and Attorney General for Northern Ireland,[26] and Robert Babington MP for North Down in the Northern Ireland Parliament from 1969-1972.[27]

Military members

The family has a strong military tradition going back to the wars waged by the Plantagenet monarchs.[28] The family has been represented at the Battle of Agincourt, Battle of Bosworth, Battle of Flodden and Battle of the Boyne.[29][30][31][32][33]

One of the family's most famous 20th century military members was Lieutenant-General Sir James Babington, who commanded the 1st Cavalry Brigade as a Major-General during the Second Boer War and commanded the 23rd Division during the First World War.[34]

Air Marshal Sir John Tremayne Babington served in both the First and Second World Wars in both the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, eventually becoming Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief Technical Training Command and then Head of RAF Mission in Moscow before he retired as High Sheriff of Cornwall,[35] whilst Air Marshal Sir Philip Babington, also having served in both World Wars, was Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Flying Training Command.[36]

Robert Babington, as well as serving in politics, was a recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross during the Second World War and fought in the Battle of Crete with the Royal Navy.[37]

Anthony Babington, who lived from 1920-2004, was injured in the Battle of Arnhem and left for dead until slight movements were detected. Babington served as a Captain in the Dorset Regiment during the Second World War. He was a recipient of the Croix de Guerre. Babington wrote books about the British Army during the Second World War and his ability to overcome his war injuries are documented in his autobiography An Uncertain Voyage.[38]

Ecclesiastical members

Gervase Babington served in the Church of England from 1591-1610, and served as the Bishop of Llandaff (1591–1594), Bishop of Exeter (1594–1597) and Bishop of Worcester from 1597-1610.[39] Bishop Babington was an attendee at the Hampton Court Conference and contributed ideas towards the Lord's Prayer, Ten Commandments and Five Books of Moses.[40]

Francis Babington was appointed Master (head) of Balliol College, Oxford by Elizabeth I's visitors in 1559, but he resigned a year later in 1560.[41] Dr Babington served as Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University from 1560 to 1562.[42] and Rector of Lincoln College, Oxford from 1560-1563.[43] Babington was also chaplain to the Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester and was one of his five most trusted advisors in Oxford according to Anthony à Wood.[44]

Brutus Babington, the progenitor of the Anglo-Irish branch of the family, was the Church of Ireland Bishop of Derry from 1610-1611.[45] His tenure ended as a result of his unexpected death.[46] Babington was charged by King James and his Privy Council with converting the native population to the reformed Protestant faith.[47]

Ven. Richard Babington, who lived from 1901-1984, was Archdeacon of Exeter from 1958-1970 and Treasurer of Exeter Cathedral from 1962-1970.[48]

Academic members

Cardale Babington, the botanist and archaeologist, famously argued with Charles Darwin over who should be allowed to select beetle specimens whilst at Cambridge in 1829.[49] Babington wrote Manual of British Botany (1843), Flora of Cambridgeshire (1860), The British Rubi (1869) and edited the publication Annals and Magazine of Natural History from 1842.[50]

Churchill Babington, like his cousin, was also a botanist who made contributions to the fields of archaeology and natural history. Babington contributed to Potter's History and Antiquities of Charnwood Forest (1842) with the appendices on botany (in part) and ornithology. Babington made a name for himself as a Greek scholar through the publication of the editio princeps of the speeches of Hypereides Against Demosthenes (1850), On Behalf of Lycophron and Euxenippus (1868), and his Funeral Oration (1858). Babington also wrote Mr Macaulay's Character of the Clergy (1849), a defence of the clergy of the 17th Century.[51] This publication received the approval of Gladstone.[52]

William Babington was a physician and mineralogist whose contributions made him a founder member of the Geological Society of London,[53] where he was president from 1822-1824. Babington was the curator for the mineral collection owned by John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute, whose estate sold Babington the collection on his death.[54] The mineral Babingtonite is named after him.[55]

Benjamin Guy Babington, William Babington's son, was a physician and epidemiologist, and in 1850 he was elected the founding President of the Epidemiological Society of London.[56]

Babington's tea room

Babington's tea room was founded in 1893 by Isabel Cargill and Anne Marie Babington to establish a traditional English tearoom for the English expats living in Rome. Babington's survived two world wars, the advent of fast food and various economic crises, and has become a favourite meeting place for writers, actors, artists and politicians.[57]


Triclinic crystals of babingtonite with prehnite, from Qiaojia, Qiaojia Co., Zhaotong, Yunnan, China (size: 71 mm x 55 mm, 71 g)

Babingtonite was named after William Babington (1757–1833). It is the official mineral (mineral emblem) of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.[58]

Notable members


  1. The Genealogy of the family of Babington of Dethick by G.G.
  2. Burke's Landed Gentry 'Babington of Creevagh'
  3. College of Arms pedigree 1967 - Babington
  5. Burke's Landed Gentry 'Babington of Creevagh'
  6. College of Arms pedigree 1967 - Babington
  7. The Genealogy of the family of Babington of Dethick by G.G.
  8. Copographica Genealogica, Vol VIII, John Bowyer Nichols and Son. BABINGTONIA.
  9. Copographica Genealogica, Vol VIII, John Bowyer Nichols and Son. BABINGTONIA.
  10. The Genealogy of the family of Babington of Dethick by G.G.
  11. The Genealogy of the family of Babington of Dethick by G.G.
  12. 'The General Armory of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales' by Bernard Burke
  15. The Genealogy of the family of Babington of Dethick by G.G.
  25. Wilson, James Oakley (1985) [First ed. published 1913]. New Zealand Parliamentary Record, 1840–1984 (4th ed.). Wellington: V.R. Ward, Govt. Printer. p. 225. OCLC 154283103.
  30. 'Benjamin Guy Babington' by T.G. Wilson
  32. 'Discovery Walks in Derbyshire' by Paul A Biggs & Sandra Biggs
  33. Copographica Genealogica, Vol VIII, John Bowyer Nichols and Son. BABINGTONIA.
  39. Gervase Babington, Dictionary of National Biography.
  40. "Babington, Gervase (BBNN567G)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  41. Salter, H. E.; Lobel, Mary D., eds. (1954). "Balliol College". A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 3: The University of Oxford. Victoria County History. pp. 82–95. Retrieved 25 July 2011.
  42. "Previous Vice-Chancellors". University of Oxford, UK. Retrieved 25 July 2011.
  43. Salter, H. E.; Lobel, Mary D., eds. (1954). "Lincoln College". A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 3: The University of Oxford. Victoria County History. pp. 163–173. Retrieved 25 July 2011.
  44. "Babington, Francis (BBNN544F)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  45.  Archer, Thomas Andrew (1885). "Babington, Brute". In Stephen, Leslie. Dictionary of National Biography. 02. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  46. Fryde, E. B.; Greenway, D. E.; Porter, S.; Roy, I., eds. (2003). Handbook of British Chronology (3rd ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 387. ISBN 0-521-56350-X.
  47. Bardon, Jonathan (2011). The Plantation of Ulster. Dublin: Gill & Macmillan. pp. 198–200. ISBN 978-07171-4738-0.
  49. Darwin Correspondence Project Database. (letter no. 60; accessed 28 December 2010)
  50. Darby, Michael. A Biographical Dictionary of British Coleopterists.
  51. "Babington, Churchill (BBNN839C)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  52. Obituary of the late Churchill Babington, Suffolk Institute of Archaeology.
  55. Babingtonite, Hudson Institute of Mineralogy.
  56. Evans, A. (2001). "Benjamin Guy Babington: Founding President of the London Epidemiological Society". International Journal of Epidemiology. 30 (2): 226–30. doi:10.1093/ije/30.2.226. PMID 11369720.
  58. Massachusetts: Mineral or mineral emblem of commonwealth
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