Babington, Churchill (DNB01)

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BABINGTON, CHURCHILL (1821–1889), scholar, only son of Matthew Drake Babington, rector of Thringstone, Leicestershire, was born at Roecliffe in that county on 11 March 1821. He was connected with the Macaulay family, and slightly, on his mother's side, with that of the poet Churchill. Charles Cardale Babington [q. v. Suppl.] was his cousin. He was entered at St. John's College, Cambridge, in 1839, and graduated B.A. in 1843, taking the seventh place in the classical tripos, and a senior optime's in mathematics. He was elected a fellow and ordained in 1846, in which year he gained the Hulsean essay, writing on ‘Christianity in relation to the Abolition of Slavery.’ Some four years previously he had vindicated his youthful love of natural history in a contribution to Potter's ‘History and Antiquities of Charnwood Forest’ (1842, 4to). He graduated M.A. in 1846, and S.T.B. in 1853, proceeded D.D. in 1879, and was elected an honorary fellow of St. John's, Cambridge, in 1880. In 1849 was published at Cambridge his able defence of the English clergy and gentry of the seventeenth century against Macaulay's aspersions in the famous third chapter of the ‘History of England’ (Mr. Macaulay's Character of the Clergy… considered). Gladstone, in reviewing Macaulay's ‘History,’ was strongly impressed with Babington's essays, and considered that he had convicted Macaulay at least of partiality. In 1850 he was entrusted by the university with the task of editing the recently discovered fragments of ‘The Orations of Hyperides against Demosthenes, and for Lycophron and for Euxenippus’ from the papyri found at Thebes in Upper Egypt, and his edition was issued in two volumes (1850 and 1853). In 1855 he brought out an edition of ‘The Benefits of Christ's Death,’ supposed to be by the Italian reformer, Aonio Paleario. In 1860 he edited for the Rolls Series Pecock's ‘Repressor,’ and in 1865, for the same series, the two first volumes of Higden's ‘Polychronicon.’ In 1865 he was elected Disney professor of archæology at Cambridge, and published his introductory lecture. His contributions to the ‘ Dictionary of Christian Antiquities’ were very considerable (including the articles on medals, glass, gems, inscriptions, seals, rings, and tombs), and of great merit. His favourite studies, beside numismatics, were botany and ornithology. After 1866, in which year he left Cambridge and accepted the rectory of Cockfield in Suifolk, he was able to concentrate his attention upon this last and best loved study, and the result was his very thorough monograph on ‘The Birds of Suffolk’ (1886), a storehouse of facts upon the ornithology of the county. During his last years he took up the study of conchology, and formed a fine collection both of British and exotic shells. He was an exemplary parish clergyman, and his archaeological competence secured the adequate and tasteful restoration of Cockfield church during his incumbency. The last stage was marked by the erection of a new organ in 1887. He died at Cockfield on 12 Jan. 1889, and was buried in the parish churchyard. A stained glass window was erected to his memory in January 1890. He married in 1869 a daughter of Colonel John Alexander Wilson, R. A., but left no issue. Besides his separately printed works, his contributions to the journals of learned societies, such as the ‘Numismatic Chronicle’ and Hooker's ‘Journal of Botany,’ and the ‘Suffolk Institute Papers’ were numerous. His house was a small museum of natural history, coins, and Greek vases, and he brought from Cambridge in 1866 a fine collection of books.

[Bury and Norwich Post, and Suffolk Herald, 22 Jan. 1889; West Suffolk Advertiser, 14 June 1890; Guardian, 15 Jan. 1889; Graduati Cantab.]

T. S.