Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Babington, William (d.1455)

BABINGTON, Sir WILLIAM, (d. 1455), judge, of an ancient Northumbrian family, was the second son of Sir John Babington, Knt., of East Brigford in the county of Nottingham, by Benedicta, daughter of Simon Ward, Esq., of Cambridgeshire, who held the offices of escheator (a functionary whose business it was to safeguard the interests of the crown in escheats, wardships, and the like incidents of the royal prerogative) for the counties of Northampton and Rutland, and custos of the castle and manor of Okeham. Babington married Margery, daughter of Sir Peter Martell, Knt., of Chilwell in Nottingham, through whom he became possessed of estates in that place, and by whom he had five sons and five daughters. He was appointed king's attorney on 16 Jan. 1414, and in the following year (11 July 1415) was commanded to take the rank of serjeant-at-law, at that time one of greater dignity than that of king's attorney, but generally shunned as a barren and expensive honour. Accordingly, in company with several other 'apprentices of the law' who were summoned about the same time, he neglected to appear to the writ, and it was only under pressure of an order from parliament (November 1417) that he and his colleagues were induced to comply. This incident is referred to by Pym in his speech in impeachment of the Duke of Buckingham (in 1626) as one which might be distorted, though manifestly irrelevant, into a precedent for the practice of compelling the purchase of titles of honour, which was one of the offences with which the duke was charged. It is about this date (1417) that Babington's name begins to appear with frequency in the year books. His rise henceforward must have been rapid, for he was appointed chief baron of the exchequer in 1419, and in 1420 justice of the common bench. In 1423 he became chief justice of the common bench, and so continued until 1436, when he retired. In that year his name appears in the list of those called upon to contribute to the loan raised for the purpose of infusing new vigour into the war in France, the sum exacted from him being 100l. He endowed the Babington chantry at Flaforth in Nottinghamshire with some houses and rents, and is said by Foss to have founded 'a chantry for two chaplains at the altar of St. Catherine in the church at Thurgarton' in the same county. There occurs in the St. Alban's Registry the following memorandum: 'For one cup given to W. Babington, Knt., Chief Justice of the Common Bench, for favours done to the Monastery, c. s.' Babington died in 1455, and was buried at Lenton Priory in Nottinghamshire.

[Burke's Landed Gentry; Foss's Judges; Rot. Parl. iv. 107, 1353; State Trials, ii. 1315, 1353; Dugdale's Chronica Series, 57, 58, 62; Proceedings of the Privy Council, 316, 327; Calendarium Inquisitionum post mortem et Escætarum, iv. 263, 298.]

J. M. R.