John Babb – 1668 Coin from Lincoln, England

I was searching for an item on the British Museum Archives Website today and stumbled across this coin which was issued by “John Babb in the Bale of Lincolne, I. B. 1668”.

According to John’s Biography at the Museum he “Issued tokens. Possible member of the Mercers’ Company. Master of the Free Grammar School, Louth from 1676 to 1681.”

It’s a bit ironic to me that just days ago, I said that there were no Babbs in Louth, Ireland prior to the 20th Century and it looks like I’ll be needing to eat those words. LOL

I’ve seen this sort of thing happen repeatedly in my research. There are almost 40,000 people in the big Babb tree, yet somehow, I end up working on two or three requests that have a common thread. It’s like the universe is saying to me “but, but, but NO! You got it wrong!!!” Frankly, I’m thankful for the universe and know enough to realize how much there is to learn.

The Bayle

Lincoln and even Lincolnshire aren’t locations that are synonymous with the Babb surname. The tree has only 7 people in the city and 82 in the county. So, I had to do some research just to make this post.

An English cousin helped me sort it out. “The Baile” is now known as “The Bayle”. It is an area in the town of Lincoln that surrounds a street known as Bailgate.

An image of Bailgate road looking through the Bail Gateway itself.
–Source Unknown

There are two landmarks in close proximity to Bailgate aka The Bayle. They are Lincoln Cathedral and Lincoln Castle.


Why was the token created?

According to the entry for this “trade” token (token | British Museum) it is made of an Alloy material. The Obverse (front side) contains the (Mercer’s) Merchant’s Arms. The Reverse (back side) contains the rest of the inscription and the date. A mercer is defined by Merriam Webster as “a dealer in textile fabrics, especially silks, velvets, and other fine materials.”

While this is not proof, it is likely what caused the British Museum to link John to a school in Louth County, Ireland where a John Babb was the Master of the Free Grammar School. I’m not yet ready to say that they are the same person. The two locations are very far apart. But there is clearly a Babb presence in Louth prior to 1900.

The value of the coin would have been 1 Farthing and it would have been minted as part of what is essentially a “Buy Local” campaign during a period of instability surrounding the English Civil War. I won’t go into those details, but there is a great writeup of the topic here: Explore Trade Tokens from the 17th century – Antique Collecting (antique-collecting.co.uk)

About my Initial Search

What about the item I was looking for in the first place? Well, I completely lost focus with something that is shiny. 🙂

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