Thomas Babb: Feoffee of St. Mary’s of Wolborough, Devon (1754-1810)

Thomas Babb: Feoffee of St. Mary’s of Wolborough, Devon (1754-1810)

I came across a reference to two memorial plaques at St. Mary’s Church in Wolborough, which happens to be in the Parish of Newton Abbot. I sent off for photos of them from the Church Office and received these two images. They hold a place of honor on the wall of the church and are similar in nature to those found at the Church of Doddiscombsleigh we visit during Babb Reunions in Devon.

Plaque #1: Thomas Babb (1754-1810)

The first of these is in memory of Thomas Babb (Above), who was one of the Parish feoffees for St. Mary’s (in the Parish of Newton Abbot) and was known to be quite generous to church and its parishioners. He was just as generous

Thomas’ will is 6 pages long and miraculously still exists. The reason is simple. The will was filed in London and not in Exeter. If not for this we would not know the story of these valiant men on the two wall Plaques.

Thomas leaves a treasure of property and Tenements to his sons. The value of those is hard to determine, but he left cash to his daughters. They come up in at least 4 places in the will and inherited in excess of £1400. This is a healthy amount of money even today, but the equivalent value is currently £117,140.58. This number is given to each of 6 living children and two others with different surnames, whose relationship is not discussed in the will.

Thomas’ total estate in today’s money is approximately £1 Million (GBP).


Plaque #2: Samuel & John Babb

The plaque tells the harrowing story of two Babbs who went down with their crew after being shipwrecked. What isn’t apparent by looking at it is that Samuel & John were brothers and both sons of the Thomas Babb mentioned in Plaque #1.

Seeking to find out more I did some research. No records were available on John, but I located a copy of Samuel’s will and found it was also filed in London and thus is included in at the Kew, which serves as England’s National Archives. In it, Samuel planned to make his brother John the Executor of the estate. Fortunately, there was an alternate.

In Samuel’s will we see the graciousness continue as he makes all sorts of provisions for his yet to be born offspring. No children are mentioned in the will which was written 16 Apr 1816. Eleven months and one day later he would die off the shores of Castiglioncello in Northern Italy on 17 Mar 1817.

He had been married to Jane Tessier in Wolborough on 18 Oct 1814. Records show that they did manage to have one child, who is named Samuel, after his father. He was born about 1816, so his father and him may not have ever met.

Regardless, little Samuel grows up and takes on his father’s role as a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy. During his life he married Jane Elizabeth Gaye in 1837 and had at least one daughter, Maria Elizabeth Babb.


What is a Feoffee?

Under the feudal system in England, a feoffee (/fɛˈfiː, fiːˈfiː/) is a trustee who holds a fief (or “fee”), that is to say an estate in land, for the use of a beneficial owner. The term is more fully stated as a feoffee to uses of the beneficial owner. The use of such trustees developed towards the end of the era of feudalism in the Middle Ages and declined with the formal ending of that social and economic system in 1660. The development of feoffees to uses may have hastened the end of the feudal system, since their operation circumvented vital feudal fiscal mechanisms.

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