Geoffrey Babbe of Totnes – A Suspicious License (1585)

Saint Malo is a port city in Northern France with an antagonistic attitude towards the rulers of France. From time to time, it would declare its independence from both British and French rule. It is during one of those spats in 1585 that Geoffrey Babbe got caught up in a potential licensing dispute involving a shipment of 40 tons of “victuals” aboard the ship “Christopher of Lowe” heading to France.

Sir Thomas Leighton writes Secretary Sir Francis Walsingham to explain that Geoffrey (Jeffrey in the document) claimed to have license to export the food. His ship is impounded in Guernsey as Leighton awaits instructions from Walsingham.

Sir Francis Walsingham
(c) National Trust, Knole; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Leighton was both a soldier and politician and seems to have been acting as both in this situation. At this same moment he was also the Governor of Guernsey, off the coast of France.

On the entry from Oct 25, 1585, you will see the term “Bark” used. It is also spelled barque, and is a sailing ship of three or more masts, the rear (mizzenmast) being rigged for a fore-and-aft rather than a square sail. 

A secondary source records that Geoffrey also has a connection to Newfoundland:

I disagree that he had no children. He could easily have had children that either pre-deceased him, or who were not included in the will for whatever reason. However, Geoffrey was quite the power broker of his day and wiht numerous land holdings which he served as the fief for, he had obligations to the poor that are reflected as part of his estate. Depending on how you read portions of his Will, there could also be a son by the same name who will be paying out certain portions of the estate.

Key Take Aways

  1. This establishes Geoffrey as a Mariner in addition to his other business in the Mills of Totnes and serving as the town’s Mayor.
  2. We have record of Geoffrey the following year involved with the Champernowne Family Deeds for the rectory at Dartington. So, he wasn’t convicted, and his claim was likely valid.
  3. The Champernowne family has business with the Babbs of Devon and is also co-located with Phillip Babb of the Isles of Shoals.
  4. Dartington Hall is the preferred Inn for the Babb Family Reunions in England.
  5. Geoffrey is already linked through his heir Christopher to the Doddiscombsleigh Arms Claim that was rejected.
  6. The “customer” mentioned in the first paragraph resides in Dartmouth, which is where Phillip Babb married Marie Plumlie/Plumbley. It’s easily a coincidence…or is it?
  7. Geoffrey had other business in Dartmouth in 1589 when he defended a lease of the messuage and close there (essentially the Manor House & the area surrounding the church).
  8. Captain Thomas Babb (1754-1810) of Newton Abbot is the Fief holder of Wolborough, which is where Geoffrey was fined by the crown for settling without permission in 1579.
  9. We are slowly closing in on a solution to this age-old problem.
  10. Last, but absolutely most important, we need to find some Babbs in Newton Abbot to conduct a Y-DNA test!

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