He was first educated by his father, Matthew Drake Babington, and then studied under Charles Wycliffe Goodwin, the orientalist and archaeologist, entering St John's College, Cambridge in 1839 and graduating in 1843, seventh in the first class of the classical tripos and a senior optime. In 1845 he obtained the Hulsean Prize for his essay The Influence of Christianity in promoting the Abolition of Slavery in Europe. In 1846 he was elected to a fellowship and took orders. He proceeded to the degree of M.A. in 1846 and D.D. in 1879. From 1848 to 1861 he was vicar of Horningsea, near Cambridge, and from 1866 to his death he was vicar of Cockfield in Suffolk. From 1865 to 1880 he held the Disney professorship of archaeology at Cambridge. In his lectures, illustrated from his own collections of coins and vases, he dealt chiefly with Greek and Ancient Roman pottery and numismatics.
Babington wrote on a variety of subjects. His early familiarity with country life gave him a taste for natural history, especially botany and ornithology. He was also an authority on conchology. He was the author of the appendices on botany (in part) and ornithology in Potter's History and Antiquities of Charnwood Forest (1842). In 1853, he was elected a Fellow of the Linnean Society.
He was the author of Mr Macaulay's Character of the Clergy (1849), a defence of the clergy of the 17th Century, which received the approval of Gladstone. He also brought out the editio princeps of the speeches of Hypereides Against Demosthenes (1850), On Behalf of Lycophron and Euxenippus (1868), and his Funeral Oration (1858). It was by his edition of these speeches from the papyri discovered at Thebes (Egypt) in 1847 and 1856 that Babington's fame as a Greek scholar was made.
In 1855 he published an edition of Benefizio della Morte di Cristo, a remarkable book of the Reformation period, attributed to Paleario, of which nearly all the copies had been destroyed by the Inquisition. Babington's edition was a facsimile of the editio princeps published at Venice in 1543, with an Introduction and French and English versions. He also edited the first two volumes of Higden's Polychronicon (1858) and Bishop Pecock's Represser of Overmuch Blaming of the Clergy (1860); Introductory Lecture on Archaeology (1865); Roman Antiquities found at Rougham (1872); Catalogue of Birds of Suffolk (1884–1886); Flora of Suffolk (with W. M. Hind, 1889), etc. He catalogued the classical manuscripts in the University Library and the Greek and English coins in the Fitzwilliam Museum.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Babington, Churchill". Encyclopædia Britannica 3 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 96
- Seccombe, Thomas (1901). "Babington, Churchill". In Sidney Lee. Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement I. London: Smith, Elder & Co.