FULLER, Nicholas (c.1543-1620), of St. Christopher-le-Stocks, London the Chamberhouse, Thatcham, Berks.
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Family and Education
b. c.1543, yr. s. of Nicholas Fuller, London merchant, by his w. Elizabeth Castleman of Lancashire. educ. Christ’s, Camb. 1560, BA 1563; G. Inn 1563, called. m. Sara, da. of Alderman Nicholas Backhouse of London, 2s. 5da.
Ancient, G. Inn 1574, pensioner 1584, Autumn reader 1587, dean of chapel 1588, treasurer 1591; common pleader, London 1584-1611.
Fuller was a puritan lawyer principally remembered for his part in a case in the Stuart period which became a landmark in the struggle against the High Commission.
After a period of activity in London vestry meetings, Fuller refused the solicitor-generalship of Ireland ostensibly on grounds of sickness, but more probably because he did not want to be put out of the way. He first came into conflict with the authorities after his defence of Thomas Cartwright, who had refused to take the ex officio oath in 1590, and then of nine ministers brought before the Star Chamber in 1591, following which, in the July, he was committed a close prisoner to the Fleet. After three weeks he became a prisoner at large. It is not known when he was released—certainly before December 1592 when he was employed on a small matter by the Privy Council.
Fuller missed being returned for Gatton in 1586, and first came into Parliament for St. Mawes in 1593, through the intervention of an unknown patron. He took an active part in its proceedings in the interests both of the city of London and of puritanism. He was on the subsidy committee of 26 Feb. and on 21 Mar. spoke against alien retailers:
they will not converse with us, they will not marry with us, they will not buy anything of our countrymen ... they make lawns, velvets, sashes [silks], taffetas, linen cloth and all this they sell to us also. Now whosoever maketh a thing and selleth a thing raiseth the price of it. The retailing stranger buyeth nothing of our country commodities, but all he layeth out he buyeth from beyond the seas. The searchers have sometimes taken £7,000 of theirs at a time.
He reported a cloth bill (27 Mar.) and a bill regulating new building in London and Westminster (9 Apr.). His main fire he reserved for ‘the bill of recusants meant for Brownists’, as it was described in the anonymous journal for this Parliament—the new measure which bracketed protestant sectaries with Catholics as enemies of the state. This he thought, in the debate on the second reading (4 Apr.), ‘dangerous to good subjects and needless for them it should punish’. It was upon Fuller’s motion that the subsequent committee ‘assented to the striking out of the title and the whole preamble’.
When Fuller was elected double reader at Gray’s Inn in 1598, this was not a distinction he coveted, and he paid a fine of £20 for refusing to read. As a lawyer his contribution towards the supply of cavalry for Ireland in 1600 should have been £15, but by May his contribution was overdue.
In the next reign Fuller’s defence of the puritans Ladd and Mansel, who had refused to take the ex officio oath, was so vehement that he found himself arraigned before the High Commission, fined £200 and imprisoned from July 1607 to April 1608 (with a brief period of freedom in the January). The story that he languished in gaol for the rest of his life has been discredited. He took part in the 1610-11 session of the Commons, continued to criticize the government’s religious policy in that of 1614, and thenceforth divided his time between London and Thatcham, where he had bought a house in 1583, and where he died 23 Feb. 1620. He had made his will four days earlier, leaving his children
far less than I meant to have given them, if all things had so happily succeeded to me of late years as in former times, and that some unexpected crosses had not fallen upon me.
He had shares in the Virginia Company and property in Essex and Warwickshire. He bequeathed six sums of 40s. to preachers, £5 to the poor of Thatcham and £3 to those of Newbury. A provision of £20 was for a marble monument in Thatcham church, showing him in his barrister’s gown.
S. Barfield, Thatcham and its Manors, passim; N. and Q. n.s. xxii. 302-5; Lansd. 46, f. 57; APC, xxi. 299-300, 343, 393; xxiii. 373; xxx. 30, 308; D’Ewes, 474, 477, 506, 510, 517, 521; Cott. Titus F. ii, anon. jnl. ff. 88, 92.