NICOLLS (NICHOLS), Francis (1586-1642), of Faxton, Northants.
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Family and Education
bap. 20 Feb. 1586,1 1st s. of Francis Nichols of Hardwick, Northants. and Anne, da. of David Seymour.2 educ. Brasenose, Oxf. 1602; M. Temple 1602.3 m. by 1616, Mary (d. 10 July 1634), da. of Edward Bagshawe, Vintner, of London, 1s. 1da.4 suc. fa. 1604, uncle Sir Augustine at Faxton 1616;5 cr. bt. 28 July 1641.6 d. 4 Mar. 1642.7 sig. Francis Nicolls.
Nicolls was descended from a gentry family seated at Ecton in Northamptonshire by 1530. His grandfather, a lawyer, sat for Grampound in 1553 and bought Hardwick; his father was a professional soldier of sufficient experience to be entrusted with the command of Tilbury Fort in 1588.13 Nicolls himself was admitted without fee to the Middle Temple in 1602, during the reading of his uncle, Sir Augustine, a judge, and seems to have retained his chamber there until 1612, although he was never called to the bar.14 At the same time he entered Brasenose College, Oxford, where his tutor was probably the puritan Robert Bolton, who was later presented by Sir Augustine to the living of Broughton and became a close family friend.15 It is not known who purchased Nicolls’ wardship when his father died, but Sir Augustine certainly played an important role in his subsequent upbringing; indeed, Nicolls married his uncle’s stepdaughter and succeeded to his estate in 1616.
Appointed to the county bench in 1620, Nicolls was clearly on friendly terms with Lord Montagu (Sir Edward Montagu*) with whom he corresponded about the high-handed behaviour of the 1st earl of Westmorland (Sir Francis Fane*) as custos rotulorum, and about the manoeuvrings preceding the contested 1626 election.16 Towards the end of the year Nicolls was removed from the local commission of oyer and terminer at his own request, perhaps in protest against the Forced Loan.17 Summoned before the Privy Council on 26 Jan. 1627, he was enjoined to remain in London, but appears to have received no further punishment.18 Nicolls’ resistance to arbitrary taxation doubtless recommended him to the Northamptonshire freeholders and he was returned in 1628 with Richard Knightley*. In the parliamentary records he cannot be differentiated from Humphrey Nicoll, who sat for Bodmin; it was possibly Nicolls who received appointments to consider a bill against judicial corruption (23 Apr. 1628), and a private measure for the sale of certain manors in Huntingdonshire (16 May).19
Nicolls refused to compound for knighthood in 1630, and was obliged to pay £100 to the Exchequer.20 In 1635 he appeared before the High Commission with several Northamptonshire clergymen, charged with keeping a conventicle in his house. The complainant (a cleric) asked the court to appoint a commission to investigate. To ensure its impartiality, Nicolls requested that it include, among others, his brother-in-law Edward Bagshawe. It was later alleged that Bagshawe tried to sabotage the case by browbeating witnesses, twisting their words, and showing their depositions to the defendants; the case dragged on for five years without reaching any conclusion.21 Nicolls bought a baronetcy on the eve of the Civil War but did not live long to enjoy his new status. He died on 4 Mar. 1642 and was buried at Hardwick.22 In an undated will he left his daughter a portion of £4,000, and made Bagshawe his overseer, providing £20 a year for an ‘honest preaching minister’ in Faxton and an annual stipend of £6 to the curate of All Hallows, Northampton, to preach 12 sermons a year to prisoners in the county gaol.23 Nicolls was succeeded by his son Edward, an active parliamentarian. No other member of the family entered Parliament, and the baronetcy became extinct in 1717.
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Authors: Virginia C.D. Moseley / Rosemary Sgroi
- 1. Northants. RO, X.2629 (Hardwick par. reg.)
- 2. Vis. Northants. ed. Metcalfe, 119.
- 3. Al. Ox.; M. Temple Admiss.
- 4. PROB 11/90, f. 258v; Bridges, Northants. ii. 95, 96, 101.
- 5. Her. and Gen. iii. 309-13; PROB 11/128, f. 133.
- 6. CB, ii. 114.
- 7. Vis. Northants. ed. Metcalfe, 119.
- 8. C231/4, ff. 98, 259; C66/2858.
- 9. C181/3, f. 206.
- 10. C181/3, f. 218; 181/4, ff. 140v, 180v.
- 11. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 94.
- 12. SR, v. 64, 86, 154.
- 13. Bridges, ii. 99-101; Her. and Gen. iii. 309-13.
- 14. MTR, 556.
- 15. R. Bolton, Four Last Things (1632), STC3242, sigs. a1r-a5v.
- 16. HMC Buccleuch, iii. 254, 257, 258, 260, 261, 262.
- 17. Bolton, sig. a1v.
- 18. APC, 1627, p. 33; 1627-8, p. 33; SP16/56/70; R. Cust, Forced Loan, 310.
- 19. CD 1628, iii. 44, 429.
- 20. E401/2450; HMC Buccleuch, iii. 358; CSP Dom. 1629-31, p. 351.
- 21. SP16/261, ff. 285, 289, 295, 301; 16/334, f. 13v; 16/337/58; 16/437/58; CSP Dom. Addenda, 1625-49, p. 51.
- 22. Vis. Northants. ed. Metcalfe, 119.
- 23. Northants. RO, wills ser. 3, bk. A, f. 198.