NICOLL, John, of Bodmin, Cornw.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1386-1421, ed. J.S. Roskell, L. Clark, C. Rawcliffe., 1993
Available from Boydell and Brewer




Family and Education

m. (1) Joan; (2) Alice, da. of John Combe of ‘Polasant’, Cornw.,1 1s. Otto, 1da.

Offices Held

Tax collector, Cornw. Mar. 1401, Dec. 1406, Dec. 1407, July 1413, May 1416, Dec. 1417, Dec. 1421, Oct. 1422, Apr. 1428, Sept. 1432.

Mayor, Bodmin 1402, 1411-12, 1429-30.2

Commr. of array, Cornw. Apr. 1418.

Coroner, Cornw. by Oct. 1418-July 1435.3


The pedigrees of the family of Nicoll of Penvose in St. Tudy, Cornwall, of which John was a member, place its origins in Guernsey. But whether or not John himself was a native of the Channel Islands, he spent most of his life in Bodmin, and was perhaps son of the John Nicoll who was murdered in the town on Easter Day 1398.4 It is uncertain which of the two had appeared in Chancery in 1393 as surety for John Tregoose* in his suit against the earl of Warwick, or during the next two years had been active in the quarrel Bodmin was having over customary services with Sir Henry Ilcombe*.5 Nor is identification made any easier by the fact that both men are described in contemporary documents as ‘merchants’, one of them being in 1393 fined as such (with other Cornish traders) for avoiding the Calais Staple when shipping tin overseas. It was certainly the parliamentary burgess, however, who on one occasion was said to owe 30s. for customs duties on shipments made at Fowey, and whose consignment of 107 ‘pieces’ of tin, freighted on the Jonet of Weymouth, was seized in London in 1401, on the orders of the treasurer of the Exchequer, for non-payment of the requisite dues. Over the years he was assessed for coinage at Lostwithiel on very large quantities of tin and by 1429 he had established business connexions with merchants of Lombardy.6

John Nicoll the MP was undoubtedly the most important burgess of Bodmin in the first half of the 15th century. Although he is only known to have sat in three Parliaments, he attended the elections held in the shire court on no fewer than 20 occasions between 1397 and 1437, in the meantime standing as a mainpernor for the burgesses-elect of Bodmin in 1397, 1406, 1407, 1410, 1420 and 1426, and for the knights of the shire, (Sir) John Arundell I and his son Thomas, in 1417. Moreover, Nicoll’s landed holdings were substantial: his second marriage gave him property in Bodinnick (in Lanteglos-by-Fowey), Lostwithiel and Restronguet; he purchased property in the parishes of Newlyn and St. Agnes; and he also enjoyed an annuity charged on the estates of the Lawhire family. Some misdemeanour committed when he was a collector of parliamentary subsidies in 1432 (the last of his ten such appointments) resulted in the confiscation by the Exchequer of five of his messuages in Bodmin and Lanivet worth £3 a year.7 Nicoll evidently found it difficult to combine his duties as a coroner with his other business affairs, and expressly on this account he was removed from office in 1435 after nigh on 17 years’ service. It was probably he who purchased land in ‘Carhorta’ near Bodmin in 1444; but the transaction was witnessed by another John Nicoll, who was apparently party to the settlements made in 1457 for Elizabeth Treffry, the MP’s grand daughter.8

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger


  • 1. JUST 1/1502 m. 211d, 1540 m. 80d.
  • 2. J. Maclean, Trigg Minor, i. 235; C219/10/6; Harl. Ch. 50 C40; Add. Ch. 13051.
  • 3. KB27/632 rex m. 9; CCR, 1429-35, p. 334; JUST 1/1536 m. 27.
  • 4. Maclean, iii. 372; CPR, 1396-9, p. 417. That John Nicoll was said to have been the s. of Nicholas Smith of Exeter: KB27/646 rex m. 14.
  • 5. CCR, 1392-6, p. 64; C1/16/108; JUST 1/1502 mm. 190, 214d; CPR, 1391-6, p. 651.
  • 6. CPR, 1391-6, p. 263; CCR, 1399-1402, p. 355; 1429-35, pp. 379, 381; E122/113/3; E101/263/26.
  • 7. C219/9/13, 10/3-6, 11/1, 4, 8, 12/2-6, 13/1, 2, 4, 5, 14/1, 4, 15/1; JUST 1/1502 m. 211d, 1519 m. 91d, 1540 m. 80d; C1/7/295-6; Cornw. Feet of Fines (Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc. 1950), 801, 983; Feudal Aids, i. 222, 226, 228-9, 231, 233, 240; Cornw. RO, Rashleigh ms DDR/2189; E364/77 m. I.
  • 8. Harl. Ch. 51F 26; Maclean, ii. 37, 245; Cornw. Feet of Fines, ii. 891. Our John Nicoll’s son Otto (d.1452) sat for Lostwithiel in 1437.