NICOLL, Humphrey (1577-1643), of Penvose, St. Tudy, Cornw.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press




Family and Education

b. 19 May 1577, o.s. of Humphrey Nicoll of Penvose and Jane, da. of Richard Roscarrock of Roscarrock, Cornw. and wid. of William Tremayne of Upcott, Devon.1 educ. Exeter Coll., Oxf. 1595.2 m. 29 May 1604, Philippa (bur. 22 Jan. 1669), da. of Sir Anthony Rous* of Halton, St. Dominick, Cornw., 6s. 7da. suc. fa. 1597; bur. 21 Mar. 1643.3 sig. Humfry Nicoll.

Offices Held

Commr. piracy, Cornw. 1606-7, 1613,4 disarming of recusants 1620,5 Forced Loan 1626,6 swans, W. Country 1629,7 subsidy, Cornw. 1641-2.8


Originally from Guernsey, the Nicoll family were settled in Cornwall by around 1400, and represented Bodmin and Lostwithiel in Parliament in the early fifteenth century. They owned Penvose by 1446, and during the next 150 years gradually accumulated a moderate estate, mainly around Bodmin.9 Nicoll’s father, who served as escheator of Devon and Cornwall in 1584-5, died in 1597 possessed of more than 2,500 acres, including three-and-a-half manors. Although Nicoll inherited this property while still marginally under age, successive inquisitions post mortem failed to establish any royal claim to wardship. Instead, the principal constraint on his early career was his mother’s jointure provision, which gave her control of the bulk of these lands until her death in 1615.10 Despite this, in 1604 Nicoll married into one of east Cornwall’s leading gentry families, the Rouses, and he entered local government two years later.

Nicoll was a strong-minded character. In 1599 he assaulted a neighbour who had insulted his mother; and when one of his kinsmen, Littleton Trenance, failed to clear longstanding debts for which he had provided security, he badgered him into selling his main estates in 1620 to raise the necessary capital.11 By 1627 Nicoll was associated with William Coryton’s* Cornish gentry faction, and he emulated Coryton’s opposition to the Forced Loan that year, despite being appointed a commissioner for its collection. Besides refusing to pay himself, he persuaded Coryton’s nephew Nicholas Trefusis*, and probably also his own nephew by marriage, Francis Courtney*, to adopt the same stance. On 31 Aug. Nicoll appeared before the Privy Council to explain himself, but he appears to have escaped further punishment. His removal from the Cornish bench had been ordered on 16 July, even though he was not one of its members. Due to an error by Edward Nicholas* in the preparatory paperwork, his name had been substituted for that of the intended target, Ambrose Manaton*, a fellow Loan defaulter, who thereby escaped this penalty.12

In 1628 Nicoll backed Coryton’s successful bid to become a Cornish knight of the shire, and was himself elected at Bodmin, presumably on the strength of his local standing, though his association with Coryton conceivably aided his cause. The Commons’ records do not differentiate between Nicoll and another Member, Francis Nicolls, but it is clear that certain references relate to Nicoll rather than to this Northamptonshire MP. On 9 May Nicoll was added to the committee appointed to investigate the Cornish gentlemen who had opposed Coryton’s electoral campaign. Again, it must have been Nicoll who supplied information concerning the mayor of Saltash, Cornwall during a debate on the treatment of people summoned before the Privy Council (15 May). It was quite possibly also Nicoll who was nominated on 16 Feb. 1629 to a committee to consider a petition about recusancy, since Coryton’s name was listed immediately before his.13

Nicoll attempted to visit Coryton in the Tower in the aftermath of the Parliament’s dissolution, and in March 1629 he was examined by the attorney-general (Robert Heath*) about a letter of encouragement which he had written to his political ally.14 He continued his association with Coryton as late as 1638, but unlike the latter he maintained his militant opposition to arbitrary taxation, refusing to compound for knighthood until July 1633, when he paid the large fine of £50.15 As one of Cornwall’s parliamentarian leaders at the onset of the Civil War, he conducted negotiations with royalist commanders in the Bodmin district in September 1642. Nicoll died in the following March and was buried at St. Tudy. No will or letters of administration have been found. His son Anthony was a prominent member of the Presbyterian grouping in the Long Parliament.16

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Paul Hunneyball



  • 1. C142/253/95; Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 344.
  • 2. Al. Ox.
  • 3. Cornw. RO, FP50/1/1; FP241/1/1; Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 344.
  • 4. C181/1, f. 129v; 181/2, ff. 56v, 186v.
  • 5. Buller Pprs. ed. R.N. Worth, 7.
  • 6. C193/12/2.
  • 7. C181/4, f. 3v.
  • 8. SR, v. 60, 82, 149.
  • 9. J. Maclean, Trigg Minor Deanery, ii. 133; iii. 352, 366; OR; HP Commons, 1386-1421, iii. 838.
  • 10. List of Escheators comp. A.C. Wood (L. and I. Soc. lxxii), 37; C142/253/95; 142/264/148, 155.
  • 11. STAC 5/A48/30; C2/Jas.I/R15/51; 2/Chas.I/T27/63.
  • 12. Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 302; SP16/68/16; 16/71/2, 7; 16/75/43I; APC, 1627, pp. 421, 511.
  • 13. C219/41B/135; CD 1628, iii. 336, 421; CJ, i. 930b.
  • 14. HMC 12th Rep. i. 383-4; CSP Dom. 1628-9, pp. 496-7.
  • 15. C54/3170/20; E178/7161; E401/1920.
  • 16. R. Hopton Bellum Civile ed. C.E.H. Chadwick Healey (Som. Rec. Soc. xviii), 20; Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 344; D. Underdown, Pride’s Purge, 69.