NICHOLAS, Robert (1758-1826), of Ashton Keynes, Wilts.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer



4 Apr. 1785 - Mar. 1790

Family and Education

b. 22 Apr. 1758, 1st surv. s. of Edward Richmond Nicholas of Devizes, physician, by Jenny, da. of William Neate of Devizes.  educ. Winchester c.1772; Queen’s Oxf. 1774; L. Inn 1776, called 1782.  m. (1) 28 May 1778, Charlotte, da. of Adm. Sir Thomas Frankland, 5th. Bt., 5s. 6da.; (2) 10 Aug. 1805, Anne, da. of John Shepherd Clarke of Stanmore, Mdx., 4s. 2da.1  suc. fa. 1770.

Offices Held

Commr. of Excise 1790-1822; chairman of Board of Excise 1802-22.


The Nicholas family were originally settled at Roundway near Devizes, and one of them, John Nicholas, represented the borough 1713-15. But ‘Robert sold Roundway about 1780 and went to live at Ashton Keynes’, which came to him through his maternal grandmother.2In April 1782 he declared his candidature for Cricklade should the proposed reform pass, and asked for support from Lord Shelburne, and from the Members for the county, whose property lay in the Cricklade Hundreds. Isaac Hawkins Browne, when recommending him to Shelburne, 15 Apr. 1782, described him as ‘of an ancient family in Wiltshire, and of independent fortune ... He signed the Wiltshire petition, and is a warm friend to the popular cause. I have no doubt he would always support the Administration, which we have at last been so happy to obtain.’...3 Shelburne gave Nicholas his support, but in view of superior strength against him, Nicholas declined the contest.

At the general election of 1784, Nicholas and John Walker Heneage stood jointly as supporters of Pitt; were defeated on the poll but seated on petition. Nicholas voted with Pitt over parliamentary reform, 18 Apr. 1785, and during the Regency crisis, 1788-9, but against Richmond’s fortifications plan, 27 Feb. 1786. Apparently he never spoke in the House.

On 19 Mar. 1788 Nicholas wrote to Pitt asking on a vacancy to be appointed receiver of the land tax for North Wilts. The ‘severe contest at the last general election’ and the further expense of the petition, ‘though it has not involved me in any debt, has occasioned a diminution of my property which I could not justify to my family, except from those public principles upon which I acted’. A commissionership of Excise or Customs would be even more agreeable to him.

He was appointed commissioner of the Excise in March 1790, which vacated his seat.  He died 27 Dec. 1826.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: J. A. Cannon


  • 1. Wilts. N. Q. vii. 130.
  • 2. Ibid. 238-9.
  • 3. Lansdowne mss.