NICOLLS, Thomas (by 1529-68), of the Rectory, Pytchley, Northants. and the Old Bailey, London.
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Family and Education
b. by 1529, 1st s. of William Nicolls of Great Billing and Ecton, Northants. educ. M. Temple. m. by 1552, Anne, da. of John Pell of Elkington, Northants., 4s. 3da.1
Bencher, M. Temple 1566, Autumn reader 1566.
It is not known whether Northamptonshire was Thomas Nicolls’s native or adopted county. His father, who was born about 1480, came from the north of England and only settled in that county towards the end of his life, perhaps after his son had married into a Northamptonshire family and had begun to purchase land there. Nicolls entered the Middle Temple, established a reputation for himself and achieved high rank within the inn before his early death. When early in the next century the windows of the hall were adorned with the arms of notable Middle Templars, his were included. From 1550 he made regular purchases of land, chiefly in Northamptonshire, and in 1567 he obtained Hardwick, which was to become his descendants’ principal seat.2
It was presumably as a step in his career that Nicolls sought election to the Parliament summoned at Northumberland’s behest in the spring of 1553. He had no personal ties with Cornwall and probably obtained his seat for Grampound as the nominee of Sir John Russell, 1st Earl of Bedford. Bedford was a substantial landowner in the east midlands and his steward Giles Isham was a near neighbour of Nicolls there: the two families saw much of each other and Robert Isham, chaplain to Queen Mary, appointed Nicolls one of his executors. Nothing is known of Nicolls’s part in the work of the House, and it is not clear why he did not sit again: the accession of Mary is unlikely to have proved a deterrent to him, and it may be that his flourishing law practice monopolized his attention.3
On 20 Mar. 1568 Nicolls made a will providing for his wife, children and father. He gave his father a lease on the manor of Hardwick for the maintenance and education of his children, and provided for the discharge of his debts by the sale of his house in the Old Bailey and his moiety of a Dorset manor. His assistant Edward Griffin received two law-books, and the remainder of his library was shared between his sons, Francis, later the governor of Tilbury fort, Augustine, the judge, Lewis and William. He forgave Edmund Mordaunt the arrears of an annuity of £6 8s.4d. granted to him by Mordaunt and his grandfather, and left his friends Francis Saunders, Robert Bell† and John Hippisley 20s. each for mourning rings. As his executors, he appointed his wife, eldest son, father and father-in-law. He died at Peterborough on the following 29 June and was buried at Pytchley. His 15 year-old heir Francis was to become the ward of his father, who survived Nicolls by eight years.4
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: A. D.K. Hawkyard
- 1. Date of birth estimated from first reference. Vis. Northants. ed. Metcalfe, 119; PCC 19 Babington.
- 2. M. T. Bench Bk. 435; CPR, 1549-51, p. 193; 1554-5, p. 56; 1555-7, p. 65; 1560-3, p. 606; 1566-9, p. 42; VCH Northants., ii. 176.
- 3. Northants. Rec. Soc. xviii. 29-29; xix. 15; xxi. p. lxv.
- 4. CPR, 1566-9, p. 420; 1569-72, p. 424; DNB (Nicolls, Sir Augustine); Notable Middle Templars, 174; Mill Stephenson, Mon. Brasses, 384; Bridges, Northants. i. 372; ii. 95; iii. 142; PCC 19 Babington; C142/161/117.