Nicolls, Augustine (DNB00)

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NICOLLS or NICHOLLS, Sir AUGUSTINE (1559–1616), judge, born at Ecton, Northamptonshire, in April 1559, was the second son of Thomas Nicholls, serjeant-at-law, by Anne, daughter of John Pell, esq., of Ellington, Huntingdonshire. The Wardour Abbey manor in Ecton had been in the family for three generations, having been purchased by Augustine's grandfather, William Nicolls or Nicoll, of Hardwicke, Northamptonshire, who died in 1575, at the age of ninety-six. Augustine's father, Thomas, purchased a third part of the manor of Hardwicke in the reign of Elizabeth. His elder brother, Francis, born in 1557, was governor of Tilbury Fort in 1588. Augustine, ‘bred in the study of the common law,’ became reader at the Middle Temple in the autumn of 1602. On 11 Feb. 1603 Elizabeth summoned him to take the degree of the coif; but the queen dying before the writ was returnable, it had to be renewed by James I. Nicolls was sworn in before the lord keeper as serjeant-at-law on 17 May following (Nichols, Progresses of James I, i. 157). On 14 Dec. 1603 Nicolls was made recorder of Leicester (cf. ib. ii. 464 n.) In 1610 he was attached as serjeant to the household of Henry, prince of Wales. An opinion signed by him and Thomas Stephens, advising the prince not to entertain a proposal for getting a grant from the king of forfeitures from recusants, is printed by Birch from Harl. MS. 7009, fol. 23 (Life of Henry Prince of Wales, pp. 169–70). On 11 June 1610 Nicolls, in addition to the manors of Broughton and Faxton, which he had purchased, received a grant in fee simple of the manor of Kibworth-Beauchamp, Leicestershire (State Papers, Dom. 1603–10, p. 618).

On 26 Nov. 1612 Nicolls was appointed justice of common pleas (Dugdale, Chron. Ser. p. 102; Bridges, Northamptonshire, ii. 95; but cf. Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1611–18, p. 158). He was knighted at the same time. Three years later his patent was renewed on his appointment as chancellor to Charles, prince of Wales. He died of the ‘new ague’ while on circuit, on 3 Aug. 1616, at Kendal, Westmoreland, where there is a monument to his memory; his tomb, in black and white marble, is in Faxton Church, Northamptonshire. It might be said of him, writes Fuller, ‘Judex mortuus est jura dans.’ Robert Bolton [q. v.], whom he had presented to the living of Broughton, testifies to his high qualities, both as a man and a judge. He particularly dwells upon Nicolls's ‘constant and resolute heart rising against bribery and corruption,’ and says that he ‘qualified fees to his owne loss,’ and would not take gratuities even ‘after judgment given.’ James I called him ‘the judge that would give no money.’ Bolton credits him with a good memory, great patience and affability, and ‘a marvellous tenderness and pitifull exactnesse in his inquisitions after blood.’ He had also ‘a mighty opposition of popery;’ and in the north officers observed that ‘in his two or three yeares he convicted, confin'd, and conform'd moe papists than were in twenty years before.’ He delivered, especially, a very weighty charge at Lancaster in his last circuit but one against ‘popery, prophaneness, non-residency, and other corruptions of the times.’ He would not travel on Sunday, and liked ‘profitable and conscionable sermons.’ ‘I cannot tell, saies he, what you call Puritanicall sermons; they come neerest to my conscience, and doe mee the most good.’ He married Mary, daughter of one Hemings of London, and widow of Edward Bagshaw, esq. Having no children, the manor of Faxton passed to his nephew Francis, son of Francis Nicholls, the governor of Tilbury, by Anne, daughter of David Seymour, esq.

The nephew, Francis Nicolls (1585–1642), matriculated from Brasenose College, Oxford, on 15 Oct. 1602, and entered at the Middle Temple in the same year. Either he or his father was clerk to the Prince of Wales's court of liveries, and receiver of his revenues in Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire in 1628 (see Cal. State Papers, Dom. Ser. 1580–1625, Addenda, pp. 653, 659, 667). In the parliament of 1628–9 he represented Northamptonshire, and was high sheriff of the county in 1631. In May 1640 he was secretary to the elector palatine, and, with Sir Richard Cave, was carried off to Dunkirk by a pirate sloop (the crew of which were English) during their passage from Rye to Dieppe (ib. 1640, p. 124). After being detained three days, Nicolls and his companion were allowed to go back to Dover, whence after a day's interval they proceeded to Paris, where they joined the elector on 22 May (see two letters of Nicolls to Secretary Windebank in Cal. State Papers, Dom. Ser. 1640, pp. 147, 209; cf. ib. 1639–41 passim). On 28 July 1641 he was created a baronet. He died 4 March 1642. By his wife Mary, daughter of Edward Bagshaw, esq., he had a son, Sir Edward Nicolls (1620–1682), who succeeded him as second baronet, and whose son by his second wife, Sir Edward Nicolls, died in 1717 without issue.

[The main authority is Bolton's Funeral Notes on the judge, published in 1633 with his Foure Last Things, and Bagshawe's Life and Death of R. Bolton. Other authorities are Fuller's Worthies, ed. Nichols, ii. 168; Dugdale's Orig. Jud. p. 219, Chron. Ser. pp. 102, 104; Cole's Hist. of Ecton, pp. 56–7; Bridges's Northamptonshire, ii. 85, 87, 95–6; Burke's Extinct Baronetage; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1500–1714, and Inns of Court Registers; Brook's Lives of the Puritans, ii. 391; Pennant's Tour from Downing to Alston, p. 119; Nicholson's Annals of Kendal, p. 285; Brasenose Calendar; Foss's Judges of England; besides Calendar of State Papers, Domestic Ser., Nichols's Progresses of James I, and works cited in the text.]

G. Le G. N.