Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Nicolls, Ferdinando

939198Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 41 — Nicolls, Ferdinando1895Bertha Porter

NICOLLS, FERDINANDO (1598–1662), presbyterian divine, son of a gentleman of Buckinghamshire, was born in 1598. He matriculated from Magdalen College, Oxford, on 10 Nov. 1615, graduated B.A. on 15 Dec. 1618, and M.A. on 14 June 1621. On 9 May 1629 Sir Allen Apsley, lieutenant of the Tower, writing to Secretary Dorchester, described him as ‘of Sherborne.’ Nicolls had applied for permission to see some of Apsley's prisoners, and to speak to them at the windows, but had been prevented.

On 12 Nov. 1634 he was collated by Bishop Hall to the rectory of St. Mary Arches, Exeter. In 1641 he convened a parish meeting, ‘by order of the House of Commons,’ to obtain signatures to a solemn ‘Protestation’ against popery, and later on was presented to the vicarage of Twickenham by the Westminster assembly. In November 1645 he was experiencing difficulties in obtaining the profits of his vicarage, and was granted an order for payment by the committee for plundered ministers. In 1648 he took the covenant and signed ‘The Joint Testimonie of the Ministers of Devon … unto the Truth of Jesus,’ London, 1648; but complaint was made by the council of state on 1 April 1650, in a letter to Major Blackmore at Exeter, that he was active in stirring up the people to disobedience by intemperate declarations in the pulpit. An examination was ordered, but Nicolls remained in undisturbed possession of his living. In 1654 he became one of the assistants to the commissioners of Devonshire and the city of Exeter for the ejection of scandalous ministers. In 1656 when, in pursuance of an act for the uniting of parishes in Exeter, St. Mary Arches was one of the four churches retained for public worship and the service of the Directory, Nicolls was reinstituted and received a presentation to the enlarged parish on 11 Aug. 1657. In 1662 he was unable to conform to the Act of Uniformity, and was ejected, and soon after died. An almost illegible inscription on a stone in the church of St. Mary Arches gives the date of his death as 10 Dec. 16. (1662?). There is no entry in the parish register. The interment appears to have taken place in the following April during the night. No minister was present, and resistance was offered when one arrived, so that ‘a dozen men were bound over April 13 1663 for disturbance of the public peace.’

Nicolls was an able and fluent preacher, and intolerant of inattention to his sermons in church. He is said to have sat down on perceiving some of his congregation asleep, and to have continued his discourse when the noise of the people rising awakened them. He published ‘The Life and Death of Mr. Ignatius Jourdain [q. v.], one of the Aldermen of the City of Exeter,’ London, 1654, 1655, which was afterwards printed in Clarke's ‘Collection of Lives,’ 1662, pp. 449–487.

[Palmer's Nonconformist's Memorial, ii. 36–7; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, iii. cols. 620–1; Wood's Fasti (Bliss), i. cols. 380, 397; Bloxam's Reg. of Magdalen Coll. vol. ii. pp. cv, cvi, vol. vi. pp. 34, 36; Reg. of Univ. of Oxford (Oxf. Hist. Soc.), vol. ii. pt. ii. p. 344, pt. iii. p. 368; Foster's Alumni Oxon.; Cal. of State Papers, Dom. Ser. 1628–9 p. 543, 1650 pp. 74–5; Oliver's Hist. of Exeter, pp. 118–20, 159; Addit. MS. 15669, f. 73; information from the Rev. A. H. Hamilton.]

B. P.