LUKE, Nicholas (1553-1613), of Woodend, Cople, Beds.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. 1553, 1st s. of John Luke by Anne, da. and coh. of John Heming of Arlesey. m. Margaret (d.1597), da. of Oliver, 1st Baron St. John, 2s. inc. Oliver 3da. suc. fa. 1566.

Offices Held

J.p. Beds. from c.1579, q. from c.1592 to at least 1601, sheriff 1579-80, 1593-4.2


The Lukes had been settled in Bedfordshire for some time before Elizabeth’s reign. The best known member of the family in the early Tudor period was Luke’s grandfather, a baron of the Exchequer, who died only a short time before his son John. In 1566 the estate at Woodend descended to Luke himself, aged nearly thirteen. The family owned property at several places in the county and in Huntingdonshire. Luke’s mother was in possession of her father’s manor at Arlesey. The annual value of all the lands was estimated at about £182. Sir Anthony Browne wrote to the Earl of Leicester asking him to gain Luke’s wardship for him ‘at a reasonable charge’, so that he could bestow it on a kinswoman, Jane Mordaunt, but it was granted to Thomas Marbury, serjeant of the pantry.3

Luke was an active country gentleman, prominent enough to become the son-in-law of Lord St. John. He may have been the ‘Nicholas Luke, esquire’ who in March 1585 was admitted to Gray’s Inn on Lord Burghley’s nomination, but if so it was obviously an honorary admission. In any case he had several namesakes in his family at this date, though it is doubtful whether any of these would have been styled esquire. In addition to his work on the bench, and two periods as sheriff, Luke served on various commissions in his county; his name also appears in 1600 as providing a horseman for Ireland. He was patron of several churches in his district.4

On the first occasion Luke stood for Parliament he had some opposition from the Radcliffs. Whether or not this went to a poll is not known. He is not known to have participated in the business of the 1584 Parliament, but he may have attended the subsidy committee to which all the knights of the shire were appointed on 24 Feb. 1585. He is more likely than his son to have been the ‘Mr. Luke’ who was appointed to committees concerning privileges and returns (5 Nov. 1597) and a private land bill (25 Nov.). As knight for Bedfordshire he was entitled to attend the following committees: enclosures (5 Nov.), poor law (5, 22 Nov.), armour and weapons (8 Nov.), penal laws (8 Nov.), monopolies (10 Nov.), the subsidy (15 Nov.), draining the fens (3 Dec.) and maltsters (12 Jan. 1598).5

He died 4 July 1613, and on the next day was buried at Cople. His will, which he had made in the previous May, was proved by his heir, Sir Oliver, in July 1614. Besides legacies to Oliver himself, the will mentioned Luke’s second son Thomas, and daughters Anne, wife of Sir Miles Fleetwood, Judith, married to John Cooke, and Katherine, apparently unmarried, to whom her father left £800. The preamble suggests the strong protestantism which later made the Luke family enthusiastic supporters of Parliament in the civil war:

I commend and commit my soul into the hands of God Almighty with full and assured confidence of mine eternal salvation through the all-sufficient merit of Jesus Christ, my blessed Saviour and Redeemer.6

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: N. M. Fuidge


  • 1. Folger V. b. 298.
  • 2. Wards 9/138, ff. 607-9; Vis. Beds. (Harl. Soc. xix), 179; VCH Beds. iii. 193; Beds. N. and Q. iii. 92; CSP Dom. Add. 1566-79, p. 6.
  • 3. VCH Beds. loc. cit.; Wards 9/138, ff. 607-9; CSP Dom. Add. 1566-79, p. 6, where Nicholas’s age is given in error as fourteen in 1566.
  • 4. Lansd. 89, f. 189; APC, xxii. 238; xxx. 435; Beds. N. and Q. ii. 313; iii. 92; Lincoln Episcopal Recs. 1571-84 (Lincoln Rec. Soc. ii), ed. Foster, 63, 272.
  • 5. Northants. RO, Stopford-Sackville mss, 239; Lansd. 43 anon. jnl. f. 171; D’Ewes, 552, 553, 555, 557, 561, 563, 567, 578.
  • 6. C142/343/177; F. A. Blaydes, Gen. Bed. 84; PCC 67 Lawe; Beds. N. and Q. iii. 59.