MARTIN, Nicholas (1580-1634), of Exeter, Devon

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



1628 - 26 Mar. 1628

Family and Education

bap. 3 Dec. 1580,1 4th but 3rd surv. s. of William Martin† (d.1609) of Exeter, merchant and his 2nd w. Katherine, da. of William Bogan of Totnes, Devon; half-bro. of Richard* and Thomas*.2 educ. appr. merchant by 1610.3 m. 7 Feb. 1613, Susanna, da. of John Sheere of Exeter, s.p.4 bur. 9 Oct. 1634.5 sig. Nicho[las] Martin.

Offices Held

Freeman, Exeter 1610,6 bailiff 1616-17,7 common councilman 1619-d.,8 recvr. 1625-6, sheriff 1626-7, mayor 1631-2,9 commr. oyer and terminer 1632,10 alderman c.1633-d.11

Gov., Exeter French Co. by 1631.12


Like his elder half-brother Thomas, Martin was trained up by his father as a cloth merchant. It is difficult to distinguish him in Exeter’s earliest Jacobean customs records from a cousin of the same name, but during the 1610s he apparently operated as Thomas’ junior partner, exporting Devon cloth to France, Spain and the Low Countries.13 Bequeathed £300 and a handful of Exeter properties in 1609 by his father, he evidently purchased part of his late half-brother Richard’s Devon estate after 1618, and effectively took over the family business following Thomas’s death in 1620.14 By 1624 he was trading primarily with Spain, and his profits must have been affected when war broke out at the end of that year. It is not known whether he paid the £15 Privy Seal loan requested from him in 1625.15 Although admitted to Exeter’s governing council in 1619, Martin was assigned comparatively few personal tasks until 1624, from which point he became increasingly active as a surveyor of the corporation’s lands, auditor of its revenues, and overseer of the city’s water supply. His growing local prominence was confirmed when he served as Exeter’s receiver in 1625-6, and as sheriff in the following year.16

In 1626 Exeter corporation’s virtual monopoly over the choice of the city’s parliamentary representatives was challenged by the commonalty, who opted to elect their own nominee, Ignatius Jourdain. In 1628, in a bid to discourage such behaviour, the corporation offered the commonalty a choice of four candidates, including Martin. Unimpressed, the commonalty once again backed Jourdain, precipitating an election dispute. Two returns were sent up to Westminster, one for Jourdain and John Lynne, another corporation nominee, and the other for Martin and Lynne. The case was reported to the Commons on 26 Mar., and, given the clear evidence that Jourdain had attracted more votes than Martin, the latter’s election was overturned. Martin had travelled to London in the hope of obtaining a successful verdict, and the corporation’s displeasure at the outcome was signalled by its decision on 22 May to pay his expenses of £7 8s.17

By 1628 Martin’s known trading activities were restricted to a handful of voyages to France and Ireland, and in the following year he was assessed for subsidy at the comparatively low figure of £7. However, his circumstances improved again thereafter, and by 1631 he was governor of the city’s company of merchants trading with France.18 Martin’s term as mayor in 1631-2 was marred by a further confrontation with Jourdain, who complained to the Privy Council that the corporation was failing to supervise local brewers properly. Martin and his colleagues were also sued by the attorney-general, William Noye*, in a dispute over the city’s wastes. Despite these setbacks, his year in office was followed by promotion to the rank of alderman.19

Martin made his will on 29 Aug. 1634, apparently still in good health. Childless, he bequeathed £600 and the bulk of his property to his younger brother John, while reserving a life interest in certain designated lands for his wife Susanna, to whom he also left £3,000. Assorted other relatives stood to inherit over £400 in total, and he donated £200 to an Exeter charity, St. John’s hospital. Martin died in the following October, and was buried, as he had requested, at St. Petrock’s, Exeter.20

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Paul Hunneyball


  • 1. Devon RO, St. Petrock, Exeter par. reg.
  • 2. Vivian, Vis. Devon, 553; R. Dymond, ‘St. Petrock, Exeter’, Reps. and Trans. Devon Assoc. xiv. 463.
  • 3. Exeter Freemen ed. M.M. Rowe and A.M. Jackson (Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc. extra ser. i), 116.
  • 4. Devon RO, St. Kerrian, Exeter par. reg.; C2/Jas.I/M19/50.
  • 5. Devon RO, St. Petrock, Exeter par. reg.
  • 6. Exeter Freemen, 116.
  • 7. J.J. Alexander, ‘Exeter MPs’, Reps. and Trans. Devon Assoc. lxi. 211.
  • 8. Devon RO, ECA Act Bk. 7, p. 333.
  • 9. Alexander, 211.
  • 10. C181/4, f. 127v.
  • 11. Devon RO, ECA Act Bk. 7, p. 836; St. Petrock, Exeter par. reg. (burial entry).
  • 12. Devon RO, ECA Act Bk. 7, p. 779.
  • 13. Exeter Freemen, 116; E190/941/4; 190/943/10.
  • 14. PROB 11/115, f. 48v; 11/132, f. 359v; 11/166, f. 285.
  • 15. E190/945/8; E401/2586, p. 250.
  • 16. Devon RO, ECA Act Bk. 7, pp. 403, 580, 587, 595, 598, 614, 616, 646.
  • 17. CD 1628, ii. 119, 121, 136; Procs. 1628, vi. 150; Devon RO, ECA Act Bk. 7, pp. 694-5, 697.
  • 18. E190/947/3; Exeter Tax and Rate Assessments ed. W.G. Hoskins (Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc. n.s. ii), 7.
  • 19. CSP Dom. 1632-3, p. 345; Devon RO, ECA Act Bk. 7, p. 802.
  • 20. PROB 11/166, f. 285r-v; Devon RO, St. Petrock, Exeter par. reg.