CORSELLIS, Nicholas (1661-1728), of Wivenhoe Hall, Essex and Layer Marney, Essex

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer



6 May 1714 - 1715

Family and Education

b. 21 Sept. 1661, o. surv. s. of Nicholas Corsellis of Wivenhoe and St. Mary at Hill, London by Martha, da. of Maurice Thompson, East India merchant, of Haversham, Bucks., and sis. of Sir John Thompson, 1st Bt.* (subsequently 1st Ld. Haversham).  educ. Eton 1678; Linc. Coll. Oxf. 1679; L. Inn 1682; called 1687.  m. 12 May 1694 Elizabeth Taylor, da. of Richard Taylor of Turnham Green, Chiswick, and vintner of the Devil Tavern, Temple Bar, sis. of Mary, wife of Sir Thomas Rawlinson, ld. mayor of London 1706, 1s. 2da. (1 d.v.p.).  suc. fa. 1674.1

Offices Held


A 17th-century myth claimed that a Corsellis, rather than Caxton, had been responsible for introducing the art of printing into England, but the family fortunes were in fact laid in less novel ways by Michael Corsellis, a Flemish merchant who had settled in London by 1570. Succeeding generations followed a mercantile tradition, acquiring sufficient wealth to purchase a manor at Wivenhoe for £10,000 in 1657 from Sir Horatio Townshend, 3rd Bt.†, and Layer Marney for £7,200 a decade later. Nicholas Corsellis snr., who bought the latter estate, traded in Colchester bays, Spanish and American tobacco, had extensive dealings with the East India Company, and narrowly escaped ruin in the Great Fire, having to move his papers and money three times before finding them a safe haven. Perhaps wishing to complete the transformation from a London trading family to a professional and landowning one, he sent his son to Eton, where Nicholas jnr. carved his name on a pillar, and then on to Oxford and the bar. Thomas Marshall, the rector of Lincoln College at the time of his admission, may have impressed his ardent royalist views on his pupil, though in any case the family had strong loyalist connexions: it was related to the Tory Essex family of the Abdys; Nicholas was the nephew of Sir John Thompson, who had become a zealous Tory and in 1696 was created Lord Haversham; and Corsellis knew Arabella Savage, daughter of the Tory convert Earl Rivers (Richard Savage*, Viscount Colchester). Moreover, his family had abandoned their adherence to the Dutch Church, and Nicholas’ father-in-law was the vintner at the Devil Tavern in London, where many of the ‘Church Party’ met between 1689 and 1690. With such an impeccably Tory pedigree it is not surprising that Nicholas was reported, in December 1712, to think himself ‘highly neglected’ for being omitted from a list of new deputy-lieutenants that had been drawn up by Sir Edward Turnor† to effect a purge of Whigs in Essex. William Fytche* warned Turnor that if Corsellis was not included there was a danger that he ‘would not come to Chelmsford again. You know his temper so I hope will take care and appease him by giving his name to Lord Bolingbroke [Henry St John II*]’, who had been recently appointed lord lieutenant of the county.2

It is no surprise, therefore, that Corsellis should have stood for Colchester in 1713, at a time when the Tories had secured the dominance of local offices: the borough was near his estate, and he had been employed in 1709 to resolve a legal dispute there. Although not returned by the mayor, Corsellis and his partner William Gore* petitioned against the return of the Whig candidates, and on 6 May the Commons voted in the petitioners’ favour. Shortly afterwards, on 28 May, Corsellis came to the aid of fellow Tory Hon. Benedict Leonard Calvert* by acting as a teller for hearing the Harwich election. During June and July Corsellis handled a private naturalization bill, and more importantly a bill for ‘quieting’ corporations, a subject on which the turbulence and corruption of Colchester’s affairs undoubtedly gave him first-hand knowledge. According to the genealogist Foster, though the evidence for the claim is unclear, he was also the author of a bill offering a reward of £100,000 for the capture of the Pretender if found in the British Isles, a reference either to the address ordered on 24 June 1714 in thanks for the Queen’s proclamation of 21 June, or to the bill for the security of the King drawn up in July 1715, which contained such a clause. Corsellis’ involvement would be hard to explain in either case since he held no official legal post in 1714, and in 1715 failed to secure re-election, although he and his colleague Samuel Rush† were reported to have demanded a scrutiny ‘to give all the trouble they can’, and unsuccessfully petitioned the House on 30 Mar. 1715. Corsellis was marked as a Tory on the Worsley list but, surprisingly, seems to have appeared against the Tory William Harvey I* at an Essex by-election later that year, when it was reported that ‘his bailiff, self and man have all had a short drubbing’. Corsellis did not stand again, and his electoral efforts may have over-reached his income since in 1726 his estates were mortgaged for £1,845. He died on 25 Jan. 1728, at Chelsea. His son Nicholas followed his father’s footsteps to Oxford and the bar, though not to Parliament, and married the granddaughter of Sir Josiah Child†.3

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: Mark Knights


  • 1. Misc. Gen. and Her. ser. 5, i. 22–23; Morant, Essex, ii. 188.
  • 2. Misc. Gen. and Her. 1–23; Essex Rev. xviii. 138–145; li. 132–33; lviii. 5; Trans. Essex Arch. Soc. xiv. 185; W. Suss. RO, Shillinglee mss, Ac.454/275 Fytche to Turnor, 15 Dec. 1712.
  • 3. Essex RO (Colchester), assembly bk. 6, f. 397; Boyer, Pol. State, vi. 257; Al. Ox. 1500–1714, p. 331; Essex Rev. xx. 183; li. 135; Verney Letters 18th Cent. i. 336.