NICHOLSON, John (c.1662-c.1711), of Bury Street, London and Woodford, 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



1698 - 1700
Dec. 1701 - 1708

Family and Education

b. c.1662.  m. lic. 6 Apr. 1692, Mary Carew of St. Helen’s, London, s.p.1

Offices Held

Freeman, Great Yarmouth 1691.2

Asst. R. African Co. 1698–1704, 1707–10, dep.-gov. 1705–6; er. bro. Trinity House 1700–11.3


An old East India hand, who as a ship’s captain had commanded several expeditions in the 1680s, including that of 1686 against the Great Mogul, Nicholson was a friend and business partner of Sir Henry Johnson*, the Tory shipbuilder. At one stage there was even the prospect of a marriage alliance: by 1686, encouraged and assisted by Johnson himself, Nicholson had secured from Johnson’s sister Elizabeth the promise of her hand. Nothing came of this, but as late as 1703 Nicholson was still closely associated with the Johnsons, serving with Sir Henry’s brother, William*, a colleague in the Royal African Company, as a trustee for some property in Bedfordshire. Nicholson was an active member, with the Johnson brothers, in the syndicate of merchants who between 1691 and 1694 challenged the East India Company’s monopoly. He first put himself forward for Parliament in 1697, when, despite Sir Henry Johnson’s help, he failed to muster enough support to stand in a by-election for Orford. In the following year he and Johnson were defeated at Dunwich, but he came in at Great Yarmouth, another borough in which Johnson had some interest and also one with which he himself had a prior connexion. He had been given the freedom of the borough in 1691, and beforehand the corporation had ordered that the conferring take place ‘at his next coming to town’. In the 1698 election he was made responsible for canvassing any Dunwich voters who lived there. He was forecast as a likely opponent of a standing army in October. He did not stand in the first election of 1701, perhaps because of some temporary difference with Johnson: Nicholson had acquired stock in the New East India Company while Johnson had rejoined the Old. In an analysis of the House into interests of early 1700 he was marked as doubtful or, perhaps, opposition.4

Nicholson’s election in November 1701 was reckoned a ‘loss’ by Lord Spencer (Charles*), and he supported the motion of 26 Feb. 1702 vindicating the Commons’ proceedings in the impeachments of the Whig ministers. Listed as a probable opponent of the Tack, he did not vote for it on 28 Nov. 1704. He was listed as ‘Low Church’ in an analysis of the 1705 Parliament and voted against the Court candidate for Speaker on 25 Oct. 1705. He acted as a teller on only two occasions during his career (2 Apr. 1702 and 3 Feb. 1705), on both occasions over issues in which Great Yarmouth’s interests were directly concerned. Marked as a Tory in two lists from 1708, he did not put up at any subsequent election.

Nicholson’s will, dated 2 June 1709, was proved on 5 Mar. 1711. In it he mentioned houses in London and property at Woodford, and also shares in various ships. There were special bequests of £50 to the poor ‘belonging to’ Trinity House, and mourning rings to his fellow elder brothers there.5

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: D. W. Hayton


  • 1. Mar. Lic. Vicar-Gen. (Harl. Soc. xxxi), 215–16; PCC 73 Young.
  • 2. Cal. Freemen Gt. Yarmouth, 126.
  • 3. K. G. Davies, R. African Co. 385; W. R. Chaplin, Trinity House, 62, 65.
  • 4. Add. 22184, ff. 77, 83–85; 22186, ff. 18, 24, 31–35, 40, 44, 59; 22187, f. 87; 22191, f. 262; 22248, f. 6; W. W. Hunter, Hist. Brit. India, ii. 247–8; Bodl. Rawl. C.449, ff. 1–35, passim; W. Suss. RO, Shillinglee mss Ac.454/1012, Theophilus Hooke to Sir Edward Turnor*, 20 Feb. 1696–7, Nathaniel Gooding to Turnor, 22 Feb. 1696–7; Norf. RO, Gt. Yarmouth bor. recs. assembly bk. 1680–1701, p. 204; EHR, lxxi. 228.
  • 5. PCC 73 Young.