Nicholas Ferrar

Essay by Gary Andersen January 1996

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Nicholas Ferrar was assumed to be born in 1592. I have found that his most probable birth

date was in February of 1593. This is due to the usual calendar confusion: England was

not at that time using the new calendar adopted in October 1582. It was 1593 according

to our modern calendar, but at the time the new year in England began on the following

March 25th.

Nicholas Ferrar was one of the more interesting figures in English history. His family was

quite wealthy and were heavily involved in the Virginia Company, which had a Royal

Charter for the plantation of Virginia. People like Sir Walter Raleigh were often visitors to

the family home in London. Ferrars' niece was named Virginia, the first known use of this

name. Ferrar studied at Cambridge and would have gone further with his studies but the damp air of the fens was bad for his health and he traveled to Europe, spending time in the warmer climate of Italy.

On his return to England he found his family had fared badly. His brother John had become over extended financially and the Virginia Company was in danger of loosing its charter. Nicholas dedicated himself to saving the family fortune and was successful. He served for a short time as Member of Parliament, where he tried to promote the cause for the Virginia Company. His efforts were in vain for the company lost their charter anyway.

Nicholas is given credit for founding a Christian community called the English Protestant Nunnery at Little Gidding in Huntingdonshire, England. After Ferrar was ordained as a deacon, he retired and started his little community. Ferrar was given help and support with his semi-religious community by John Collet, as well as Collet's wife and fourteen children. They devoted themselves...