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Nicholas Ferrar

Nicholas Ferrar (1592-1637) came from a family deeply involved in the London Virginia Company. His niece is said to be the first woman to have received the name "Virginia". His family home was often visited by Sir Walter Raleigh, half-brother of Sir Humphrey Gilbert. After studying at Cambridge Nicholas visited Italy. Upon returning to London he found that the family fortunes, primarily invested in Virginia, were under threat. Nicholas entered parliament and worked with Edwin Sandys. They were part of the parliamentary faction (the "country party" or "patriot party") which was able to seize control of the finances from a rival group, the "court faction", grouped around Robert Rich, 2nd Earl of Warwick on the one hand and Sir Thomas Smith (or Smythe), also a prominent member of the East India Company.

Ferrar's pamphlet Sir Thomas Smith's Misgovernance of the Virginia Company was only published by the Roxborough Club in 1990. Here he lays charges that that Smith and his son-in-law Robert Johnson, were running a company within a company to cream of the profits from the shareholders. He also alleged that Dr Woodall had bought some Polish settlers as slaves, selling them on to Lord de La Warr. He claimed that Smith was trying to reduce other colonists to slavery by extending their period of indenture indefinitely beyond the seventh year.

The argument ended with the London Virginia Company losing its charter following a court decision in May, 1624.

In 1626 Nicholas Ferrar became involved in setting up a religious community in Little Gidding, Huntingdonshire. With John Collett and his family they used an abandoned old church to set up the English Protestant Nunnery . The community always had someone at prayer and had a strict religious routine. They tended to the health and education of local children, and Nicholas continued with his work as a bookbinder.

His brother continued the community and King Charles I stayed there fleetingly after the Battle of Naseby (1645).

T. S. Eliot honoured Nicholas Ferrar in the Four Quartets, naming one of the quartets "Little Gidding".