LYFFE (LIFE), Richard (c.1531-1605), of Hastings, Suss.; formerly of London

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



1604 - c. Aug. 1605

Family and Education

b. c.1531. m. (1) c.1556, (aged c.25), Anne (bur. 8 July 1561), 1s. 1da.; (2) lic. 6 Apr. 1562, aged ‘about 31’, Margery (bur. 22 Sept. 1590), wid. of Roger Holte, Goldsmith, of London, 1s. d.v.p. 1da.; (3) c.1591, aged 60, Joan, da. of Robert Burton of London, wid. of William Squire, clerk sitter of the compter, of London, s.p. bur. 3 Sept. 1605.1

Offices Held

Chamberlain, Hastings 1558, jurat by 1563-d., bailiff 1564-5, 1567-9, 1573-4, 1581-2, mayor 1596-8, 1603-4;2 dep. for Hastings to the Brotherhood of the Cinque Ports 1558, 1563-74, 1579, 1581-5, 1589-90, 1592, 1594-d., to the Guestling 1566, 1567, 1573, 1582, 1584, 1594, 1596, 1599, 1605; bailiff of the Cinque Ports to Yarmouth, Norf. 1570-1, 1572-3, 1584-5, 1602-3; auditor (jt.) for the Brotherhood of the Cinque Ports, 1574, 1583; Speaker of the Brotherhood 1597, Guestling 1598.3

Purveyor to the Household by 1603.4


Lyffe’s name (uncommon in any of its variant spellings) and the London connections of at least two of his wives suggest a possible kinship with the Hampshire-born civilian John Lyff or Leffe (c.1491-1557), sometime vicar-general to Archbishop Warham and prebendary of St. Paul’s.5 The origin of Lyffe’s connection with Hastings is not known, but he seems to have become a prosperous fishmonger, attending Queen Elizabeth’s funeral as purveyor of the sea-coast. He was also one of those appointed to carry the canopy at the coronation in 1603 and ‘to press a suit to His Majesty for a new confirmation of the general charters’ of the Cinque Ports.6

Lyffe was serving as mayor of Hastings in 1604 when he was elected to Westminster for the eighth time. Shortly after the Parliament opened, however, the Commons suspended the Member for Wallingford, Griffith Payne, on the grounds that mayors were barred from serving in Parliament, and in June the Commons reiterated the rule prohibiting mayors from sitting. Although there were several others mayors serving in the Commons at the time, and he himself had committed the same offence in 1597 without comment, Lyffe may have feared that he would soon receive the same treatment as Payne. Like Payne he was a purveyor, and it was Payne’s activities as a purveyor that were the true cause of his suspension. In the event, there were no further expulsions, but Lyffe kept a low profile nevertheless: he made no recorded speeches, and his only appointment was to attend the initial conference with the Lords on the proposed Union with Scotland (14 April).7

During the recess the Brotherhood of the Cinque Ports approved a payment to him of 24s. for fish presented to the Speaker, and the corporation of Hastings ‘of their own free gift’ awarded him £5 ‘in regards of his service and pains’ as one of the barons of the Parliament ‘and in full payment for all fees and riding charges by him disbursed’.8 Lyffe drew up his will on 15 Oct. acknowledging his happiness in all three of his marriages, and declaring that he hoped that his goods would be used by those who inherited them ‘to the comfort of his Elect and chosen first’. To 77 poor people of Hastings (the number presumably reflecting the age that he believed he had attained) he bequeathed a groat apiece and a penny loaf, and to the same number of children 1d. The corporation was to pay £4 to two poor fishermen who were ‘good pliers and painstakers’ and not idle tavern-hunters. Each member of the corporation was to receive a pair of gloves and a nosegay of flowers ‘for their pains and good remembrance’ on the bench. His books included Chaucer, The Mirror of Magistrates, and ‘a great black book partly gilded’ of the siege of Troy.9 Active to the last, Lyffe presented the new charters to the Brotherhood of the Cinque Ports on 23 July 1605. He was buried in All Saints, Hastings on 3 Sept., the parish register recording that he had been ‘47 years a jurat, eight times mayor and head officer, four times bailiff to Yarmouth, nine [sic] times burgess in the Parliament, and had carried the canopies at two coronations’. Even at Westminster, ‘old Liefe of Hastings’ was such an institution that his death was reported to Sir Thomas Edmondes* at the Brussels embassy.10 His son Martin, succeeding to a debt-free estate, served as mayor of Hastings and Speaker of the Brotherhood; but no other member of the family sat in Parliament.11

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Peter Lefevre / Andrew Thrush


  • 1. PROB 11/106, f. 133; E. Susss. RO, Hastings All Saints and St. Clement par. regs.; London Mar. Lics. ed. Foster, 845; Vis. London (Harl. Soc. cix), 96; CPR, 1563-6, p. 288.
  • 2. Cal. of White and Black Bks. of Cinque Ports ed. F. Hull (Kent Recs. xix), 256, 264; J.M. Baines, Historic Hastings, 41; W.G. Moss, Hastings, 135.
  • 3. Cal. of White and Black Bks. of Cinque Ports, 256, 264, 266-7, 270-2, 274, 276-8, 284-5, 289-93, 295-6, 310, 316, 320, 322, 324, 327-30, 336-7, 339, 342-3, 346, 348, 350, 354, 359, 361, 365, 368, 373, 375, 377-80.
  • 4. LC2/4/4.
  • 5. Al. Ox. 896; Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae, i. 29.
  • 6. LC2/4/4; HMC 13th Rep. IV, 359; Cal. of White and Black Bks. of Cinque Ports, 376.
  • 7. CJ, i. 172a. For the Commons’ attack on mayors, see ibid. 162b, 226a, 245-6, 997b.
  • 8. Cal. of the White and Black Bks. of Cinque Ports, 379; Baines, 41.
  • 9. PROB 11/106, f. 133r-v, printed Baines, 41-3.
  • 10. T. Birch, Ct. and Times of Jas. I, i. 35.
  • 11. Cal. of White and Black Bks. of Cinque Ports, 394.