LYFFE (LIFE, LITHE), Richard (bef.1535-1605), of Hastings, Suss.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

m. (1) 1s. 1da.; (2) by 1565, Margery, wid. of Roger Holte of London, 1s. 1da.; (3) Joan, wid. of one Squires.2

Offices Held

Jurat, Hastings 1558, bailiff 1564-5, 1567-8, 1568-9, 1573-4, 1581-2, mayor 1596-7, 1597-8, 1603-4; bailiff of Hastings to Yarmouth 1584 and on three other occasions; ‘purveyor at the sea coast’ for royal household 1603.3


Lyffe was a leading Hastings burgess for the greater part of Elizabeth’s reign, and the local records contain numerous references to his activities as a Hastings and Cinque Ports official. In 1596 he helped to organize the rebuilding of Hastings pier, in the same year representing the town at a conference in Rye about two ships which the lord warden had been ordered to provide from the Ports.4

His name first appears in the parliamentary journals for 8 May 1571, when he sat on the committee for a navigation bill. On 18 Mar. 1581 he was a member of a Commons committee appointed to discuss iron mills with the Lords. He took strong exception to the confusion on the first day of the 1601 Parliament, when the Commons were excluded from the House of Lords and missed the lord keeper’s oration. On 3 Nov. he raised the matter again, asking that the Commons should be informed of the contents of the speech.5 His speech of 1 Dec., as reported by Townshend, on amendments to the bill for protecting the Painters’ Company, contains a typical piece of Elizabethan wit:

We have been troubled with two PPs this Parliament; that is, the painters and the plasterers. Methinks a third P would do very well, and that is—put it out of doors.

On 3 Dec., during a debate on piracy, he rose to declare that he knew a man who had lost £200 in 12 days from the depredations of the Dunkirkers. He was a member of the privileges and returns committee in 1601, which makes it likely that it was he who was the Mr. ‘Lyel’ who was appointed to the same in the 1597 Parliament. The Hastings Members were appointed to a committee concerning statutes (28 Mar. 1593) and to committees in 1601 concerning the order of parliamentary business (3 Nov.) and the Severn harbour (21 Nov.).6

He served as one of the barons of Hastings at the coronations of Elizabeth and James I, and represented his town for the eighth and last time in James’s first Parliament. His will, made 15 Oct. 1604 had a devout preamble and contained generous bequests to the poor of Hastings, their number ‘to be set in a note and then they shall not miss any’. He hoped that he had arranged for the payment of all outstanding debts, ‘for I never loved to be in debt nor to owe any money, for then I was never quiet till it was paid’. To his wife, one of the co-executors, he left, among other possessions, two cloth of gold and silver cushions made from the coronation canopies of Elizabeth and James I. The other executor, Lyffe’s only surviving son Martin, was mayor of Hastings in 1600 and 1611.

Lyffe was buried in All Saints’ church, Hastings, on 3 Sept. 1605; the entry in the parish register described him as ‘47 years a jurat’, and listed his other offices in the town.7

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: J.C.H.


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
  • 2. PCC 69 Hayes; J. M. Baines, Historic Hastings, 41-4, 374; CPR, 1563-6, p. 288.
  • 3. HMC 13th Rep. IV, 356-60; Baines, 10, 41; W. G. Moss, Hist. Antiqs. Hastings, 135; LC2/4/4.
  • 4. HMC 13th Rep. IV, 118, 123, 356; Suss. Arch. Colls. xiv. 88.
  • 5. D’Ewes, 552, 621, 622, 623; Townshend (Stowe 362, ff. 58, 66) calls the Member ‘Mr. Leigh’.
  • 6. CJ, i. 88, 136; D’Ewes, 514, 622, 624, 647, 666; Stowe 362, f. 179; Townshend, Hist. Colls. 182, 272.
  • 7. PCC 69 Hayes; Baines, 11, 41-4.