VYVYAN, Hannibal (1589-c.1657), of Lostwithiel, Cornw.; later of Plymouth, Devon.

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



Family and Education

bap. 11 July 1589,1 4th s. of Hannibal Vyvyan† (d.1610) of Trelowarren, Cornw. and Philippe, da. and coh. of Roger Tremayne of Collacombe, Devon; bro. of Francis*.2 educ. Exeter Coll. Oxf. 1605, BA 1609.3 m. 1 Mar. 1622, Anne (bur. 3 Jan. 1636), da. of Richard Munday of St. Columb Minor, Cornw., 5s. 1da.4 d. by 22 Apr. 1657.5 sig. Hanniball Vyvyan.6

Offices Held

Comptroller of coinage, Devon and Cornw. Stannaries and kpr. of Lostwithiel gaol c.1621-c.1650;7 capital burgess, Lostwithiel by 1629, mayor 1632-3, 1636-8, 1640-1.8


The name Hannibal was rare outside Cornwall during this period, but popular with the Vyvyan family and its immediate circle.9 Vyvyan was preceded at university by his three elder brothers, an indication of the family’s wealth.10 He received £200 in his father’s will, some of which he invested in land, though for subsidy purposes he was always assessed in goods.11 In July 1620 his eldest brother Sir Francis, then captain of St. Mawes Castle, procured for him the reversion of this post, though only with the intention that Vyvyan would hold it in trust for the benefit of Sir Francis’ son Richard†, a minor.12 At around the same time Vyvyan purchased the comptrollership of coinage in the Cornish Stannaries, receiving his formal grant in about January 1621. Thereafter, he settled in Lostwithiel, where his 1626 subsidy rating of £4 was enough to rank him among the town’s wealthiest inhabitants. By the end of the decade he belonged to the borough’s corporation.13

It was Vyvyan’s position as keeper of the Stannary gaol which led indirectly to his entry into Parliament. Around the summer of 1627, John Mohun*, vice-warden of the Stannaries, revived a plea of debt against William May, who had allegedly offended him. Placed in Vyvyan’s charge at Lostwithiel gaol, May struck a deal with his creditor which, though it fell short of the court’s decree, led Vyvyan to release him. An enraged Mohun promptly imprisoned Vyvyan for contempt of court.14 However, on 2 Mar. 1628 Vyvyan, doubtless drawing on his brother’s influence, secured his election to Parliament for St. Mawes. Then, according to the diarist Sir Richard Grosvenor*, Vyvyan used his parliamentary privilege to obtain his release from prison, though as no such Common’s order is recorded the fact of his election may have proved sufficient.15 In Parliament, Vyvyan joined forces with Mohun’s political opponents, led by (Sir) John Eliot and William Coryton, whose opening tactic was to institute an inquiry into Mohun’s attempt to influence the Cornish shire election. While this was still in progress, Vyvyan, with Eliot’s backing, introduced a petition on 10 Apr. in which he accused Mohun of abusing his powers as vice-warden. Six days later the House established a select committee to consider the petition under the chairmanship of Eliot, who predictably reported in Vyvyan’s favour at the end of May.16 By now, however, Mohun had been elevated to the Lords, and consequently the attacks against him foundered, though he was deprived of his office soon afterwards.17 Aside from this drama, Vyvyan made little discernible impact on the Parliament. He was entitled as a St. Mawes burgess to sit on bill committees concerned with fishing (17 Apr.), saltpetre (25 Apr.) and the manufacture of sail-cloth (26 May), but he effectively ruled himself out of two further committees by obtaining 20 days’ leave from the House on 31 Jan. 1629.18

In the following decade Vyvyan served three times as Lostwithiel’s mayor. Although he refused to compound for knighthood on the grounds that his income was too low to qualify him for this rank, he was now a prominent local figure. When he carried a message about Ship Money from the sheriff of Cornwall to the Privy Council in January 1635, he was described as ‘agent of the port towns’ of the county. He attended the Privy Council again in the following year, but this time it was to explain his failure to attend the Cornish musters. Shortly afterwards his reversion of the St. Mawes captaincy was cancelled, following his brother’s dismissal from the post.19

Like several other middle-ranking Duchy officials, Vyvyan sided with Parliament in the Civil War. He was apparently present at the rout of Essex’s forces at Fowey in 1644, as he offered evidence to the resultant inquiry.20 His nephew Sir Richard Vyvyan† had joined the royalists, and Vyvyan attempted to ease the terms of his sequestration in 1646, but with limited success. He retained his comptrollership until the abolition of tin coinage in 1650 rendered the post obsolete.21 By 1653, when Vyvyan was granted administration of his brother Roger’s estate, he had settled in Plymouth. He presumably died before 22 Apr. 1657, when completion of the task was entrusted to his nephew Sir Richard.22 No will or letters of administration for him have been found.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Paul Hunneyball


  • 1. Cornw. RO, P140/1/1, p. 8.
  • 2. Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 529-30.
  • 3. Al. Ox.
  • 4. Cornw. RO, P13/1/1, p. 245; Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 529.
  • 5. PROB 6/33, f. 78v.
  • 6. Cornw. RO, DD.V/FW/28.
  • 7. DCO, ‘Letters and Patents 1620-1’, f. 57; C66/2356/13.
  • 8. Cornw. RO, B/LOS 116; HMC Var. i. 336.
  • 9. E.G. Withycombe, Oxf. Dict. of Eng. Christian Names (3rd edn.), 145.
  • 10. Al. Ox.
  • 11. PROB 11/116, f. 220v; C78/462/3; E179/89/306, 339.
  • 12. C66/2229/19; PROB 11/171, f. 115r-v.
  • 13. DCO, ‘Letters and Patents 1620-1’, ff. 57, 77; ‘Book of Orders 1619-21, ff. 103v-4v; E179/89/306.
  • 14. J. Forster, Eliot, ii. 292-3; CD 1628, iii. 626.
  • 15. C219/41B/161; CD 1628, iii. 632.
  • 16. CD 1628, ii. 29, 507; iii. 70, 610; CJ, i. 925b, 928a-b.
  • 17. A. Duffin, Faction and Faith, 93-4, 102.
  • 18. CD 1628, ii. 507; iii. 70, 610; CJ, i. 925b, 928a-b.
  • 19. E178/7161; PC2/44, p. 366; 2/45, p. 358; C66/2229/19; CSP Dom. 1631-3, p. 439.
  • 20. M. Coate, Cornw. in Gt. Civil War, 149, 159, 167-8; CSP Dom. 1644, p. 538.
  • 21. Coate, 227-8, 267; G.R. Lewis, Stannaries, 220.
  • 22. PROB 6/28, f. 13v; 6/33, f. 78v.