David Lyon junior

1794 - 1872

Claimant or beneficiary

Biography

London slave-owner, awarded the compensation for three estates in Jamaica as owner-in-fee and party to the Chancery suit of David Lyon v Andrew Colvile into which was paid the compensation for a further 10 estates.

  1. Son of David Lyon (1754-1827, Rubinstein 1827/21). Born 18/09/1794, died April 1872 (either 3rd or 8th). 'West India merchant at 5 Lime Street Square' [although there is no evidence of mercantile activity and the 1851 census describes him as 'landed proprietor' - it also gives his age as 35]. Married Blanche, daughter of Rev. Edward Bury and Lady Charlotte Bury, in 1848. MP Beeralston 1831-2; High Sheriff of Sussex 1851-52. Left £180,000. His successor was his brother Major William Lyon (Rubinstein [1892/135] who left £162,010).   

  2. Notice for creditors of David Lyon late of South Street Park Lane and of Goring Hall  Sussex and Balentore Castle in Forfarshire who died at Nice on or about 3rd April 1872: executors William Bryce Watson of 5 Lime Street Square, John Kellerman Wedderburn and Philip Haughton James under will proved 24/06/1872.

  3. The portrait (c. 1825) of David Lyon by Thomas Lawrence, held by the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid, 217 (1981.55) appeared in the Citizens and Kings: Portraits in the Age of Revolution 1760-1830 exhibition at the Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Paris and the Royal Academy, London October 2006-April 2007. The catalogue entry for the portrait reads as follows:

"Sir Thomas Lawrence's portrait of David Lyon junior (c. 1794-1872) remained in private ownership until relatively recently, and has received little attention from scholars. Lyons is depicted wearing a black frock-coat trimmed with fur and lined with silk; his gloved right hand rests upon a walking stick, and holds the glove for his bared left hand. He is shown standing in a country setting, perhaps with the suggestion that he owns the land around him. The use of a low viewing point brings the level of the horizon downwards on the canvas space, serving to accentuate Lyon's stature, and this effect is increased by the horizontal banding of the clouds and foliage which form the background. The background light is arranged in such a way that Lyon's coat is palely silhouetted, while his head is set against brooding clouds. One commentator has suggested that his clothing, pose and hair are typical of the ninteenth-century dandy (Perez-Jofre, 2001, p. 471).

Little is known about the gestation of the work and only the outlines of the sitter's life can be sketched. Of Scottish descent, he was one of the five sons and five daughters of Davd Lyon senior (c. 1750-1827) and his wife Isabella Read (1776-1836).The sitter's father, a West India merchant partly based in Jamaica, and much of whose trade was in sugar, had amassed a fortune approaching £600,000 by the time of his death. David Lyon junior, after briefly attending Harrow School around 1809, also became a West India merchant, and inherited the major part of his father's wealth. That he was thus favoured, rather than one of his two elder brothers, was possibly because his father anticipated that he would be active in land purchase; indeed, Lyon went on to purchase a small estate, Goring Hall in Sussex, and another in Scotland, Balentore Castle, Forfarshire (Thompson 1990 pp. 54, 60; Thompson 1992, p. 373).

Lyon's portrait comes at the end of the artist's career, when Lawrence was seen as unquestionably England's leading portrait painter. In a letter to his sister in 1825, Lawrence described the exhausting demands of his presidency of the Royal Academy, yet also declared 'I have never painted better' (Levy 2005, pp. 261, 279). He also painted Lyons' father, and both portraits remained, not yet completed, in the artist's possession at the time of his death in 1830. An initial payment of 250 guineas was made for Lyon's picture in 1828; his father's was paid for in 1818. Regarding the son's portrait, Lawrence's executor wrote that the 'person' was finished and the 'drapery partly' - about three-quarters - complete; the work was eventually delivered later in 1830, when the outstanding balance of 150 guineas was paid (Garlick 1962-64, p. 302.). Some of the drapery and landscape were painted by an assistant (Christie's 1980, p. 146). A final coda to Lyon's portrait may also be suggested: at Lawrence's funeral procession, among the carriages of the dignitaries and acquaintances of the artist following the hearse was one belonging to a 'Mr Lyon' (Williams 1831, vol. 2 p. 561).

Although the known information on the painting does not allow for it to be precisely dated, similarities in pose and costume to other works by Lawrence support an approximation that it dates from the mid-1820s. The position of Lyon's left hand, clasping his coat's fur-trimmed edges together, was used in reverse in John Bloomfield (exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1820). Another comparable work is Henry Lascelles, 2nd Earl of Harewood, MP (RA, 1823). This too shows a standing figure in a country setting with the accoutrements of walking stick, gloves and a long black coat. It has been observed that the latter portrait exemplifies the changing fashion in elite male clothing, which was becoming increasingly restrained; Lyon's image, by contrast, is comparatively flamboyant (Levey 2005, pp. 246-48).

Lyon served from 1831 to 1832 as MP for Beeralaston in Devon, a burgage borough in the influence of the Earl of Beverley, which was disenfranchised by the 1832 Parliamentary Reform Act (to which Lyon was opposed). He employed Sir Francis Chantry to sculpt a memorial to his mother in 1836; this was placed in the parish church at Goring (which was itself rebuilt to the design of Decimus Burton, at Lyon's sole expense). (Yarrington et al. 1994 p. 327; Fox-Wilson 1987, pp. 46-53, 139). In 1848 he married Blanche Bury, whose mother was the novelist Lady Charlotte Bury; their London residence was in Mayfair. Benjamin Disraeli described Lyon in a letter of 1849 as 'the celebrated yachter' and 'very rich' (Disraeli 1982-2004, vol. 3 p. 188). Lyon was made Sheriff of Sussex in 1851, and he died, leaving no issue, in 1872 at Nice. SM"

Sources

T71/874 Trelawney nos 42 (Barnstaple), 191 (Reserve) and 374 (Holland); T71/872 Hanover 561, Westmoreland nos. 26, 209, 211, 334B, 419, 543, 544, 545, 546.

  1. William D. Rubinstein, Who were the rich? 1860- (Volumes 3 and 4, manuscripts in preparation), reference 1872/70.

  2. London Gazette, Issue 23877, 19/07/1872, p. 3280.

  3. SM [Dr Simon MacDonald], '147. David Lyon', in Citizens and Kings: Portraits in the Age of Revolution 1760-1830, first published as Portraits publics, portraits prives, 1770-1830 copyright 2006, Editions de la Reunion des musees nationaux, Paris; English edition, redesigned with new material, copyright 2007, Royal Academy of Arts, London, p. 352. We are grateful to Peter Sawbridge of the Royal Academy for permission to reproduce the catalogue entry and to Dr Simon MacDonald of McGill University, Montreal and previously of University College London for drawing our attention to the exhibition catalogue and to his entry on David Lyon.


Further Information

Absentee?
British/Irish
Spouse
Blanche Bury
Wealth at death
£180,000
School
Harrow
Occupation
West India merchant

Associated Claims (13)

£5,622 17S 11D
Awardee
£3,425 12S 5D
Awardee (Owner-in-fee)
£3,070 4S 9D
Awardee
£2,996 16S 7D
Awardee
£5,866 16S 8D
Awardee
£5,417 1S 5D
Awardee
£1,855 7S 7D
Awardee
£2,755 18S 10D
Awardee
£4,583 13S 7D
Awardee
£3,574 3S 0D
Awardee
£2,839 1S 4D
Awardee
£2,727 6S 5D
Awardee
£2,125 6S 7D
Awardee

Legacies Summary

Physical (1)

Church
St Mary's Goring  
description →
Parish...

Political (1)

MP
Tory 
election →
Bere Alston Devon
1831 - 1832

Relationships (1)

Son → Father

Addresses (5)

31 South Street, Park Lane, London, Middlesex, London, England
34 Grosvenor Street, London, Middlesex, London, England
5 Lime Street Square, City of London, Middlesex, London, England
Balentore Castle, Glamis, Forfarshire, North-east Scotland, Scotland
Goring Hall, Goring, Worthing, Sussex, South-east England, England