Sir Thomas Lawrence’s portrait of David Lyon, 1825
I couldn’t help but pause upon seeing this picture of the dashing David Lyon and thinking there was a bit of Mr. Darcy in him. He has the refined air, the pride instilled down to his slender musculature and elegant, chiseled face. His richly nuanced clothes, from the fur lining his coat to the ever so slight cane and dandyish hankerchief, speak of high position and wealth in society. And yet, David Lyon is no peer. He is part of the landed gentry.
Hailing from Goring Hall, Sussex and Balintore Castle in Forfarshire, Scotland, David Lyon’s family descends from one of the sons of Patrick Lyon, 1st Lord Glamis, a Scottish nobleman whose origins date back to the mid-fifteenth century. The last of the Goring branch of Lyons died in 1934. David’s father, Lyon senior, was reportedly worth around £600,000 at the time of his death. Although a second son, upon his elder brother’s demise, he inherited a family fortune rich in Jamaican sugar plantations, including exports of rum, and business investments closer to home. David Lyon junior (our portrait sitter and a third son) possessed business savvy of his own accord, however, amassing a fortune as a merchant in the Antilles.
A considerable marriage prize, if I may be at the liberty to call him so, Lyon remained a bachelor well into middle age. Before his marriage, he was an MP of Beeralston from 1831-2. Afterwards, in 1851, he was High Sheriff of Sussex. At around age 55 in 1848, he married the 29 year old Blanche Augusta Bury (b. 1819), daughter of Rev. Edward and the well-known novelist Lady Charlotte Bury. Lady Bury had numerous daughters from two marriages, all of them considered talented and beautiful, Blanche being “not less handsome than the daughters of her first marriage.”1 From Mrs. Grant Laggan’s Memoirs and Correspondence, Mrs. Laggan recalls of the young Blanche:
As niece to the Duke of Argyle on her mother’s side, her dowry likely substantial given her father’s “very superior endowments and worth,”2 it seems Blanche was no Elizabeth Bennett. But Pride and Prejudice be damned; you still want hear the story, right?
The couple made their home at Lyon’s 600 acre estate Goring Hall in Sussex. Rebuilt on the grounds of a tear down, the new Goring Hall (below) was completed in 1840, eight years prior to the wedding. Lyon also kept a townhouse in London at 31 South Street, Grosvenor Square, a prestigious area of London near Hyde Park.
Wrought-iron gates stood at the eastern and western entries to the Goring property until 1940 when they were removed during the war. The mediterranean holm oaks that still line the drive and road, known as Ilex Way or Avenue of Holm Oaks, were planted by David Lyon.
At the time of his death on April 8, 1872 at the age of 78, the Lyons had no children. The estate passed to David’s brother, William Lyon, and remained in the family until 1934. David Lyon’s portrait now resides at the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid Spain.