The Dashing David Lyon

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, Forfarshire, Scotland, David Lyon’s family descends from the Lyons of Auldbar, a noble English lineage whose issue carries forth to the present century with Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the late Queen Mother.  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 investmests closer to home.  David Lyon junior (our portrait sitter and a third son) possessed business savy 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 Blanche Augusta Bury (b. 1819), daughter of Rev. Edward and the well-known novelist Lady Charlotte Bury.  Lady Bury had numerous daughter 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. 

Sources:

1 New Monthly Magazine, Volume 11

2 Memoirs and Correspondence of Mrs. Grant Laggan, Volume 3

Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid Spain

Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry…, Sir Bernard Burke

The Harrow School Register, 1801-1900, First Edition, 1894

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2 thoughts on “The Dashing David Lyon

  1. Thanks so much, Susan, for this information on David Lyon – this is the most I have found out about him EVER! I am now the proud owner of Balintore Castle which he had built specially.

    I have heard a couple of stories of why the castle was built. One involves getting rid of his money in a “folly” so he could avoid paying money to his wife in a divorce settlement. The other involves it being a “love nest” for him and his second wife.

    Is there any way you can resolve this longstanding and bugging question?

    I am delighted to see this portrait!

    David

    1. So you’re the “Prestwick man who captured Balintore Castle”? I just read the Sunday Times article written about you in 2008. Wow! What an incredible and worthwhile undertaking! I am in awe. Balintore is so gorgeously moody looking, a magnificent piece of architecture.

      I am pleased you enjoyed the post, David. Unfortunately, there appears to be a dearth of information on David Lyon. As to your question, I, too, would love the answer. Perhaps reference to the mystery exists in some old 19th century book or letter? Now you have me more curious than normal which is not good! I’ll shoot you an e-mail if I ever come across it.

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