Solicitor and Financier
Thomas Lyon was born in 1813 at Hexham, Northumberland, the second son of damask weaver William Lyon. Thomas was educated at Sherborne by his uncle, and was articled to a solicitor in his native town of Hexham but later moved to London. He moved to Yeovil early in his career as a solicitor and worked in Church Street, presumably at the solicitor's firm of Edmund Batten and John Batten Snr. By 1839 however, he was in partnership with Edwin Newman who lived in and worked at Hendford Manor. The partnership was to last until at least 1875. They were listed as Newman & Lyon, Attorneys of Hendford in Hunt & Co's Directory of 1850 and in Slater's Directory of 1852, and as Newman, Lyon & Newman in the Western Gazette in June 1860. The firm, as Newman & Lyon again, was listed as Solicitors of Hendford in the Post Office Directories of both 1866 and 1875. The firm had dealings with the Frome to Weymouth Railway.
By the time of the 1841 census 27-year old Thomas was living in the house of Nathaniel Lukins in Kingston and gave his occupation as a solicitor. In 1846 Thomas was recorded in the Yeovil Poll Book by virtue of owning "two freehold houses, and a garden belonging thereto" in Park Street occupied by Abbot and Richard Clements.
On 27 March 1847, at Sherborne, Thomas Lyon married Frances Allford of Sherborne, with William Lyon and William Allford Naish as witnesses. In 1850 he bought Kingston Manor House and the Wells Journal, in its edition of 13 December 1851 recorded the birth of a daughter "at Kingston House". In any event, by the time of the 1851 census Thomas was recorded in Chambers at Tavistock Row, Covent Garden, London.
In December 1851 Dr Thomas Rammell, the Board of Health's Inspector, opened a public enquiry into the public health conditions of Yeovil. Thomas Lyon and a glove manufacturer by the name of Dicks challenged the authenticity of the signatures on the petition that had lead to the enquiry, since by law the petition was required to have the support of at least ten percent of the ratepayers. Hoping to have the enquiry cancelled, they were defeated and the enquiry was held and its damning report subsequently published.
Thomas was elected Churchwarden for St John's church for four consecutive years, alongside fellow-solicitor James Tally Vining in 1853 and 1854 and alongside Thomas Dampier in 1855 and 1856. During his period as Churchwarden Thomas Lyon instigated major restorations of the church and Daniel Vickery, writing in 1856, remarked ".... an ancient font, which has had two restorations - one of itself and another of its position - during the churchwardenship of Messrs T Lyon and Dampier, who have completed some, and propose carrying out many more, judicious renovations and improvements." On Thomas' initiative the church galleries were completely removed (the opening of Holy Trinity church in Peter Street had rendered them superfluous), the plaster and lime wash was scraped from the walls, the pews were renewed, the church clock's chimes were repaired, the elaborate altar-piece was replaced by an oak communion table, the church plate was remodelled and stained glass was added to several windows while the stained glass west window was installed in memory of Prince Albert, the Prince Consort.
The 1861 census listed Thomas as an 'Attorney & Solicitor' of Back Kingston (today's Higher Kingston) with his Sherborne-born wife Frances and their children Frances E (b 1851), Dora J (b 1852), Thomas W (b 1854), Edith A (b 1856) and Arthur R (b 1858). There was also a governess and six house servants. By 1871 however Thomas was living at Castleton, near Sherborne, Dorset, with his son Arthur Ralph and three servants; a cook, a parlourmaid and a housemaid, while Frances was living in Wickwar, Gloucestershire, with (although may just have been visiting) 'her' cousin Ralph Lyon, Rector of Wickwar.
The part of the Edwardes estate, Kensington, London, which lay to the south of West Cromwell Road, was developed as speculative housing almost entirely after the construction of the Metropolitan District Railway had been authorized by Act of Parliament in 1864. Most of the leases of the new properties were mortgaged to private creditors through the auspices of two solicitors, William M. Sherring of Lincoln's Inn Fields and Thomas Lyon of Newman and Lyon of Clement's Inn. Both solicitors were themselves mortgagees, and Lyon, who came from Yeovil, persuaded a number of people in the West Country to invest in the Van Camps' speculations. Nos. 17 to 27 Trebovir Road were begun early in 1877 and leased to J. F. Van Camp in May of that year. Five of these six houses were mortgaged to Thomas Lyon and the other jointly to Lyon and a man from Leicester. The most comprehensive stage of building development began in the early 1870s on the frontage of Earl's Court Road. Here in 1872–3 the builder Edward Francis erected two groups of six houses. Further houses were built by Francis, being large and expensive, even by the standards of the day, and he financed his operations in a variety of ways. He obtained first mortgages through the auspices of several solicitors including Thomas Lyon of Newman and Lyon, who was much involved in the financing of building speculation in Kensington and who himself lent substantial sums to Francis on the security of the leases of three houses on the north side of Earl's Court Square.
Thomas Lyon died on 1 December 1878. After Thomas' death, Frances moved to Bathwick, near Bath, where she died in 1908 aged 86.
Many thanks to Lisette Joy for sending me the following obituaries -
Western Gazette - Friday, 6 December 1878.
Death of Mr Lyon - We regret to announce the death of Mr Thomas Lyon of the firm Newman and Lyon, the well-known solicitors of Yeovil and London. Mr Lyon was born at Hexham in Northumberland in the year 1813, and was the second son of William Lyon who was the elder brother of the late Rev. Ralph Lyon D.D., for many years Head Master of the King's School, Sherborne. His father carried on the business of damask weaving, which had been introduced from Scotland by his grandfather David Lyon. Thomas Lyon was educated at Sherborne by his uncle, and was articled to a solicitor in his native town of Hexham. He afterwards removed to London and after some years entered into partnership with Edwin Newman Esq., solicitor of Yeovil. The business flourished and after some years Mr Lyon married Frances daughter of the late W.N. Alford, Esq., of Sherborne and subsequently purchased Kingston House, in this town. He threw himself most zealously into the affairs of the town. He was largely instrumental in the erection of Trinity Church and it was mainly through his exertions and liberality that St John's Church was restored. After some time, he left Yeovil, his professional duties requiring his presence in London; and a year or two ago, having purchased a home in Kensington he removed thither with his family. A few weeks since, it was discovered that he was suffering from an incurable complaint known as Bright's disease, but no immediate danger was anticipated. On Thursday November 21st, however, he became much worse, and sank rapidly, expiring on Sunday night, December 1st. He leaves a widow and five children - two sons and three daughters. He will be buried in Brompton Cemetery on Saturday (to-morrow). Mr Lyon was greatly respected for his energy, liberality, and unswerving integrity: and, although some years have elapsed since he ceased to take an active part in Yeovil branch of his firm, his loss will be deeply felt in this locality by many persons with whom he was long associated in both public and private business.
Somerset County Gazette, 7 December 1878
The death is announced of Mr Thomas Lyon of the firm Newman and Lyon, solicitors, Yeovil and London, which sad event took place at Kensington on Sunday from Bright's disease. The deceased gentleman formerly resided in this town, and was well-known and highly respected. During his residence here he was always ready to advance the interests of the town and took a leading part in the building of Trinity Church and the restoration of St John's Church. The business of his firm requiring his presence in London he left Yeovil for the metropolis some years ago, where he has since resided. His death is very generally regretted.