John Lyon (school founder)

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Lyon arms
John Lyon memorial, St Mary's, Harrow on the Hill
John Lyon memorial, St Mary's, Harrow on the Hill

John Lyon (c. 1511–1592) was a yeoman farmer and benefactor who endowed Harrow School, England, founded in 1572.

Lyon was an educated man who lived at Harrow-on-the-Hill, now in North West London; as a wealthy farmer, he was able to endow Harrow School, and this led to the foundation of The John Lyon School. He also established a trust for the maintenance of Harrow Road and Edgware Road. Since these roads are now owned and maintained by the local council, the income from his estate is controlled by John Lyon's Charity[1] which gives grants to benefit young people in nine London boroughs: Barnet, Brent, Camden, Ealing, Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea, Harrow, Hammersmith & Fulham and the Cities of London and Westminster. Grants are awarded to registered charities and state schools.

John Lyon lived at Preston in the Tudor era when it was "...a hamlet in the parish of Harrow-on-the-Hill" and St Mary's Church, Harrow preserves monumental brasses of him and his widow, Joan Lyon.


Of Scottish extraction, his immediate ancestors hailed from Norfolk, and he lived at Preston Hall in the parish of Harrow, Middlesex;[2] he was son of John Lyon and his wife Joan née Mosley, and first cousin of Sir John Lyon, Lord Mayor of London in 1534.[3] He was born circa 1511, being over twenty in 1534, when he applied for admission to certain lands held by his father in Harrow. His family was wealthy, and in 1562 he is recorded as having the largest rental income in Harrow.[4]

Lyon died on 3 October 1592 without leaving issue; his wife Joan died on 30 August 1608. Both were buried in Harrow Parish Church. A monumental brass bearing their effigies, with an inscription, was removed from the floor during a modern restoration, with injury to the figures, and placed against the wall of the church; but in 1888 a marble slab with Latin verse inscription was laid over his grave.[4]

Lyon's family bore a lion in its coat of arms, this canting charge now being represented as a supporter in the modern coat of arms of the London Borough of Brent and as a crest in the London Borough of Harrow's municipal arms.


For many years Lyon spent twenty marks a year on the education of poor children. On 13 February 1572 Queen Elizabeth granted him a Royal Charter by Letters Patent to found a free grammar school for the education of boys at Harrow, constituting his Trustees a body corporate as Governors of the "Free Grammar-School of John Lyon". He also invested in property at Marylebone in 1571, to be held by himself, his wife, and the Governors of this school, the rents to be applied to the repair of the high-road between Edgware and London, and the surplus to the repair of the road between Harrow and London. In that year, the Clerk to the Signet having proposed to levy £50 from him as a loan to the State, Sir Gilbert Gerard, Attorney-General, interposed on his behalf, representing that Lyon should not be forced to sell lands bought for the maintenance of his school.[4]

Lyon drew up statutes for his school in 1590, providing for a schoolmaster with the degree of M.A., and an usher with a B.A., both to be unmarried; these covered admission, fees, and amusements for the scholars (eg. driving a top, tossing a handball, running, and shooting), all of whom were to learn the Protestant catechism and attend mass regularly. Greek was to be taught in the two highest forms, the fourth and fifth, and the whole course of study was set down with specifics.[4]

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 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain"Lyon, John (1511-1592)". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.