William Thomas Lyttleton

Birth: 1786


William Thomas Lyttleton (1786-1839) was an early 19th century painter and soldier who lived and painted in Van Diemen's Land and Ceylon. Lyttleton was also interested in architecture and he erected the house now known as Pinefield at Longford. He trained at the Royal Military Academy and entered the British Army as an ensign in the 73rd Regiment on 12 April 1809. The army gives his initials as W.H. and he himself signed his marriage register with these, indicating a possible additional baptismal name (Hamilton?), but afterwards he always seems to have used 'W.T.'. Gazetted lieutenant on 15 November 1810, he retained that rank until he retired in 1824. Lyttleton came to Sydney in December 1809, where he is thought to have painted a watercolor view of the town and harbor still in family possession (photograph in Mitchell Library). The following February his company was posted to Port Dalrymple (Launceston), Van Diemen's Land. He was briefly attached to the Commissariat Office at Launceston until appointed naval officer by Governor Macquarie in 1812.

Lyttleton married Anne Hortle, daughter of Ann and the late Private James Hortle of the New South Wales Corps, in a civil ceremony at Port Dalrymple on 4 January 1812. They had seven children of whom at least three painted and sketched. Indeed, William's work has often been confused with that by his son Westcote, while two watercolors now believed to be by Maria were originally attributed to her father.

With a detachment of the 73rd Regiment, Lyttleton arrived at Ceylon (Sri Lanka) on 28 October 1814 in the Windham . He remained there with his family for the next seven years, being appointed deputy assistant-commissary at Ruanwella on 6 February 1815 after serving with the expedition against Kandy earlier that year. Edward Orme of London published six aquatint views of Kandy and its environs after Lieutenant Lyttleton's originals, engraved by M. Dubourg and advertised for sale in the Ceylon Gazette of 2 October 1819 for 100 Rix dollars (£7 10s) the set; the Allport and Mitchell libraries have complete copies. The scenes depicted are: View from Amanapoora, View on the Balani Mountain, The King's Palace at Kandy, Scenes at the Ferry of Wattepalogoa, Town of Kandy and Tombs of Kandyan Kings, Lyttleton being one of the earliest artists to depict these royal tombs, destroyed in 1850.

Two aquatints and a line-engraving after Lyttleton were included in John Davy's Ceylon (1821): A Kandyan Disave and Priest of Boodhoo (the frontispiece), View of Part of the Palace, including the Pateripooa and of Part of the Nata Dewale from the Great Square and Front of the Palace in Kandy . Watercolours done at Trincomalee survive in private collections and the Mitchell Library holds two watercolours, Fort Frederick from The Esplanade. Trincomal é in the Island of Ceylon (annotated 'Drawn on the spot by W. Lyttleton') and View in theInner Harbour with Admiralty House, Trincomal é in the Island of Ceylon, both apparently intended for aquatinting.

After Ceylon, the family returned to Britain (Moore states to Dumbarton Castle, Scotland), William having been granted two years' sick leave from February 1820 to January 1822. He then rejoined his regiment, now back in England, but in November 1824 he sold his commission and left the army with the retirement rank of captain. He sailed from Leith to Van Diemen's Land with his family, arriving in the Triton on 4 October 1825. Capital of £2000 and 500 head of cattle entitled him to land grants which he took up near Westbury and in the Meander district. In partnership with William Archer of Brickendon, he also leased 2560 acres on the Norfolk Plains. He was appointed police magistrate and deputy chairman of the Launceston Quarter Sessions on 30 November 1829 and remained in this post until resigning on 14 January 1836 in order to return to England. The Lyttletons left on 9 February. On 7 June 1839 William died at 45 Cambridge Terrace, Hyde Park, London; he was buried in Kensal Green Cemetery.

Lyttleton was interested in architecture and erected the house now known as Pinefield at Longford, subsequently the local Anglican parsonage where Maria and her husband lived. Although continuing to be a keen sketcher, few original Tasmanian works are in public collections. The Mitchell Library holds a watercolor, Scene at Port Dalrymple [Launceston], Van Diemen's Land (c.1830), and an attributed pen-and-ink sketch of the town of Launceston in 1830. He is best known as the original artist for the lithograph Panshanger. The Seat of Joseph Archer Esquire, published in London in 1835 after 'Lyttleton'. The original watercolor of this serene rural vista was probably taken to London to be engraved by the 16-year-old Westcote, thus somewhat confusing its authorship, but it seems far too sophisticated to have been by the son and is perfectly compatible in style with the father's Singhalese prints. The original painting is lost. William's third son, Thomas, may have exhibited it (or a copy) in the 1860s.

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