Nathaniel Lloyd was born in 1867 to a comfortably-off middle-class family in Manchester. His maternal grandfather owned a department store in Glasgow. Lloyd’s early business career included managing the advertising and printing of the Mazzawattee Tea Co. but in 1893 he founded his own colour printing firm. This became so successful that by 1909 he was able to retire and devote himself to his passions for shooting and golf. He was also keenly interested in antique furniture, at this stage principally Georgian, but he had also acquired a number of French pieces. When furnishing Great Dixter, his view developed that good furniture of any period could live in harmony and in due course the house contained a rich mixture of pieces ranging from 15th-century French and 16th-century Italian to English of all periods from medieval to early 19th-century.
In 1905 Nathaniel married Daisy Field, daughter of a successful London solicitor Basil Field, and the couple leased a late 19th-century house in Rye, where Nathaniel could play golf at weekends. When he retired from business in 1909 Nathaniel began looking for an old house to buy, and the purchase of Dixter and its immediate grounds and farm buildings was agreed in May 1910, for the sum of £6,000.