Image from Roger Vaughan's
U.K. History and Victorian Photograph Pages

 Joseph Paxton (1803-1865)

Joseph Paxton was born August 3, 1803, in Milton Bryan, England, the seventh son of a yeoman farmer. He became a garden boy at 17 at Battlesden. There he created his first lake at the age 19. In 1823 he obtained a position at the Horticultural Society's Chiswick Gardens which were adjacent to the Duke of Devonshire's* garden at Chiswick House. One day they met, and on impulse, the Duke offered the young man the position of Head Gardener at Chatsworth.

In 1832, Paxton was appointed Manager to the Duke of Devonshire's estates. He created lakes, arboreta, and greenhouses, and designed garden plans for other estates on contract.

Between 1836 and 1840 he designed and built 'the great stove' at Chatsworth, at the time the largest glass building in the world. However, it proved prohibitively expensive to heat and was destroyed in 1923. It took five attempts to blow it up. In 1844 he constructed the 'emperor fountain', at 280 feet the tallest in Europe. He also built a second smaller glasshouse for Victoria. It flowered there in 1849, the first time ever in cultivation.

These designs and the remarkable "natural engineering" of Victoria's pads were later used as the basis for his successful design of the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, London, the building that would house the "Great Exhibition of the Works of All Nations" in 1851. Over 233 designs were submitted for the building. Paxton produced his design on a piece of blotting paper and submitted the final design in less than nine days. The building itself was erected in just six months, with 293,655 panes of glass, 330 huge iron columns and 24 miles of gutters.

 The Crystal Palace


In 1854 the building was moved to Sydenham where, until it was damaged by fire in 1936, it housed a museum of sculpture, pictures, and architecture and was used for concerts. In 1941 its demolition was completed because it served as a guide to enemy planes. The building was constructed of iron, glass, and laminated wood. One of the most significant examples of 19th-century, proto-modern architecture, it was widely imitated in Europe and America. He was knighted for the success of this design.

During the 1830s he was editor of the Horticultural Register, Paxton's Magazine of Botany, A Practical Treatise on the Cultivation of Dahlias, The Pocket Botanical Dictionary; and, with John Lindley, he founded The Gardener's Chronicle. The Magazine of Botany series was published in 16 volumes from 1834-1849 and was highly prized for the brilliant colors of the plates and the beauty of the plants illustrated. With Lindley, he also published Paxton's Flower Garden in three volumes (1850-1853) with 108 hand colored plates.

In the 1840s he continued to work on landscape gardening and laying out of public parks, but also designed various country houses and other domestic buildings. His greater involvement in public and municipal ventures led him to standing as Liberal candidate for Coventry in 1854. He was elected and remained Member of Parliament there until his death in 1865.

* William George Spencer Cavendish (1790 - 1858), 6th Duke of Devonshire, was known as the "Bachelor Duke". In 1811, at the age of 21, he inherited eight stately homes and 200,000 acres of land. He went on to improve his houses and gardens (including the rebuilding of the village of Edensor) and traveled extensively. He was Lord Chamberlain to King William IV and a close friend of Czar Nicholas I of Russia. Among his friends were also Antonio Canova, Charles Dickens, and his head gardener, Sir Joseph Paxton.

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 Joseph Paxton's Water Lily

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