Joseph Paxton

A short history of Joseph Paxtons life.

Joseph Paxton

Born August 3, 1803 in Milton Bryan, England Joseph Paxton was, the seventh son of a farmer.

He became a garden boy at age15 at Battlesden Park for Sir Gregory Osborne Page-Turner he then got himself a position in 1823 at the Horticultural Society’s Chiswick Gardens.

These gardens were close to the gardens of William Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire at Chiswick House. Cavendish regularly met Paxton as he ambled in his gardens and became impressed with his skill and enthusiasm. The Duke offered the 20-year-old Paxton the position of Head Gardener at Chatsworth, which was considered one of the best landscaped gardens of the time.

Although the Duke was in Russia at the time, Paxton set off for Chatsworth on the Chesterfield coach without delay, getting to Chatsworth at half past four in the morning.

At Chatsworth he met his wife, Sarah Bown, the housekeeper’s niece. They married in 1827.

He was to enjoy a very friendly relationship with his employer who recognised his diverse talents and facilitated his rise to prominence.

One of his first projects was to remodel the garden around the north wing of the house and set up a group of conifers which grew into a 40 acre arboretum which is still about. As a result he became skilled in moving mature trees. The largest, weighing about eight tons, was moved from Kedleston Road in Derby.

At Chatsworth he built massive fountains one of witch was The Emperor Fountain built in 1844 it was double the height of Nelson’s Column, and prompted the creation of the Emperor Lake on the hill top above the gardens.

The Great Conservatory at Chatsworth in a 19th century photo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1832, Paxton developed an interest in green/glass houses at Chatsworth where he designed a series of buildings with forcing frames for espalier trees. At the time the ideology of using glass houses was in its early years and those at Chatsworth were the worse for wear. After some testing, he designed a ridge and furrow roof which would be at right angles to the morning and evening sun, with a creative frame design which would admit the greatest light the basis of the green/glass houses we see today.

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