Joseph Paxton

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Sir Joseph Paxton (3 August 1803 – 8 June 1865) was an English gardener and architect, best known for designing The Crystal Palace.

Contents

Early life

Paxton was born in 1803, the seventh son of a farming family, at Milton Bryan, Bedfordshire. Some references, incorrectly, list his birth year as 1801. This is, as he admitted in later life, a result of misinformation he provided in his teens, which enabled him to enrol at Chiswick Gardens.

He became a garden boy at the age of fifteen for Sir Gregory Osborne Page-Turner at Battlesden Park, near Woburn. After several moves, he obtained a position in 1823 at the Horticultural Society's Chiswick Gardens. These were close to the gardens of William Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire at Chiswick House. The Duke frequently met the young gardener as he strolled 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 finest landscaped gardens of the time.

Although the Duke was in Russia at the time, Paxton set off for Chatsworth on the Chesterfield coach forthwith, arriving at Chatsworth at half past four in the morning. By his account he had explored the gardens, scaling the kitchen garden wall in the process, and set the staff to work, then ate breakfast with the housekeeper and met his future wife, Sarah Bown, the housekeeper's niece, as he later put it, completing his first morning's work before nine o'clock. They married in 1827[2], and she proved to be supremely capable of managing his affairs, leaving him free to pursue his ideas.

He enjoyed 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 redesign the garden around the new north wing of the house and to set up a 'pinetum', a collection of conifers which developed into a 40-acre (160,000 m2) arboretum which still exists. In the process he became skilled in moving even mature trees. The largest, weighing about eight tons, was moved from Kedleston Road in Derby. Among several other large projects at Chatsworth, such as the Rock Garden, the Emperor Fountain and the rebuilding of Edensor village, he is best remembered for his glass houses.

While at Chatsworth Gardens, he built enormous fountains - The Emperor Fountain in 1844[3] twice the height of Nelson's Column, this required the creation of the Emperor Lake on the hill top above the gardens, this required the excavation of 100,000 cubic yards of earth[4] - as well as an arboretum, in 1848 he created the conservative wall[5], a glass house 331 ft (101 m) feet long by 7 feet wide and 1838-42 Edensor model village. In 1837 he secured a cutting of a new waterlily found in Guyana, and designed a heated pool that enabled him to breed the lily successfully: within three months its leaves were almost twelve feet wide.

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