Joseph Paxton celebrated head gardener at Chatsworth House, by Danny Wells
Last night it was good to welcome Danny Wells back to talk to us about the brilliant landscape gardener Joseph Paxton who was born in 1803. Danny’s presentation focused mostly on Paxton’s time as head gardener at Chatsworth House, attaining the position at age 23 on a salary of £65.00 p.a. Paxton met his future Wife Sarah at Chatsworth and married 8 months later. Danny explained how Paxton’s association with the Duke had opened up many other opportunities for him. Paxton was from a humble background but rose to meteoric fame and Dickens called him “The busiest man in England”.
Paxton’s appetite for various challenges lead him to become involved in journalism, writing many gardening publications. He was great friends with Isambard Kingdom Brunel and George Stephenson. These contacts augmented his architectural achievements, although he was not a trained architect himself. In 1840 Paxton ensures that the Duke gets his huge stone greenhouse at a cost of £36,000, it was seen as the greatest glass structure in the world. The remarkable fountains at Chatsworth were designed by himself in anticipation of a visit from the emperor of Russia, although he didn’t arrive. The village of Edensor was designed by himself with the help of architect John Robertson.
Paxton was famous also for managing to get the biggest of water lilys to flower at Kew. It is said each time the lily flowered he sent a bloom to Queen Victoria. The structure of the water lily gave him an idea for a building and in 1851 he made plans for a huge piece of architecture spanning 20 acres and it was completed in only 22 weeks. This was for the Great Exhibition and for this masterpiece Paxton was knighted. The structure had brought in 55,000 visitors on the final day, and was dismantled afterwards and rebuilt at Crystal Palace. Somehow Paxton found time to become a Liberal MP for Coventry. He was also heavily involved in the railways and newspaper publication. Paxton died in 1865 at age 61 and is buried in the church yard at Edensor.
Thank you very much to Danny for presenting such a fascinating account of the genius and energy of Joseph Paxton.
Later in the evening we had our annual daffodil competition. The winner this year was Trevor Allcoat.
Finally there was our winner for the Spring basket which this year went to Denise Kovarovic with her trio of Sempervivum’s
Well done to both of our winners!