A short introduction (from Paxton's Illustrated London News obituary)

Sir Joseph Paxton, watercolour of c. 1850 by Octavius Oakley, © National Portrait Gallery, London (NPG 5565).

Sir Joseph Paxton, M.P. for Coventry, one of the most famous gardeners of modern times, who died, on the 8th inst., at his residence, Rock Hills, Sydenham, after an illness of some weeks' duration, was the son of a Bedfordshire yeoman, William Paxton, of Milton-Bryant, near Woburn. He was born at Milton Bryant in l803, and was educated at the free school in that town. He was a landscape gardener and garden architect, and had the good fortune early in life to attract the attention of that nobleman of great and varied tam, William Spencer, sixth and late Duke of Devonshire, K.G., who employed him first at Chiswick and then at Chatsworth. The magnificent conservatory at Chatsworth, wbich covers an acre of ground, and the unrivalled gardens there, are monuments of Paxton‘s invention and skill. The great act of his life, however, was his coming to the aid of the building committee with his admirable design for the building so successfully erected in Hyde Park for the Great Exhibition of 1851. In acknowledgment of his services in connection with that stupendous undertaking he was knighted in 1851. Sir Joseph Paxton was also the architect of the Crystal Palace, at Sydenham, of now world-wide fame, and he laid out the beautiful gardens there. He was one of the most active directors of the Crystal Palace Company. Sir Joseph Paxton was also distinguished in literature as the editor of the Horticultural Register, the Botanical Magazine, the Cottagers' Calendar, and of the Botanical Dictionary. He was elected M.P. for Coventry, in 1854, in the Liberal interest, and has continued to represent that borough till his demise. Sir Joseph was fellow of the Horticultural and Linnean Societies, a member of the Society of Arts, and a Knight of St. Wladimir, of Russia. He married, in 1827, Mary, third daughter of Thomas Down, Esq., of Huntbridge House, Matlock, Derbyshire. ["Sir Joseph Paxton, M.P.," 591]

Paxton's Crystal Palace. Source: Dickinson, frontispiece.

Biographical material



Paxton in the Visual Arts

Related Material


Buzard, James, Joseph W. Childers, and Eileen Gillooly, eds. Victorian Prism: Refractions of the Crystal Palace. Charlottesville and London: University of Virginia Press, 2007. [Review]

Colquhoun, Kate. "The Busiest Man in England": A Life of Joseph Paxton, Gardener, Architect, and Visionary. Boston: David R. Godine, 2006. [Review].

Dickinson's Comprehensive Pictures of the Great Exhibition of 1851. London: Dickinson, 1852. Internet Archive. Contributed by the Smithsonian Libraries. Web. 30 July 2019.

Dugan, John. The Great Iron Ship. New York: Harpers, 1953. [Excerpt, "The Engineers and Crystal Palace."]

Kenworthy-Browne, John. "Paxton, Sir Joseph (1803–1865), landscape gardener and architect." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online ed. Web. 30 July 2019.

"The Late Sir Joseph Paxton, M.P." and "Sir Joseph Paxton, M.P." both from The Illustrated London News. Vol.XLVI. pp. 591 and 601. Jan-June 1865. Hathi Trust. Web. 30 July 2019.

Turnor, Reginald. Nineteenth Century Architecture in Britain. London: Batsford, 1950.

Last modified 30 July 2019