Sir Joseph Paxton
Fame came with the 1851 Great Exhibition. All of the 245 plans for the main Exhibition Hall in Hyde
Park had been examined and rejected. Paxton was visiting London at the time and heard about the
difficulties. Within a few days he delivered a design - a vastly magnified version of his lily house at
Chatsworth. It was cheap, simple to erect and remove and could be ready quickly. Its novelty was its
revolutionary modular, prefabricated design and use of glass. It took 2,000 men eight months to build
the 'Crystal Palace', which was more than 500m long and nearly 140m wide.

Despite widespread cynicism amongst press and public, when the Great Exhibition opened in May
1851 it was an enormous success. In October, Paxton was knighted by Queen Victoria. When the
exhibition finished, the Crystal Palace was re-erected in Sydenham in south London, where it
remained popular until it burned down in 1936.

Paxton remained Head Gardener at Chatsworth, but took on a large number of other projects,
working on the layout of public parks, helping with suggested improvements for the Royal Botanic
Gardens at Kew and designing a country house, Mentmore Towers for Baron Mayer de Rothschild.  
Other achievements from which helped with included Princess Park in Liverpool and Birkenhead Park in
Wirral, from which the design of Central Park in New York is based.  

He became wealthy through successful speculation in the booming railway industry and died on 8
June 1865 in Sydenham.

*Joseph was actually born on 3rd August 1803, not 1801.  The 1803 date is on his grave stone at
Edensor on the Chatsworth Estate, and he was baptised at the church in Milton Bryan on 24th
August.  The date 1801 has come about because he pretended to be two years older than he actually
was in order to get a job in his late teens.  He admitted this later in his life.
Paxton was an English gardener,
designer, writer and creator of one of
most famous buildings of Queen
Victoria's reign, the Crystal Palace.

Joseph Paxton was born in
Bedfordshire on 3 August 1803 into a
farming family. He had a number of
gardening jobs until in 1823 he began
working at Chiswick Gardens which
was leased by the Horticultural Society
from the 6th Duke of Devonshire.
Impressed with his abilities, in 1826
the Duke appointed Paxton head
gardener at Chatsworth House, the
Devonshire family's large country
house in Derbyshire. At Chatsworth
Paxton designed gardens, fountains, a
model village and an arboretum. He
also built a conservatory - known as
the Great Conservatory - and a lily
house, specially designed for a giant
lily with a design based on the leaves
of the plant. He also married the
Chatsworth housekeeper's niece,
Sarah Bown.
Sir Joseph Paxton
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