The History Group have definitively answered a longstanding point of debate at the Garden.
Regular visitors will know the footprint/layout of Sir William Paxton’s Middleton Hall is found outlined in the grass next to Principality House. It’s generally believed that this is a scaled down footprint of Paxton’s Hall, and that his house was in reality much bigger. However some members of the History Group have long suspected that in fact it represents the actual size of Paxton’s Hall.
So, armed with a tape measure and the room measurements found in the 1824 Sale Catalogue, we took a walk over to the footprint to measure it room by room. Luckily for us the catalogue is very detailed here’s the description of the Drawing Room:
“A splendid drawing room, fronting the south, commanding the most grand and extensive views of wood, water, hill and dale, thirty-three feet by twenty-two feet, walls hung with white-ground Indian paper, enriched with trees and birds, costly statuary marble chimneypiece, Venetian windows with columns, and sashes to the base, opening to balconies.”
This really gives us an idea of the scale and grandeur of the house. But for now the important piece of information was that the drawing room was 33 feet by 22 feet.
So, how did our measurements compare? We measured the drawing room as 35 feet 10 inches by 24 feet 4 inches. This is bigger than the room measurements in the sale catalogue! And this was true for all the rooms in the footprint. We think that this can be explained by the fact that there would have been plaster or panelling on the walls of the rooms, making them slightly smaller than the footprint is measuring. We are therefore confident that the footprint is an accurate representation of the size and layout of Paxton’s Hall.
We are delighted that the footprint is accurate, as it really helps give a sense of place to this once great hall. Knowing it is accurate also helps us visualise how Paxton’s hall sat in his Regency landscape and to appreciate the views that he framed so deliberately to be seen from every corner of his home.