The Garden’s heritage comprises more than four thousand years of human history in which the communities that lived and worked here have managed the land, built homes and raised families all resulting in this fabulous historic landscape and the wonderful wildlife which it now supports.
The Middleton Estate Time Line – Archaeology & History
The Middletons are an influential family of seafaring merchant-adventurers and among the founders of the East India Company. They have built a mansion in Llanarthne by around 1650 with the fortune they have gained trading in exotic plants.
Spices such as nutmeg have immense value due to their real and imagined healing properties at a time of returning plagues.
Born in 1744, Sir William Paxton is a self-made man who joined the navy at the age of twelve. LIke the Middletons before him, Sir William derives much of his wealth from the East India Company. In 1789 he buys Middleton Estate for about £40,000.
Around 1795 a new Hall is designed and built by architect Samuel Pepys Cockerell. The new Hall becomes ‘one of the most splendid mansions in South Wales’, with one of the finest Regency parklands in Britain, the latter probably being designed by Samuel Lapidge, apprentice and successor to Capability Brown.
Between 1806 and 1809 Paxton’s Tower is built to honour national hero and fellow seaman Lord Nelson. In 1815, Thomas Hornor’s paintings of the estate capture the landscape of lakes, cascades, open vistas and sweeping drives.
Paxton dies in 1824. The Estate is bought by Edward Adams, but falls into disrepair when family fortunes wane.
At the end of the First World War, Adams’ descendants sell the estate and emigrate to South Africa.
The mansion burns down in 1931, then in the ownership of Lt. Colonel William N. Jones. Carmarthenshire County Council acquires the estate in the 1930s, dividing it into seven starter-farm units for lease.
The Garden opens in May 2000, with Lord Foster’s Great Glasshouse as its centrepiece. With its mission to conserve, educate and inspire, the Garden today is not only a beautiful place to visit, but a fascinating and relevant one, too.