The early 1800s saw the heyday of the estate when, in the ownership of Sir William Paxton, it was amongst the finest late 18th century landscapes and water parks in Britain. His house too, was described as one of the finest in south Wales and both house and park were created by two of the leading designers of the age, the architect Samuel Pepys Cockerell and the landscape designer Samuel Lapidge, ‘Capability’ Brown’s professional heir. Lapidge’s independent work is something of a rarity but his close working with Cockerell and the engineer James Grier produced a landscape of singular elegance and distinction with fine neo-classical water related structures and lovely parkland features including the famous Paxton’s Tower.
The park was a measured, not full blooded, example of the Picturesque and the artificially engineered lakes, falls and cascades were in the vanguard of contemporary water management. However by the mid 19th century the estate and parkland had entered a slow decline which culminated in the destruction, by fire, of the hall in 1931 and, in 1934, the draining of the necklace of ornamental lakes.
Upon completion of the design, Paxton comissioned surveyor turned artist Thomas Hornor to depict his beautified estate in a series of 14 watercolour paintings, seven of which are know, seven of which are missing. These paintings have been invaluable for the project team in providing visual evidence of the designed appearance of the Middleton Estate.