Paxton’s Paradise

Paxton, like the Middletons, had made his fortune in the service of the East India Company. Whilst working as Master of the Mint in Bengal he was also acting as a private Agent. Soon after his return to Britain, Paxton purchased Middleton Hall.  Using his great wealth, he employed some of the finest creative talents of his day, including the eminent architect Samuel Pepys Cockerell, whom he commissioned to design a new, relocated Middleton Hall.  The earlier Hall was demolished.

With productive gardens, a peach house, ice house and stable block, the new neoclassical mansion was well-equipped with the facilities that support a gentleman’s household. The beautiful parkland may have been improved by the surveyor Samuel Lapidge who had worked for the famous ‘Capability’ Brown.

Paxton turned his passion for water – possibly gained during the years he spent at sea as a youth, and many hot years in India – into a practical reality.  The result was an ingenious system of water features that distinguished Paxton’s estate in its heyday. An elaborate ‘necklace’ of lakes encompassed the hill on which the mansion stood and was then linked, via cascades, to a romantic woodland gorge containing waterfalls and pools. The whole was adorned by bath houses and a boathouse for use by Paxton and his guests. Spring water was stored in uphill reservoirs that fed into a lead cistern on the mansion’s roof, allowing Paxton’s residence to enjoy piped running water and the very latest luxury, water closets.