Sir Joseph Paxton − Chatsworth House head gardener and famous designer

Sir Joseph Paxton is most famous for designing the original Crystal Palace Conservatory in London, but his many talents had been spotted previous to this by the 6th Duke of Devonshire, and by the time he was 20 years old he came to Chatsworth House as Head Gardener.  


Many books give Sir Joseph Paxton the credit he deserves, but his calling to Chatsworth had a lasting impact on Rowsley for the good..

Chatsworth displays much evidence of his abundant expertise and in so many fields, and his accolades are numerous. Not only was he recognised nationally in this country for his talents, but his fame spread, via a de Rothschild family member, to Paris, where he was commissioned to design a "Mentmore Towers" twice as big as the original one that Baron Mayer de Rothschild had him design in Buckinghamshire. We understand that both houses are still in use. In fact, so diverse were his talents that he designed important buildings throughout England, and in Glasgow. He also went into publishing and became an MP. Credit needs to be given to him considering his lowly birth, being the seventh son from a farming family at the beginning of the19th century (born 1803, died 1865).

We now think of Rowsley and how Paxton's involvement with the railway industry enriched the growing village. While Head Gardener at Chatsworth House, Paxton was also a director of the Buxton, Matlock and Midland Junction Railway. In 1845 the railway company planned the line through Rowsley and Paxton was asked to design the station building.

In August 1850, the company decided to construct six further dwellings in the vicinity - a Station Master's house, four cottages for employees and a combined house for the Secretary/Company office. The combined house is no longer in existence but the four cottages are the first group of houses on the left after leaving the A6 for Chatsworth Road. Evidence is available of the minutes which commissioned Paxton to design these buildings. It is also believed that the smaller building attached to the Grouse and Claret public house, and which now is part of the restaurant, was also of his design.

As one enters Rowsley along the A6 from Darley Dale, a Natural Stone Sales business is next to two houses which have been connected to a single occupancy. This is the final property we know of that Paxton designed in Rowsley.

It is heartening to note that he was not just interested in grandiose buildings but had time to consider good quality design for more functional buildings. It is also pleasing to note that, even in death; he remained in the area and is buried with his wife, Sarah Bown, a local girl from Matlock, in Edensor churchyard.

Sir Joseph Paxton - nominated by Rowsley Parish Council