William Paxton Facts Page
Paxton, who was a native of Edinburgh, came to Wales in 1785, after thirty years
of travelling the world. He had made a fortune in India where he was the Master
of the Calcutta Mint. On retiring, like many others who had made riches, to
invest in a country estate and enter politics. It was necessary, of course, to
have a house and estate which reflected his wealth and this he acquired in 1787,
Middleton Hall - the site of the National Botanic Garden of Wales. The estate
was in poor repair at the time of purchase but it suited to Paxton's needs,
being, according to the sale catalogue of 1824, "seven miles from
Carmarthen and the high Mail Coach Road to Haverfordwest".
Paxton invested large sums of money in the run down estate and the restoration work undertaken included the building of a new Middleton Hall. The architect chosen to design and build the new hall was Samuel Pepys Cockerel of London, who completed the job between 1793 and 1795.
William Paxton was knighted in 1802. Paxton was Mayor of Carmarthen when Nelson and Lady Hamilton stayed in the town in 1802. He would certainly have met and entertained them during their visit. It would appear that the naval hero greatly impressed Sir William. A few years later, Paxton commissioned Cockerel to design a tower to be erected in honor of the of Lord Nelson. It is not possible to give a precise date for the project, but the tower was probably under construction when Lord Nelson was killed.
The project was completed before the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815. The tower was sited 500 feet above the Towy valley on a wooded hill known locally as Bryn y Bigwrn. The tower is constructed of Bala stone, limestone and stones from the quarry close to the tower. The first two storeys are triangular in shape tower at each corner. The walls are topped with a parapet. The rounded towers are raised several feet above the parapets. The third storey is hexagonal in shape, rising from the triangular part to give the tower an impressive appearance. On the top is a flat roof from which it is claimed seven counties can be seen on a clear day.
The building of Nelson's Tower was a continuation of the large scale developments Paxton carried out as an improving landlord. The estate benefited from the acquisition of land, extensive tree planting, land drainage and the incorporation of lakes, streams, waterfalls and other ornamental features. At the time of his death in 1824 the estate had been extended to some 2,650 acres. The particulars and conditions of sale in the sales catalogue of 1824 show that enthusiastic estate agents descriptions have a long tradition: