William and Joseph Paxton – were they brothers?

Two things remain in Berkhamsted, apart from documents, to remind us of William and Joseph Paxton: Crystal Palace the canal-side pub and the very short road with only one house in it, Paxton Road (running from Ellesmere Road to George Street). The original Crystal Palace, designed by Joseph Paxton, was made for the Great Exhibition of 1851 and was in Hyde Park, London. There is documentary evidence that many Berkhamsted people took the train to London to see this remarkable feat of engineering. You may say apart from the fact that the pub was built in the 1850s it does not look today particularly like the Crystal Palace. Old photographs of this pub with the adjoining little cottage, Poet’s Corner, had much more glass and did bear a faint resemblance to its namesake.

Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace

After whom was Paxton Road named? It is not particularly close to the Crystal Palace and I believe that it is more likely to have been named after a Paxton who played an important part in local affairs, namely William rather than Joseph Paxton, Earl Brownlow’s land agent.

The two Paxtons were certainly related, but were they as both George Whybrow in his History of Berkhamsted Common and Percy Birtchnell in his Short History of Berkhamsted say, brothers?

Jenny searches through sources that were unavailable to Whybrow and Birtchnell to explore the Paxton families and concludes that Joseph and William moved away from their roots in Bedfordshire where the family had lived for generations. They were uncle and nephew, not brothers.

Jenny Sherwood, Chronicle, v.XIII, pp.63-67