Paxtons Tower
Paxtons Tower
Paxton's Tower is a 36 foot high crenellated tower erected around 1806 in honor of Lord Nelson. The tower stands on the Middleton Estate, which also hosts the National Botanic Garden of Wales.


Sir William Paxton (1745-1824) was a London merchant with family roots in Berwickshire, Scotland. He made a fortune with the East India Company and on his return to Britain purchased Middleton Hall.

Around 1806 Paxton called in architect Samuel Cockerell to design a neo-classical folly to commemorate the life of Admiral Nelson, who died at the Battle of Trafalgar the previous year. Cockerell was not a surprising choice of architect, for Paxton had served with his brother Charles in India.

It is quite possible that Paxton met Nelson while serving as mayor of Carmarthen.

The tower is a slightly unusual design; the base is triangular, with a turret rising from each corner. Over the central arch is a banqueting room, while above that is a hexagonal 'prospect' room; a viewing area with access to terraces along the roof. The windows of the prospect room are bricked up, which gives the Tower a rather forbidding aspect. At the top level is an upper apartment with stained glass windows depicting scenes from Nelson's life. Visitors can climb to the banqueting chamber via a stair in one of the corner turrets.

Paxton's Tower Lodge (c) nick macneill
Paxton's Tower Lodge (c) nick macneill

Why was it built?

The most likely answer is that it was simply a folly; a decorative building for Paxton to entertain guests. Such buildings were fashionable at the turn of the century (see, for example, The Kymin in Monmouthshire). However, there are other theories. For example, the Tower may have been used as a viewing platform for Paxton to watch his horses racing between Middleton and Tenby.

Another explanation is that Paxton wanted to prove to the voters of Carmarthen that his fortune had not been spent during the costly 1802 election campaign, which he lost by a measly 45 votes. During the campaign, one of Paxton's promises to the voters was a new bridge across the River Tywi. When he lost the election, Paxton used the money to build the Tower, which was called by local residents the 'Folly of Spite'.

The Tower is cared for by the National Trust as part of the Dinefwr estate, while the Landmark Trust maintain the gatekeeper's lodge, which can be rented out as a self-catering cottage.