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History of Paxton’s Tower

Two people walking up to Paxton’s Tower in Carmarthenshire on a sunny day
Visitors exploring Paxton’s Tower in Carmarthenshire | © National Trust Images/James Dobson

Perched on a hill above the village of Llanarthne, Paxton’s Tower looks out on the Towy Valley. Built over 200 years ago, the majestic tower is in fact a folly built in memorial to Admiral Lord Nelson and to impress the people of the valley. Discover more about its history.

Building the tower

The tower was built in 1811 by Sir William Paxton, owner of Middleton Hall, where the National Botanic Gardens of Wales are today.

Sir Paxton was a friend of Admiral Lord Nelson and wanted to commemorate his victories, so had the tower built in his honour. There were originally inscriptions on the tower on three sides, in English, Welsh and Latin. These do not survive but this is what we know they said in English:

‘To the invincible Commander, Viscount Nelson, in commemoration of the deeds before the walls of Copenhagen, and on the shores of Spain; of the empire every where maintained by him over the Seas; and of the death which in the fulness of his own glory, though ultimately for his own country and for Europe, conquering, he died; this tower was erected by William Paxton.’

Being in such a prominent place meant that people could see the tower from miles around and would be constantly reminded of William Paxton, his connections and his wealth. Visitors to the estate would have enjoyed carriage rides to the tower for celebratory banquets.

A visitor on a mobility vehicle enjoying the views over Towy Valley at Paxton's Tower, Carmarthenshire
Enjoying the views over Towy Valley at Paxton's Tower | © National Trust Images/James Dobson

An alternative story

There is another story suggesting why Paxton’s Tower was built. Sir Paxton stood for election as an MP for Carmarthenshire in 1802 but lost despite spending considerable amounts of money to convince the constituents to vote for him, £15,690 in total.

A little bitter after defeat, Paxton wanted to make a statement. One of his campaign pledges had been to build a bridge over the river Towy. Instead of doing this he built Paxton’s Tower in a prominent position to remind voters of what they could have had.

Whatever the real reason Paxton’s Tower was built, visitors will not be disappointed with the magnificent views of the Towy valley and beyond.

Visiting Paxton’s Tower

If you want to visit Paxton’s estate, you can at the National Botanical Gardens of Wales. Middleton Hall has been destroyed by fire, but the vast estate remains.

The National Botanical Gardens of Wales are currently undertaking a Regency Restoration Project, Middleton: Paradise Regained – Reclaiming a Regency Rarity, to try and restore the estate to how it would have been in the Regency Period, when Sir William Paxton was there.

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