Joseph Paxton and the Crossley Family – A Tenuous Link, but a Personal One

Joseph Paxton and the Crossley Family – A Tenuous Link, but a Personal One

The photograph at the head of this blog is of the ‘peach cases’ at Somerleyton Hall in Suffolk, which I visited last week. They were commissioned in the 1840s by Samuel Morton Peto, the railway entrepreneur, and designed by Joseph Paxton, then head gardener at Chatsworth House and future architect of the Crystal Palace. One of the wonders of the age, the Crystal Palace outlived the Great Exhibition, which it had been designed to house, and was transferred (with modifications) to Sydenham, where remained until it was destroyed by fire in 1936. Paxton was a man of boundless energy and inventiveness. Of all his schemes, my favourite is the Great Victorian Way, which is described in the DNB entry on Paxton as follows:

In June 1855 he submitted his solution to London’s traffic congestion, which was a ‘girdle’, or ring road, to link up the stations, City and Parliament, lined on either side by shops, residences, and an atmospheric railway, all covered by an iron and glass roof. This visionary idea, for which a perspective drawing known as The Great Victorian Way survives at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, raised much interest, but the eventual solutions to the traffic problem were the Metropolitan Railway and the Victoria Embankment.

Back to Somerleyton. In 1863 Peto sold the house to Francis Crossley, son of John Crossley the carpet manufacturer at Dean Clough Mills, Halifax. (Picture below.)

The Crossley family home in Halifax was Manor Heath, which my daughter painted for her Lost Houses exhibition in 2016, and for which I wrote the exhibition booklet. (Poster below, showing one of her pictures of Manor Heath.)

The Crossley family still own Somerleyton. Manor Heath was demolished in the 1958.

Oh, and John Crossley commissioned Paxton to design the People’s Park in Halifax, so it does all connect together. Sort of.

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