🌻Wakefield Paxton Society🍇🍈🍓🌼

At the end of January last year (2021) I spotted a very beautiful old photo for sale on eBay, which resulted in me buying two fabulous photos of the Garnett Family and writing a Blog about them in April this year. At the same time, I saw that the seller also had this group photo below with the same distinctive red writing along the bottom, also dated 1884, as the Garnett family photos were. I have now had a little time to research the Wakefield Paxton Society.

Dated 1884. I think this was most likely taken at Oakwood, Bingley, maybe a day trip for members and their wives.

The Wakefield Paxton Society was one of many gardening societies named after the famous Joseph Paxton 3 Aug 1803-8 Jun 1865, there has been so much written about him that I will just share this short biography that was published in the Garden and Landscape guide:

A gardener, garden designer and architect. Paxton was born near Woburn in Bedfordshire. His first lake, at Battlesden, was made at the age of 19. In 1826 he became gardener to the 6th Duke of Devonshire at Chiswick House and then at Chatsworth. Joseph Paxton is best understood as the inheritor of ‘Loudon’s mantle’, as a horticulturist, publisher, advocate of public parks and designer of conservatories. Paxton’s greatest project was the Crystal Palace. He also worked at Birkenhead Park, the People’s Park in Halifax, Princes Park in Liverpool, Upton Park in Slough, Baxter Park in Dundee, the public park in Dunfermline and Hesketh Park in Southport. When Joseph Paxton died, an obituary in The Builder compared him to J C Loudon. It was an apt comparison.’ John Claudius Loudon was a Scottish Botanist, garden designer and author, more here: https://www.britannica.com/biography/John-Claudius-Loudon

Written back on 3 August 2018 by Lawrence W Reed this is a wonderful celebration of Joseph Paxton: https://fee.org/articles/joseph-paxton-more-than-a-gardener/

Wakefield Paxton Society was formed in 1877 and its members were owners and head gardeners of the district’s wealthy estates, they hosted popular horticultural shows throughout the years. Wakefield and surrounding areas in Yorkshire had large houses and gardens where their gardeners grew flowers, fruits and vegetables to supply these houses. Many were owned by mill owners and other wealthy industrial families. So that ties in with the Garnett family having an interest in the Wakefield Paxton Society. The Wakefield Paxton Society and many others too held their meetings on Saturday evenings which was convenient for the professional gardeners of Victorian times. The Society was founded at the Saw Inn/Hotel, 27 Westgate, Wakefield, Yorkshire and used it as its headquarters. Members also enjoyed days out to some of the big houses of the time and this was one such occasion. The two wars at the beginning of the 20th century resulted in many changes and there were far fewer professional gardeners working for the big houses and estates, making it likely that more of the members were now amateur gardeners and in turn, this must have led to a decline in membership of the various societies.

A new Society is born
Mr Thomas Garnett presided (Oakwood, Bingley)
This is just a small part of the two columns reporting on the Annual Dinner.

There are many references to the Wakefield Paxton Society in the British Newspaper Archives, way too many to share here but here are just a few, above and below from 1884, also showing the involvement of Mr Thomas Garnett of Oakwood, Bingley being the Vice chairman of the society, so did Joseph Bentley and his employer Mr Thomas Garnett attend the meetings on a Saturday evening together I wonder?

The Society discussed and wrote papers on all manner of subjects associated with gardening.
Charles Darwin is mentioned here. They had lecturers visit and many papers read at their meetings.
This week was the Hyacinth, another week was Manure and so many other subjects.

Dated 16 March 2018. I came across this more recent news about the Wakefield Paxton Society: ‘But Jeff Rhodes – who has served as president of the society for 20 years and been a member since 1975 – said it decided to call it a day because members were ageing and the group was finding it difficult to attract new people. Mr Rhodes, 87, said: “It’s been a sad thing after going so long. It would have been good to see it on but there just weren’t enough able-bodied people.

The Gardener at Oakwood.

Although I wrote at length about the Garnett family, we do tend to forget that there were many people behind the scenes working so hard to enable all these large houses and estates to function including the many Gardeners. Oakwood, Bingley was no exception.

1881 Thomas Garnett household
1891 Thomas Garnett household
1901 Thomas Garnett household
1911 Thomas Garnett household

Joseph Bentley and his family lived in Oak Wood Lodge on the Oakwood estate, he became the Garnett family’s Gardener at Oakwood, Bingley between 1879 and 1881, the family were living at St Ann’s Lane and not Oakwood at the time of his eldest daughter Alice’s baptism on 15 June 1879, taking over from Benjamin Brook (1871 census) Joseph had married Sarah Ann Dixon in 1878 in Sheffield, Yorkshire. We first find him aged 29 on the 1881 census with his young wife and daughter Alice living in Oak Wood Lodge.

1881 Joseph Bentley and family listed under the second part of the household of Oakwood House.
1891 Joseph Bentley and family
1901 Joseph Bentley and his family still living at Oak Wood Lodge and working as the Garnett Gardener.
1911 Joseph Bentley with his wife Sarah and youngest child Ellen Isabella.

Interesting to note that his youngest daughter was a worker in the Worsted Spinning Mill.

Joseph and Sarah Ann had six children firstly Alice born in 1879, Burley, Yorkshire then a second daughter Lucy born at Bingley on 18 February 1882 (d1943 Leeds) then came three sons John 9 April 1883-Jan 1961, William 1884-27 November 1919, Joseph 1885-1887, then lastly another daughter Ellen Isabella 1887-1925.

Joseph himself was born in 1852 in Burley and I believe died in February 1915 in the West Riding Asylum, Wakefield, Yorkshire (would need a certificate to confirm this) his wife Sarah Ann was born in Headingly in 1855 and died 4 March 1924 in Todmorden, Yorkshire (again would need a certificate to confirm) but they are the most likely deaths I’ve found so far for the couple.

Oakwood Hall, Bingley

I came across more wonderful old photos via the Omnia website of members’ days out at some large houses of the time: https://www.omnia.ie/index.php

Roundhay: Info from Wikipedia: In Leeds, Yorkshire. Formally known as Roundhay Park Mansion, the large mansion was built in ashlar stone in classical Georgian style; of two storeys with seven bays, the centre three set behind an iron portico. Thomas’s son, Stephen Nicholson Esq inherited the house and became the Lord of the Manor. Roundhay township’s 1,467 acres were recorded in 1842 as being “mostly the property of Stephen Nicholson” It’s now a beautifully restored Wedding and event venue https://www.dine.co.uk/venues/the-mansion/

Roundhay Park Mansion

Lupset Hall: In Wakefield. Info from Wakefield Historical Society website: In 1699 Lupset was sold to Richard Witton, a lawyer. The Hall seems to have been rebuilt in 1716 for Witton’s son, also Richard, and it is probably in this period that the parkland around the house was laid out. From the middle of the 18th century, the house appears to have been let out to tenants before being purchased at the end of the century for Daniel Gaskell who made considerable changes.  Gaskell would become the first MP for Wakefield. This info from the Yorkshire Post website: A former gentleman’s residence, the building dates back to 1716. It was bought for the Gaskell family in 1806 and was home to Daniel Gaskell – Wakefield’s first MP in 1832. After his death, Lupset Hall passed to his great-nephew Gerald Milnes Gaskell and it was when Gerald’s widow died in 1926 that the council took over ownership. In 1936 the parkland surrounding Lupset Hall was converted into a municipal golf course and the hall itself became the clubhouse until 2013. The golf club moved out of Lupset Hall and into the new purpose-built Gaskell Sports Pavilion in April 2013, with the hall going under the hammer a year later. A couple bought the house for around £310,000 with intentions of renovating the site as a family home. However, the sheer amount of work involved to transform the two-storey home took its toll on the couple who opted to sell the building in 2018. It then went up for sale for £600,000. Apparently, it last sold in March 2021 for £395,000 a month after the Yorkshire post article about the residential apartment plans.

Lupset Hall, Wakefield

Snapethorpe Hall: Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as Pylkyngton Hall/ Snapethorpe Old Hall. More information here from the Gatehouse website about its history: http://www.gatehouse-gazetteer.info/English%20sites/3492.html It was demolished in the mid 1970s and is now Snapethorpe Hall care home.

Heath House: Warmfield cum Heath, Wakefield. Grade 2, Large country house. Mid C17 with addition forming a new front c1744. By James Paine for the Hopkinson family. Heath House was James Paine’s first fully-unaided commission on record. Lots more detailed information here on the British Listed Buildings Website: https://britishlistedbuildings.co.uk/101200517-heath-house-warmfield-cum-heath#.Yp9ZA6iZPct

Bretton Hall: Info from Wikipedia: A country house in West Bretton near Wakefield, West Yorkshire, England. It housed Bretton Hall College from 1949 until 2001 and was a campus of the University of Leeds (2001–2007). It is a Grade II listed building. The present building was designed and built around 1720 by its owner, Sir William Wentworth assisted by James Moyser to replace the earlier hall. In 1792 it passed into the Beaumont family, (latterly Barons and Viscounts Allendale), and the library and dining room were remodelled by John Carr in 1793. Monumental stables designed by George Basevi were built between 1842 and 1852. The hall was sold to the West Riding County Council in 1947. Before the sale, the panelling of the “Henry VIII parlour” (preserved from the earlier hall) was given to Leeds City Council and moved to Temple Newsam house. Plans to convert the hall to a hotel and offices were submitted for planning approval and were approved in April 2013. March 2021 news in the Wakefield Express: Restoration work has begun this week on a historical building at Wakefield’s Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Camellia House is part of Bretton Hall Estate. The renovations are part of a longer project to redevelop the entire estate. Bretton Hall, a grade II listed building, is being redeveloped into a hotel and creative campus by property investor Rushbond, in partnership with hospitality company Artfarm. They are working in tandem with Wakefield Council.

Photo & info from the Yorkshire Post: The estate’s Georgian-era owners, the Beaumonts, commissioned the Camellia House in 1812 to house collections of exotic plants imported from Asia, as was the fashion among British gentry at the time. On the left of Bretton Hall.

Heath Hall, Heath, Wakefield, West Yorkshire (very close to Heath House) is a country house dating from 1709. Originally called Eshald House, the estate was purchased by John Smyth whose nephew engaged John Carr of York to reconstruct the house between 1754 and 1780. In the 19th century, the house was remodelled by Anthony Salvin. Heath House is a Grade I listed building.

Heath Hall from British Listed Buildings website

Information about Heath, the village from the Visit Yorkshire website: ‘Around the green, there are three grand houses, which are all private and not open to visitors. The largest one is Heath Hall, built by John Carr in 1754. It was the home of the Smyth family, owner of the estate. To the right is the Dower House, which just like in Downton Abbey was lived in by the owners’ widows. It also dates from the 18th century. Left of Heath Hall is Heath House, a smaller house built in 1744 by John Paine. It was used by other family members, generally the elder sons before they inherited. The three houses are perfect examples of Neo-Palladian architecture and of the English estate as it was conceived in Georgian times. Next to Heath House is the Priest’s House, a 16th or 17th-century building. There is also a large gate, which used to lead to Old Heath Hall, which was the oldest stately home in the village. It predated the three others, and it was built in Elizabethan times. It was unfortunately demolished in the 1960s because coal mining underneath had made it fragile. Behind, close to a field, still stands the Lady Bolles Water Tower which served the Old Hall.https://govisit-yorkshire.com/2019/03/20/heath/

The stunning Crystal Palace must have been spectacular to visit.

The Crystal Palace in Hyde Park c1851 Source: Dickinson, frontispiece. This image is from the Victorian Web website, see below.

Direct link here: https://victorianweb.org/history/1851/buzard1.html

Do you have Gardeners on your family tree? Were they members of any of the Paxton Societies? Do let me know.

Till next time then……………


  1. Hello Lynn,
    Thank you for the interesting article. I like sepia pix as well..
    Still trying to get a response from the burial guy re Bragg.
    Thought you might like to read about James Hancock.. Took me over ten years to finally complete his story..

    Liked by 1 person

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