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Visiting Paxton's Tower — or Nelson's Monument — Llanarthney, Wales: remembering Lord Nelson, or Sir William Paxton?

Updated on January 23, 2015
Flag of Wales
Flag of Wales | Source
Paxton's Tower. A publicly accessible folly
Paxton's Tower. A publicly accessible folly | Source
Paxton's Tower seen from across the River Tywi.
Paxton's Tower seen from across the River Tywi. | Source
"Samuel Pepys Cockerell," soft-ground etching, by the English artist William Daniell, 28 July 1793 (possibly published in 1854). 10 7/8 in. x 8 in. Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, London.
"Samuel Pepys Cockerell," soft-ground etching, by the English artist William Daniell, 28 July 1793 (possibly published in 1854). 10 7/8 in. x 8 in. Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, London. | Source
Admiral Horatio Nelson, by John Hoppner
Admiral Horatio Nelson, by John Hoppner | Source

A hilltop folly

This Tower, in Llanarthney (Welsh: Llanarthne), Carmarthenshire (Welsh: Sir Gaerfyrddin) dating from c. 1806/09 (1), is widely referred to as Paxton's Tower by local people, its official name is supposed to be the Nelson Monument.

Although this structure, now in the care of the National Trust, has a banqueting hall (minus a kitchen!), it is not a permanently habitable building. It would come into the category of a folly, even though some people might refer to it as a small castle. Its architect was S P Cockerell (1753-1827).

In neo-Gothic style, features include the presence of pointed arching and a triangular shape, with round turrets at each corner, and roof terraces. It overlooks the Towy (Welsh: Tywi) Valley, and is very conspicuous at its location on a hill near Llanarthey. It attains a height of 10.8 metres from its base.

Back to its name: the word 'Paxton' refers to Sir William Paxton (1744-1824). Born in Scotland, Sir William's local connections were extensive. He was Mayor of nearby Carmarthen (Welsh: Caerfyrddin), represented Carmarthen as its Member of Parliament and was also responsible for the development of the Welsh coastal town of Tenby (Welsh:Dinbych-y-Pysgod) as a resort.

When news of the death of Admiral Lord Nelson reverberated around the British Empire in 1805, this caused Sir William Paxton to determine to sponsor a memorial in Nelson's honour, to be built on his Middleton Estate (see also below). This motivation is supported by the notion that Sir William may have been personally acquainted with Nelson. But other suggestions have also been made to the effect that Sir William, an ambitious man, who had lost a local election in 1802, chose to use money that he would have spent on local infrastructure, if elected, on a visible reminder to local electors about their lack of 'wisdom' in not having elected him! (3)

But with the passage of years, what was ostensibly a structure to mark the reputation of Admiral Lord Nelson, became known as Paxton's Tower and thus in practice more of a commemoration of Sir William Paxton, at least, in practice, if not in theory. I wonder: how many local people who refer to the conspicuous structure as 'Paxton's Tower' need to be reminded of its official name?

Anyway, this is what Sir William Paxton inscribed on the Tower:

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.

January 23, 2015


(1) Estimates of the dates of its building vary considerably, but it is known that the death of Lord Nelson in 1805 provoked the idea of a structure in his memory.

(2) Other works by Architect Cockerell include Admiralty House, Whitehall, London (where Sir Winston Churchill resident during his two terms as First Lord of the Admiralty), and much of the architecture in the London suburb of Bayswater.

(3) See also:

Map location of Carmarthenshire
Map location of Carmarthenshire | Source

Also worth seeing

In Llanarthney itself, Sir William Paxton's Middleton Hall was destroyed by fire in 1931; today, his former Estate at Llanarthney hosts the National Botanic Garden (Welsh: Gardd Fotaneg Genedlaethol Cymru).

Carmarthen (distance: 13.5 kilometres) Carmarthen Castle is a partly ruined Medieval edifice in the Downtown area; Trinity University College is housed in a fine Victorian structure.

Carreg Cennen Castle (distance: approx. 11.5 kilometres), near the town of Llandeilo, this ancient castle has a particularly craggy appearance.


How to get there: United Airlines flies to London Heathrow Airport , from where car rental is available. London Heathrow is 317 kilometres from Llanarthney. Rail services exists between London Paddington railroad station and Carmarthen (distance between Llanarthney and Carmarthen: 13.5 kilometres). Car rental company is also available in Carmarthen. For up to date information, please check with the airline or your travel agent.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.



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