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Coming home again to Wales
A rare and valuable collection of paintings is paying a fleeting visit to its original home in south West Wales.
It has long been known that the National Botanic Garden of Wales occupies what was once one of the finest Regency landscapes and water parks in Britain but what is less known is that a remarkable record of its beauty was created 200 years ago.
The paintings, thought lost for ever when they were stolen in the 1960s, are today in the hands of the descendants of Sir William Paxton, the empire nabob, businessman and politician who established his country retreat on the estate that went on to become the first national botanic garden of the new millennium.
Paxton commissioned Thomas Hornor to paint the scenes in 1814 to commemorate the beautiful parkland he had created.
Today, Hornor is almost forgotten but, in the early 19th century, he was a sensation, one of the foremost landscape watercolourists of his generation who famously developed a technique for reproducing accurate topographical representations of the scenes he painted.
Seven of Hornor’s original fourteen paintings survive and they are a unique record of the vision that Paxton realised.
Garden Director, Rosie Plummer, taking delivery of the paintings commented: “We are delighted to have the pictures back here for the first time in nigh on 200 years and are immensely grateful to the Paxton family for their generous loan and permission to reproduce them.
“Not only are they fine and decorative in their own right but they will also be the blueprint for what will be the largest landscape restoration project in Wales.
“The vistas that Paxton created all those years ago are fundamentally unchanged but lost to view beneath two centuries of growth. The largest of the lakes he created was drained in the 1930s but is capable of being restored to its former glory and used, as it was then, for the benefit and pleasure of visitors to the estate.
“This represents another step for us along the road to fulfilling one of the original aims of the Garden’s early supporters. Hornor’s paintings will help us recreate the original planting regimes, even down to identifying varieties and species of plants, reinstate the impressive dams, falls and cascades and the images, once they’re professionally photographed, will be put on display for all to see.”
* Imagery reproduced with the kind permission of the Grant family