Paxton House was designed by John Adam for Patrick Home of Billie in the Scottish Borders. Patrick was a rich, sophisticated young man who had been educated at Leipzig University and then spent time at the court of Frederick the Great of Prussia where he fell in love with a lady-in-waiting Mademoiselle Sophie de Brandt, who gave him her gloves (these gloves are still on display in the Morning Room today). Any hope of marriage was thwarted by the couple’s families and Patrick left Berlin in 1751 to continue his Grand Tour.
On his return to Scotland his home was to have been at Linthill near Eyemouth. This house was occupied by his younger brothers and sisters after the murder of their mother by the butler for the tenants’ rent money. However, Patrick did not consider this older draughty house suited to be the residence of a cosmopolitan young man so building work began on Paxton House in 1758 and took five years to complete. A local craftsman, George Morrison from Kelso, was employed to decorate the entrance hall and main staircase with elegant rococo style plaster work.
Shortly afterwards, and before he moved in, Patrick inherited Wedderburn Castle, the family seat and lost interest in his neo-Palladian mansion at Paxton. He started to look for a buyer and eventually, in 1773, he sold the house to his cousin Ninian Home, the eldest son of his mother’s sister and grandson of his own father.
Ninian had been sent abroad to seek his fortune, ending up with two sugar plantations on the Caribbean Island of Grenada. He had bought Paxton House with the intention of one day returning permanently to Scotland. Between 1774 and 1791 he and his wife, Penelope, employed Robert Adam to decorated two ceilings and commissioned Chippendale and Haig to furnish their home.
In 1789 they left The West Indies, for what they thought would be the last time but Ninian had always hoped to hold political office, and when he was offered the position of Governor of Grenada he leapt at the chance and the couple returned in 1793, shortly afterwards Penelope died and in 1795 he was murdered when the French invaded the island. The couple were childless so the house passed to his brother, George Home, an Edinburgh lawyer.
After moving to Wedderburn, Patrick had gone on a second Grand Tour and amassed a fine collection of books, paintings and objects d’art intended to furnish his home with his bride, Jane Graham, whom he had met and married in France. Unfortunately she suffered from mental health problems and unable to return to Scotland with her husband who was heartbroken. Patrick left all his purchases, still in their packing cases, in the basement of Paxton.
Eventually George also inherited all these things that had belonged to his cousin Patrick and he wanted to display this collection at Paxton, but the house was too small so he employed the Edinburgh architect Robert Reid to design a major new extension, “The Regency Wing” which was completed in 1814. This library and magnificent gallery were furnished by William Trotter of Edinburgh.
On George’s death the house passed to his cousin who took the family name to become John Foreman Home, and then through generations of the Milne Homes, who had the Picture Gallery redecorated in 1872 for a family wedding and finally to the present day Home-Robertsons and John, who gave the house to the newly formed Paxton Trust in 1988, to preserve the interiors much as they were when they were first completed.
Paxton House possesses one of the UK’s foremost collections of Chippendale and William Trotter furniture and is a Partner Gallery of the National Galleries of Scotland.
Ninian Home commissioned Chippendale, Haig and Co. to decorate and furnish his home ‘in a neat but not expensive manner’ in stages over 17 years between 1774- 1791. In the latter half of the 18th century and whilst at the height of his popularity, Thomas Chippendale and his prestigious firm of cabinet makers, Chippendale, Haig and Co, furnished the mansion with a wide collection of chairs, cabinets, desks and other soft furnishings, most of which can still be viewed by the public in Paxton House today. This collection is exceptionally well provenance with many of the original invoices and correspondence still retained by the Trust. The pieces form one of the pre-eminent collections of Chippendale furniture in Britain.
Later extended in the Regency period, Paxton House also contains a splendid collection of furniture by esteemed Edinburgh cabinet market, William Trotter, and throughout the house visitors can also see antique furniture, books, paintings and costumes that relate to the Grand Tour undertaken by Patrick Home, the original owner of the estate. William Trotter, whose premises were on Princes Street in Edinburgh, supplied a suite of furniture and after much correspondence it was decided that it should be of solid rosewood and upholstered in a shade of beetroot red, costing in total £1,309.