- 1993 - ? (Accumulation)
- 1890 - 1902 (Creation)
Level of description
Extent and medium
Collection consists of:
821 negatives and a few positives, mainly half-plate glass plates
3 negative envelopes with notes
6 albums of Paxton’s prints
6 albums by the Talbot Circulating Album Club (1890-1900)
Half-plate folding camera, tripod and accessories
Note: A number of items from Paxton’s photographic collection, including further albums of his prints, have been retained by the family of Ian Marshall, George Paxton’s grandson.
Name of creator
George Paxton, born 1 July 1850, was the eldest son of George Paxton senior of Richardland House, Kilmarnock, Ayrshire, who was a partner in the Richardland Brewery. Around 1887, by then in sole charge of the brewery in succession to his father and uncle, Paxton took up photography, a pastime to which he devoted increasing amounts of energy. A founder member of Kilmarnock Amateur Photographic Society, by 1890 he had joined Talbot Circulating Album Club, ‘founded for the monthly circulation and criticism of members’ work’, which connected a network of dedicated enthusiasts across Britain.
In his lifetime Paxton was best known for his the quality of his photographs of trees and other botanical subjects, mainly taken in Ayrshire, which he used for lecture slides and illustrations for his journal and magazine articles. In 1894 he was commissioned by RBGE Regius Keeper, Professor Isaac Bayley Balfour, to produce an album named 'Remarkable Trees in Ayrshire Photographed and Measured by G. Paxton, Kilmarnock'. This album, which remains in the collection of RBGE Library, contains 34 photographs of trees, each annotated by hand with the identity, history and measurements of the tree and the date of photography. Paxton went on to be elected to membership of the Royal Scottish Arboricultural Society, and was appointed Photographic Artist to the Society in January 1897. He provided formal images of members during their annual summer excursions, including to the Upper Forth Valley and Loch Lomond District (1896), southern Ireland (1897), Ulster (1900), Ayrshire and Glasgow (1901) and an extended visit to Sweden in 1902. Thereafter, already suffering from the effects of the neurological disease which soon proved fatal, he was replaced by A.D. Richardson.
Paxton died in Bournemouth on 16 May 1904, leaving his entire estate to his only child, Edith.
After George Paxton’s early death in 1904 his photographic collection was moved from his home, Richardland House, Kilmarnock, to his brother Robert’s house at Lundin Links, Fife, where much of it was stored in crates in an outhouse. On the death in 1993 of Robert’s youngest daughter, the collection passed to George’s grandson, Ian Marshall, who presented a substantial portion of the negatives to RBGE. These were kept in Inverleith House until 2011 when they were transferred to RBGE Archives for cataloguing and long-term storage. Ian Marshall has since made several further donations – of negatives, prints, albums, and photographic equipment.
Early research on the collection was the basis for the exhibition Remarkable Trees: the photographs of George Paxton (1850-1904), shown at Inverleith House, RBGE, 12 May – 8 July 2012.
Immediate source of acquisition or transfer
Ian Marshall, George Paxton's grandson, who donated a large body of the negatives in 1993, and made subsequent donations of negatives and other material 2012-13.
Content and structure area
Scope and content
Subject matter is mainly plants and trees - some of which are the negatives of the photographs used to produce the album Remarkable Trees of Ayrshire which is held in the RBGE Library – together with some images from Royal Arboricultural Society of Scotland annual summer excursions (1896-1902).
The collection also reflects other aspects of Paxton’s photographic interests: these included architectural studies, particularly of tower houses and other historical subjects, both in Scotland and during private travels to Worcestershire, Hampshire, Devon and the Chanel Islands; experiments with light; a fascination with capturing images of water in all its moods; and albums related to his membership of Talbot Circulating Album Club. It is also rich in portraits of family and friends and lively studies of their leisure pursuits.
Some examples of his photography have been attached to this description. They are not to be reproduced without permission from RBGE.
Appraisal, destruction and scheduling
System of arrangement
Negatives have been arranged in subject order as although Paxton seems to have had a numbering system, much of it is lost and there is no surviving key. Therefore this has had to be abandoned and a new numbering system assigned for identification.
Conditions of access and use area
Conditions governing access
Conditions governing reproduction
not to be copied or published without permission from RBGE.
Language of material
Script of material
Language and script notes
Physical characteristics and technical requirements
Catalogue being produced
Allied materials area
Existence and location of originals
Existence and location of copies
Some prints taken from the negatives are in existence elsewhere, mainly in albums held by Paxton's family. Some images have also been published: see Publication Notes below.
Related units of description
Helen Bennett, ‘”Remarkable Trees”: George Paxton, Late-Victorian Amateur Photographer’, Studies in Photography 2013, Scottish Society for the History of Photography, 2013, pp 58 - 72
D Christison, ‘Notes on a book of photographs and measurements of remarkable Ayrshire trees, presented by Mr George Paxton to the Library of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh’, Transactions and Proceedings of the Botanical Society of Edinburgh, vol. 20, issue 1 – 4 (March 1895), pp. 384 – 391.
George Paxton, ‘The Spanish Chestnut’, Knowledge: An Illustrated Magazine of Science, Literature and Art. Simply Worded – Exactly Described, vol. 19 (London 1896), pp. 42 – 44; ‘The Birch’, pp. 90 – 91; ‘The Lime’, pp. 171 – 172; ‘The Ash’, pp. 234-235; ‘The Beech’, pp.282 – 284.
George Paxton, ‘The Birch’, Annals of the Kilmarnock Glenfield Ramblers’ Society, vol. 2 (1898), frontispiece and pp. 32 – 34.
George Paxton, ‘The Old Parsonage, Gresford’, Journal of Horticulture and Cottage Gardener, 14 September 1899, p. 236.
George Paxton, ‘Mistletoe’, Transactions of the Natural History Society of Glasgow, vol. 6, new series, (1902), pp. 301 – 304.
Ian Marshall died in New Hampshire on 2 December 2016.
Subject access points
Name access points
- Royal Scottish Arboricultural Society (Subject)
Genre access points
Description control area
Rules and/or conventions used
Level of detail
Dates of creation revision deletion
description compiled by H.B.