George Paxton’s Remarkable Trees of Ayrshire

In July 2019, I spent two weeks travelling around Ayrshire, Scotland in search of trees. Earlier that year, I chanced upon a late-19th-century photographic album in the archives of the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh: Remarkable Trees in Ayrshire Photographed and Measured by G. Paxton, Kilmarnock. Paxton didn’t hunt out rare specimens; in many ways, his selection of trees is unremarkable. 125 years later, I was curious about whether any of the 34 trees photographed by Paxton had survived. I began researching their whereabouts and the histories of the estates where each tree lived.

With only the tree species and estate name provided in Paxton’s album, I filled in the gaps, plotting probable tree locations using archive and satellite imagery and collating legends associated with each tree. The most complex task, however, was securing permission to visit and re-photograph each tree. As most of the estates are privately owned or currently for sale, it was often difficult to determine who to contact and how.

7 of the 34 trees (or tree locations) are displayed below, in each case situated alongside Paxton’s original photograph, captioned with research & travel notes.

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