THE LACOCK VILLAGE AND ABBEY STORY
A visit to the village is akin to taking a step back in time, owned and managed by the
National Trust, it has been beautifully preserved and unchanged since it was a thriving
township that traded in wool.
Lacock village has been the venue for many film
makers, the popular TV programme, The Cranford Chronicles, was filmed here as was some
of the shots in the Harry Potter movie, Larkrise to Candleford and Lost in Austen were
amongst the many of the other films requiring an authentic background. The village church
of St.Cyriack featuring in most.
A major feature in Lacock is the Abbey that was founded in 1229 by Ela Countess
Dowager of Salisbury (she inherited her title and lands upon the death of her father in
1196) and followed the death of her husband William Longespee the illegitimate son of Henry
William was the first to be buried in the then new Salisbury Cathedral and his tomb stands
in the nave.
She was left with eight children, four boys and four girls.
William her eldest son was killed on a crusade and was buried at Salisbury Cathedral, her
youngest son Nicholas was to become Bishop of Salisbury and served there for five years
1292 to 1297. Upon his death his heart was buried at Lacock and his body at Salisbury (see
also heart and horse burial of Sir Giles De Berkeley).
Ela was a remarkable woman and of strong determined character. When she founded the Abbey
at Lacock , she also founded a religious order for men at Hinton and laid the foundation
stones for each on the same day, the 16th April 1232 there being a distance of 16 miles
between the two places.
When her husband died she became Sheriff of the County of Wiltshire.
It was in 1238 that she joined the abbey as a nun and 5 years later she became its first
After 15 years as abbess she died at the age of 75 and was buried in the choir of the abbey
church in 1261 in front of the high altar.
The abbey prospered until the dissolution of the monasteries and its demolition, at
that time her tombstone was moved to the centre of the cloister court, following this it
was moved again in 1895 to the cloister walk and remains there today.
However, there is still much to see in what remains of the abbey, medieval cloisters,
chapter house, sacristy and monastic rooms mainly survived and provide the visitor much
In the 1800s William Henry Fox Talbot became the owner of the abbey, he was a very learned
man and one of much influence.
He studied the arts and sciences, he became interested in the early stages of the technical
side of photography in 1834 and carried out many experiments and in 1835 made the first
known photographic negative using a camera.
His techniques were the basis of present day photography.
Also to be seen are the recently restored Botanical Gardens which contain the plant collection
of Fox Talbot. He died in 1877.
At Lacock visitors can see an exhibition of his work and experiments in the Fox Talbot
Each year at the end of March a “Scarecrow” festival is held and creates a
great deal of interest and fun.