“ Lacock, nr Chippenham / Wiltshire SN15 2LG / Tel: 01249 730459 / Fax: 01249 730501 / „
Lacock Abbey is probably one of those palaces you are familiar with, even if you have never actually been there. It is such an unspoiled, picturesque, timeless place that it has feature in countless TV programmes and films, including Cranford, various Jane Austen adaptations and the first two Harry Potter films. Lacock doesn't have to rely solely on its TV connections, though, and is a fascinating place in its own right.
Lacock Abbey is pretty easy to find. Simply follow the A350 towards Chippenham and you can't really miss it. As with most National Trust properties, it is well signed with the usual brown signs that will help you find the right car park. Parking is nice and easy, with a large, accessible car park (£3 for all day; free to National Trust members) just a couple of minutes' walk away from the Abbey
A Quick History Lesson
Lacock Abbey is a fine example of a former monastery which was bought and converted into a family home. It belonged to the same family for over 500 years before it was handed over to the National Trust, along with the entire village of Lacock. It is also notable as one of the birthplaces of modern negative photography and an exhibition to one of the pioneers, William Fox-Talbot is available.
A Journey Through Time and Space
Walking around Lacock Abbey really is like taking a journey through time and you can see how the property developed over a 700 year period. The route around the Abbey makes the most of this "journey". You start in the oldest surviving part of the complex - the remains of the medieval monastery and cloisters before making your way through to the Abbey Rooms (the parts that were converted into a home). Here, the decor is more familiar to modern eyes with much of the furniture dating from the early 20th century, reflecting the property's function as a family home for almost 500 years.
This transition from medieval to early modern to modern is well handled and you get a real sense of how Lacock changed, how different generations have put their own stamp on the property and a glimpse into what it must have been like to live at Lacock.
It's a surprisingly large property (much bigger than it looks from the outside) with lots of rooms open for public viewing. In fact, there's almost too much to see. By the end, I was starting to get a little bored and wonder how many more rooms there were to go. This is partly because the latter parts of the house are more modern and held less interest for me than the older segments, but it was also because I was starting to suffer from room overload! Thankfully, to revive the flagging visitor, the Trust have wisely saved one of the best bits to last; ending the tour in the highly impressive (and totally fake!) Great Hall.
In what appears tone an increasingly welcome development for National Trust properties, the information supplied at Lacock Abbey was excellent; interesting and informative without being too detailed. Information on each room was provided on sheets of laminated A4 containing a mixture of text and images. These gave you a brief history of the room and pointed out some of the things to look out for. They were well written and informative, although occasionally there was only one copy in a room, so you had to wait for someone else to finish with it before you could read it.
In the older part of the abbey, information is mostly provided on wooden boards. These are slightly more tricky to read at times particularly when they are placed in areas of low light. Thankfully, most can be picked up and carried elsewhere to read, although again at busy times you might have to wait to be able to do this.
Lacock Abbey is definitely not one of those properties to do in a hurry; there is just so much to see and do. Taking the abbey and gardens out of the equation, there is Lacock village to wander around, complete with several old pubs, a tithe barn and lock-up and the old village church. Almost everything about Lacock is interesting and noteworthy and, small though it is, you can easily spend an hour walking around the village itself. We spent a good four hours plus in Lacock and that was without doing the Fox-Talbot photography museum (attached to the abbey).
During the main season, Lacock Abbey is open every day from around 10.30 to 5.30 every day, although the Abbey Rooms are closed on Tuesdays.
Although most of the village and lower abbey are pretty accessible, it's worth noting that the Abbey Rooms have steps leading up to them so may not be appropriate for anyone in a wheelchair or with limited mobility.
Adult admission to Lacock for 2013 is £8.10 to the Abbey or £10.80 to the Abbey and Abbey Rooms. Although this sounds quite expensive, there is so much to see represents good value for money. Even though the Abbey Rooms were not quite as interesting for me, I'd definitely recommend paying to see the whole lot. National Trust members, of course, get in free to all areas of the Abbey.
In many ways, Lacock is the perfect destination for a day out. The combination of historic property (covering 600 years' worth of history), picturesque village and independent local shops means that it has something for everyone. Crucially, whatever the weather, you can easily pass a few hours in Lacock.
(C) copyright SWSt 2013
Lacock Abbey is situated in water meadows beside the River Avon in the 13th century village of Lacock in Wiltshire. Many years ago the village played a large part in the wool trade, it was alive and thriving and had three farms, carpenters, wheelwrights, a brewery plus several pubs, a mill of its own and a busy weekly market.
Today Lacock village is still prosperous but in a very different way, it is rich in tourism and it is easy to see why.
Lacock today has just a handful of shops and pubs but the tourists are spellbound by what Lacock has to offer. A high percentage of the original honey coloured Cotswold stone buildings are still in tact, these include a 14th century Tithe barn, a 15th century weavers house, a medieval church and a pack horse bridge.
As you make your way into Lacock village it is like stepping back in time, there are no visible television ariels or overhead power cables and double yellow lines simply do not exist.
This is part of Lacocks charm and the area is sought after as a film location. The Harry Potter films, the Other Boleyn Girl and Pride and Prejudice are but a few box office hits that have used the village of Lacock as a backdrop, the perfect environment to create an authentic setting.
To try and create a picture of the village for you these are some of the places you will see en route. As you take a left turn into the village there is a large car park ( free parking) and a good tearoom. In the High street you will be able to visit The National Trust shop and The Red Lion Inn is perfect for a spot of lunch, as you turn right into West Street there is another pub called The George Inn where you can also get a good lunch. West Street is also the home of the local map, print and book shop. Take a right into East street and you have The Carpenters arms, another eating house, a little further on is a jewellers shop called Watling's which offer a wonderful array of handmade jewellery.
Lacock Abbey is cared for by the National Trust, handed over to the trust in 1946 by the Talbot family, originally founded in 1232 as an Augustinian nunnery and later converted in a country home for William Henry Fox Talbot, a pioneer in the world of photography. The Abbey is architecturally unique,a 19th century woodland style garden forms the perfect setting for the historic Abbey.
A historic collection of trees fill the woodland garden and although William Fox Talbot was known first and foremost for his scientific knowledge he took a keen interest in botany which in turn meant that the abbey grounds were filled with many different plant species.
Maybe as a starting point we ought to cover the entrance fees, if you have a National Trust Membership then this is where you will benefit.
Looking after any ancient building is time consuming and costly and often these factors are reflected in the entrance fees.
Abbey, Museum, Cloisters and Grounds £9.50 adult, £5.30 child, £23.90 family ( 2 adults + 2 children)
Abbey and Cloisters and grounds £8.40 adult, £4.20 child, £21 family
Museum, cloisters and Grounds, £6.30 adult, £3.20 child, £16.10 family
Museum in Winter £3.40 adult, £1.70 child, £8.70 family.
The Abbey is open daily from March to October but is closed on Tuesday and Good Friday from 1-17.30.
The National Trust have Braille and tape guides and a sympathetic hearing scheme.
Because the Abbey and Cloisters especially are uneven and on many different levels it is better to wear flat shoes.
Lets start from the bottom and work our way up, the ground floor consists of the incredible cloisters, the warming room and the Chapter House, this is the only area of the Abbey that you get the chance to test your photographic skills!
As you take a wander through the Fan Vaulted Cloisters located at the North side of the house talk about turn your eyes heavenwards ! You are faced with enormous weathered stone arched windows and a swirling arched ceiling that has ornamental ceiling bosses where the carved stone ceiling pillars meet.
At that point you feel as though you have entered a Cathedral, above your head the architectural grandeur is breathtakingly beautiful.
Each huge arched window comprises of three sections of pale honey coloured stone and at the base of each window is a wide stone sill. Large pale slabs cover the cloister floors which glow with reflection cast from the vast expanse of window pane.
Close your eyes for a few seconds and drink in the pure tranquillity. In the silence the Augustinian Nuns are almost there beside you and the humility is tangible.
I wanted to spend time in the Cloisters, the clean air was cool, fresh and relaxing, holistically a great experience.
Wander slowly through into the Warming Room and although there is nothing remotely warm about the room the atmosphere changes. A large rough-floored area with yet more fan vaulted ceilings greet you. In the warming room there are a number of strong stone pillars which rise up to meet the ceiling, blending flawlessly , a recipe that any architect would have the greatest of admiration for.
In the centre of the Warming room there is a huge three-legged bell metal cauldron ( Mechlin pot) which dates from the 1500`s . The mighty cauldron stands on a giant stone base and at times a hearty fire was lit inside to provide the single source of heat available to the Augustinian Nuns.
Next on the agenda is the Chapter House, I expect you have a good idea as to what the room was used for.
Yes, every day before the Nuns went about their daily routine a chapter of the rule of St Benedict was read out whilst the Nuns remained seated on a circular stone bench that was placed around the edge of the Chapter room.
Many years before a fireplace that was made for William Sharington ( the first Lay owner of the house) sat in the Northern wall of the room but that has long gone.
Although the Chapter House would have been the only room with any warmth it still feels austere, its saving grace is the intricately tiled floor, 23 types of plain tile and ninety designs of inlaid tile are openly displayed and represent three centuries of flooring.
On the South-East corner of the abbey is an octagonal tower, named Sharingtons Tower. It is extremely prominent and impressive, inside is a work of art in the shape of a carved stone table . The large stone table is held by four satyrs ( Oddly a Satyr is a lecherous male!)
and the table is inscribed with the Scorpion crest which belonged to the Sharingtons.
The upper floors of the house are so very different, the beautiful Wedgwood blue parlour with panelled walls and bolection mouldings.
Three Gothic style Oriel windows, each with small leaded panes. The central Oriel window was the subject matter of Henry Fox Talbot`s earliest photographic negative in 1835.
A wealth of hand printed 19th century wall paper is on the walls of two rooms leading off of the Blue Parlour.
Fine furniture, works of art, intricate chandeliers and row upon row of antique books.
A magnificent table takes the centre of a sage green dining room, for the most part the wooden floor is covered with a large Persian rug in hues of blue and pink.
There is much to see and admire and if you intend to look at the Abbey, the Cloisters and the grounds then you will need to make a day of it.
The Fox Talbot Museum is well worth a visit, from time to time they hold photography exhibitions there. The museum focusses on the work of Henry Fox Talbot and the history of photography.
The museum is situated inside of a 15th century barn which lays at the entrance of the Abbey.
Tips for a visit to Lacock Abbey.
Make sure that you don't wear high heeled shoes!...they aren't allowed in the Abbey.
No photography is allowed in the house.
If you have a pushchair or a large bag they ask you to leave them at the door, it prevents damage to the fine furniture.
Wheelchairs, an electric battery chair and a Stannah lift are available if you ask.
A disabled toilet is in the main courtyard.
You can picnic in by the river or in the playing fields but not in the Abbey grounds.
Conducted tours for groups are available but need to be arranged prior to your visit.
Although the tea rooms and pubs look lovely we have usually taken a few sandwiches and a flask to save on the pennies!
There is a museum shop if you want a souvenir to take home.
They often run a children's quiz or a trail, a good idea to keep those little ones occupied!
They have converted a 16th century barn and welcome education or community visits, if you had a special occasion the barn can also be hired out as a function room.
Lacock Abbey is one of those experiences you never want to forget, everything about the day is special. The gardens are good to wander in, the Cloisters are an architectural wonder and the house is amazing.
The village of Laycock is worth seeing, it is quaint, picturesque and again an architectural gem.
If you choose to go during the Summer months then expect it to be very busy, it draws people from far and wide.
3ml S of Chippenham. M4 exit 17, signposted to Chippenham (A350). Follow signs for Lacock, leading to main car park
A few weeks ago my boyfriend arranged a surprise day out. This was a rare occurance so I got very excited and couldn't wait to find out where we were going. When we got in the car I shut my eyes for the journey so I couldn't see where we were going. I had an inkling that we might end up in some sort of historic site as, both being history teachers, this is something that we enjoy doing and do quite a lot. I was really happy when I opened my eyes and discovered we were in Lacock. It was somewhere I had wanted to visit, especially having seen it on the TV a couple of weeks before.
History lesson alert!!! Lacock was founded by Ela, Countess of Salisbury, in the early 13th century. She was married to Henry II's illegitimate son so she wasn't short of a bob or two and left the abbey plus lots of land to the Augustinian Canonesses. They abbey continued to prosper until old Henry VIII came along and decided that he really wasn't quite rich enough and nicking all the monasteries would be the way forward. He sold Lacock off in 1539, and its new owner set about making it into a home. The house soon passed into the Talbot family. The abbey was donated to the National Trust in the 1940s but Matilda Talbot and has remained in the Trust's care ever since.
PRICES, OPENING AND ACCESS:
Lots of price combinations available. There is no student discount which we were annoyed about but they persuaded us to pay for a year's membership to the trust which was only £19 each for people under 25, so this is definately worth it if you visit these sorts of places a lot.
Abbey, museum, cloisters & grounds: £8.30, child £4.10, family (2 adults & 2 children) £21.20. Groups £7.40, child £3.70.
Museum, cloisters & grounds: £5.10, child £2.50, family (2 adults & 2 children) £12.90. Groups £4.60, child £2.30.
Abbey, cloisters & grounds: £6.70, child £3.40, family (2 adults & 2 children) £17.10. Groups £6, child £3.
Museum (winter): £3.60, child £1.80, family (2 adults & 2 children) £9.20. Groups £3.20, child £1.60
The entire Abbey and museum is open for most of the summer but certain parts close during the winter weekdays so if you want to see everything go on the weekend in the winter.
There is a National Trust car park very close to the Abbey, which costs about £1.50 (free to members). As far as I could tell most of the Abbey is accessible by wheelchair, athough some of the upstairs areas did not seem to be. The Abbey is located near Chippenham so there is fairly easy access from the M4.
On parking the car we followed the short route through the woods to the ticket office/museum/shop. Having paid our membership we then made our way around the museum. Unfortunately this was not an exibit about the Abbey, but rather about photography and the work of William Fox Talbot, one of the Abbey's owners. You can see some of his equipment, and other artefacts relating to his life. There was also a series of photographs of various personalities. This was my least favourite part of the visit as I just was not that interested in the exibits!
We then made our way to the Abbey itself. This was a short walk from the ticket office. Once there we went into the cloisters as the main house seems to open slightly later. The cloisters and the rooms off them were fascinating to me, parly because of my love of medieval history and partly because of my love of Harry Potter as the first two films had scenes shot here. In each of the rooms there was an information panel telling you what the room would have been and whether it had been used in the Harry Potter films. There was also information on Ela and her foundation and about the Abbey during World War One. This part of the house was the most interesting for me, but I felt that they could have made more of it.
We then wandered around the grounds. There are some lovely woodland areas to walk around (as long as its dry!)
Next we went around the house's main rooms. When you enter you can buy a guide but we decided to go it alone. In each room there are information cards and books, telling you about the main pieces of furniture and paintings. These were useful but they looked tired and needed updating. The rooms are laid out as they would have been in the 18th or 19th century. There are some beautiful pieces of furniture and paintings. This part of the house was interesting but for me, not as much as the cloisters. This was a personal preference however.
I would have been a little disappointed if I had paid over £8 for this as I did not think there was enough in the Abbey to warrant this price. However, I would still recommend a visit as the house is beautiful and the cloisters were very interesting. If you enjoy historic buildings then this is a must.
While you are in Lacock, make sure you visit the village as well. Fans of the Colin Firth Pride and Prejudice will be able to spot some familiar sites (yes I did get excited and no, Mr Tart did not appreciate my constant reminders of the lake scene!). It is like stepping into the 19th century (well if you take away the cars!). There is a lovely church as well. The National Trust takes care of the village as well.
In conclusion, definately recommended for all those of you who can't get enough history (like me) and those who just like looking at beautiful places.
Thanks for reading!
Lacock abbey is a country house created out of a medieval abbey, the home of William Henry Fox Talbot, a pioneer of photography. Visit and enjoy the newly-restored botanic gardens. There is a fascinating museum dedicated to the 'Father of Modern Photography'. The former abbey has been the location for films: Harry Potter, Pride and Prejudice, Moll Flanders and Emma.