Newest Review: ... 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 aro... more
Time Travel the Easy Way
Lacock Abbey (Chippenham)
Member Name: SWSt
Lacock Abbey (Chippenham)
Advantages: An incredible amount to see and do
Disadvantages: So much to see that you might suffer room fatigue by the end
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
Summary: A real journey back in time
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