Ready to travel in time? Forget dusty museums, Lacock is quite an experience, like turning the pages of a beautiful book. Park near the village, which retains a medieval feel – golden stone, timber frames, walls twisted by time, beautiful tiles, a lovely river through it all, a romantic bridge, cute little garden, lace curtains, a bakery from yesteryear, a rather poetic church…
The history of this place begins in 1232. Lady Ela, countess of Salisbury, is now a widow. She decides to have an abbey built right here where she will finish her days in prayer. Village and convent will prosper quietly until Henry VIII decides to be Head of the Church. With the dissolution of monasteries, the crown can get the grounds back. William Sharrington jumps on the opportunity, buying the building to make it a family home. Quite rare for the time, he keeps part of the cloister and monastic architecture which you still can see today. Later, the Talbot family inherits it all. Does the name sound familiar? William Henry Fox Talbot created here what is said to be the earliest surviving photographic camera negative, and a paper negative process that remains the base of modern argentic photography… In 1944, Matilda Talbot leaves both the abbey and the house she owns in the village to the National Trust.
To be honest, a day in Lacock is barely enough. The walk to the building is rather enchanting. Do stop at the greenhouse – it may be small but it proves quite fascinating. Then you have an orchard, a rose garden, undergrowth filled with wild flowers in spring. Violets and bluebells and primroses. Robins. Even a cat, owning the place, it seems. A few detours and you will reach the sculpted gate. Ignore the first entrance for now and follow the path to a more discreet one. Inside, oh, you will be lost for words. This used to be the cloister and you really can imagine the nuns walking through it, hurrying to mass. Look for the masons’ signatures, engraved on the pillars. A few scenes of Harry Potter were filmed here, by the way.
The rest of the mansion is richer, of course. The kitchen will remind you of Downton Abbey. Each room has its atmosphere, its little collections, objects neatly set on a table as if someone had left them just a minute a go. So many lounges, rooms, offices, so much to discover in each! One of those places where you would like to have the time to read everything. You could go on and on and not tire of it. Although it was quite nice to finish in the hall, pale stone and terracotta statues, and sit by the large open hearth where the fire was lit… It does feel like being in a period film. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see actors suddenly playing a scene!