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Thursday, 11 August 2016

It takes a village

Lacock is a rather unusual National Trust property in that it's not just a property, not even an estate, it's an entire village! And a beautiful village as that, even if it is a little odd around the edges!

Lacock village has hardly changed and therefore very popular with film and TV crews. You will no doubt have seen it as it's been in Downton Abbey, The Hollow Crown, Wolf Hall, The Other Boleyn Girl amongst many others and most importantly HARRY POTTER!

The village is very cute, lots of nice little gift shops and every other house was selling something out of the garden. Homemade jam, meringues, candles, plants, all with a little honesty box next to them for people to pay. I'm not sure if it a requirement of living in the village or just something to supplement your income as I'm sure living somewhere as picturesque as Lacock doesn't come cheap.

There was a somewhat stepford-y feel to Lacock and at one point I did think we were going to get asked to leave the village after we went into the third cafe asking for afternoon tea before 3pm and being refused. Luckily the National Trust cafe is always willing to supply tea and scones whatever the time of day!

The main property open to the public is Lacock Abbey, built in the 1200's by Ela, Countess of Sailsbury. You begin you tour in the fabulous cloisters and move through the house, jumping about through time as you do so.


The abbey's most famous resident (other than Harry Potter, of course) is Mr Fox Talbot, inventor of modern photography. His first photograph was taken in the abbey and the window that was the focus of the piece is highlighted on the visitor route. 

It felt amazing to be able to stand where he stood, photographing the same view and truly realise just how far technology has come, and how important his work has been. I wonder what he would think if he could have seen me with my phone snapping away in his home.

The first few rooms on the visitor route are large, empty rooms with few, but fascinating objects in. Stone coffins sit in the warming house but they were excavated from the Chapter House which makes a little more sense. There are beautiful mosaic floors and drawings on the walls and carved faces, something to notice in every room if you look hard enough.

After visitors leave the cloisters you head up into what more resembles a house. This is where the first major time jump happens, which did leave me behind a little since there was no warning, nor much explanation. We left a kitchen and suddenly I was looking at a WWI nurse's apron.

The rest of the tour continues like this, hopping around the centuries and along the upper floor and then down stairs which mostly focuses on Fox Talbot and his family. Although there is some very good interpretation here, particularly the Dining Table, it doesn't really make up for feeling lost around the rest of the tour.

The final room on the tour is a very impressive Gothick Great Hall created by John Talbot in the mid 1700's. The hall is full of intriguing and gruesome terracotta statues that were made on site by an Austrian artist, Victor Sederbach. 

I loved looking around the hall at all the weird and wonderful statues, but wanted to know more about each individual one. That summed up my visit really, visually it was amazing, there are no end of beautiful and interesting things to look at, but I don't feel like there was a coherent story being told.

If you visit Lacock for a scenic day out full of visiting little gift shops and enjoying the many beautiful elements of the abbey then it makes for a really lovely day out, just as long as you don't mind your wizadery followed by a bit of wibbly-wobbbly-timey-wimey. It's a brilliant thing that the birthplace of modern photography is so photogenic, and there is so much loveliness to see and sanp away at. 

The village is beautiful, the abbey is stunning and if you're lucky to get a sunny day like we had you will have a wonderful day, just don't expect afternoon tea for lunch!

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