A peaceful, timeless sanctuary
There have been gardens at Lacock Abbey for nearly 900 years. Each new owner has refashioned the grounds, from the herb and vegetable gardens that supplied medieval nuns to the pleasure grounds of a fashionable 18th century gentleman. Now, we look after the grounds as a place for visitors to relax and be immersed in the scents, sounds and colours of nature.
History of the garden
Little is known of the history of the gardens in the monastic period other than the existence of a kitchen garden and orchard. Those still exist today, although the kitchen garden is now village allotments.
John Ivory Talbot, who inherited Lacock in 1714, brought in landscape designer Stephen Switzer to remodel the grounds according to 19th century taste. Switzer, who also worked at Blenheim and Castle Howard, helped Talbot create tree-lined walks, build the haha and convert the mill stream and fish ponds into ornamental water features for his new pleasure grounds.
Though little of his garden now survives, we know he designed the sweeping carriage drive that provides enticing views of his new Great Hall as you approach the house.
In 1827 Lady Elisabeth Fielding, mother of William Henry Fox Talbot and a keen gardener, came to live at the Abbey. She was a busy and determined woman who planned many alterations. She wrote frequently to her son, telling him what she had done: trees planted in the shrubbery, a new curving path through the orchard, and filling in ponds to make the place 'dryer and wholesomer'.
William Henry Fox Talbot, a keen botanist who helped save Kew Gardens for the nation, brought home seeds and plants from his extensive travels, introducing exotics to Lacock’s garden. He planted many of the specimen trees you can still see today (much to his mother’s disgust, who wrote that 'the lawn will acquire the appearance of that most ugly thing, an Arboretum, because it is a kind of refuge for the destitute'.) Fox Talbot’s interest in the science of plants led to his election as a fellow of the Linnean Society, formed to study natural history, at the age of only 29.
What's that plant?
If you spot a plant during your visit that you don't recognise, our garden team are happy to help. Why not send us an email saying where you saw it, what it looked like and include a photo if you can and we will let you know what it is.