From abbey to country home
Lacock Abbey is packed with history. It started as an abbey and nunnery, then became a Tudor family home. The last owners were the Talbots, a caring close-knit family that loved their home in Lacock. You might know it as the birthplace of photography.
Please note that the abbey rooms currently remain closed.
The abbey grounds and cloister are open for pre-booked visits only.
One of the most powerful women of the middle ages, Ela Countess of Salisbury, founded Lacock Abbey on the morning of 16 April 1232. The cloister and rooms are a rare example of medieval monastic architecture. Ela’s original cloister was demolished in the 1400s and replaced with what you see today.
Tudor courtier, Sir William Sharington, purchased the abbey after the Dissolution of the monasteries and turned it into his country house. He unusually incorporated the cloister into the design of his home and added Italian inspired Renaissance architecture including his octagonal tower.
1700s: Gothick alterations
John Ivory Talbot inherited Lacock and over 58 years transformed both the abbey and its grounds. He was inspired by the Gothick taste and worked with architect Sanderson Miller to add features including the entrance arch and Great Hall.
1800s: Victorian home
William Henry Fox Talbot and his family lived in the abbey much as it looks today. In August 1835 Talbot created the first photographic negative and established Lacock as a Birthplace of Photography. They remodelled the South Gallery including the window where he captured his famous image.
1900s: Gift to the nation
Matilda Talbot was surprised to inherit Lacock in 1916. She was conscious of her duties towards all who lived and worked on the Estate. During times of hardship Matilda sold some of the abbey collection to improve the homes of her tenants in Lacock village. In 1944 she gave the estate to the National Trust.