From abbey to country home

View of two of the cloister walks at Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire.

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.

1200s Foundation 


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. 

The medieval cloister at Lacock Abbey
A family walking through the cloister of Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire
The medieval cloister at Lacock Abbey


1500s Transformation 


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. 

Sharington's Tower was built from the original stones of the abbey
A view of the southside of Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire
Sharington's Tower was built from the original stones of the abbey


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. 

Portrait of John Ivory Talbot by Michael Dahl
Portrait of John Ivory Talbot by Michael Dahl
Portrait of John Ivory Talbot by Michael Dahl


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. 

View of the South Gallery
View of the South Gallery at Lacock Abbey, Wiltshire
View of the South Gallery


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. 

Matilda Talbot's bedroom at Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire
Matilda Talbot's bedroom at Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire
Matilda Talbot's bedroom at Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire