The history of Lacock

In its 800 years of history, Lacock has been been many things; an Augustinian abbey, the home of a Tudor rogue, a Gothic ruin, the birthplace of photography, a location for a whole host of film and television productions, and a thriving community that exists to this day.

There is so much to see at Lacock; the medieval abbey turned family home, the history of photography and changing contemporary exhibitions, and the historic village with a modern way of life.



The story begins...

Lacock Abbey was officially founded on 16 April 1232 by Ela, Countess of Salisbury. One of the most powerful women of the Middle Ages, she had previously served as Sheriff of Wiltshire and her 1225 copy of Magna Carta was kept at Lacock until 1946 when it moved to the British Museum. She was Lacock's first abbess and served for 17 years. She died in 1261.

The seal of Ela countess of Salisbury


The abbey is dissolved

Between 1536 and 1541, monasteries, abbeys and convents were closed as part of the Dissolution of the Monasteries, ordered by King Henry VIII after his break with Rome and the Catholic Church in 1533. Lacock survived until the final wave of closures, eventually shutting down in 1539 after 300 years as a religious institution.


A Tudor takeover

The abbey was bought by William Sharington in 1540 for £730. He transformed the abbey buildings from a convent to a country house, demolished the church and lady chapel, and built the curious octagonal tower on the corner of the abbey. Thankfully, he chose not to demolish the stone cloister, which dates from the 1400s and still exists today.