Eight of our places that helped change the world

Many of our places were once the homes of visionary thinkers who helped transform and shape the modern world through science, engineering and popular culture.

Find out more about their amazing lives and see for yourself where those great imaginations first took flight.

Early photograph of William Henry Fox Talbot who owned Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire

The invention of photography, Lacock Abbey, Wiltshire 

William Henry Fox Talbot was a British scientist who created the first photographic negative at Lacock Abbey in 1835. He had become frustrated by his inability to paint and draw and wanted to find a way to 'fix images'. He wrote: ‘How charming it would be if it were possible to cause these natural images to imprint themselves durable and remain fixed upon the paper! And why should it not be possible? I asked myself.’ Visit the Fox Talbot museum, find out how he did it.

The Marconi Centre at Poldhu, Lizard, Cornwall

Inventing long range radio and revolutionising travel, the Lizard, Cornwall  

Guglielmo Marconi made the first radio broadcasts from shore-to-ship at the Lizard Wireless Telegraph Station in 1901. You can visit his tiny wooden station building overlooking Bass Point, about a mile from Lizard Point. It has been restored to look exactly as it did in 1901. You can even stay next door and enjoy the views just as Marconi did – the adjacent station building is now a National Trust holiday cottage.

Winston Churchill building a snowman at Chartwell, a National Trust property in Kent

Guiding Britain through the Second World War, Chartwell, Kent 

Sir Winston Churchill, who lived at Chartwell, Kent, led Britain to victory in the Second World War and is one of the most iconic political figures of the 20th century. The house is still decorated in a 1930s style and as you walk from room to room you can see a host of treasures, curios and other artefacts relating to the great man’s life.

A portrait of Nancy Astor by John Singer Sargent which is on display at Cliveden

The first woman MP to take her seat, Cliveden, Buckinghamshire 

Nancy Astor was the first woman MP in Britain to take her seat when she was elected to serve the people of Plymouth in 1919. Her influence went on to spread far and wide. During her life Cliveden became one of the centres of European political and literary life. Her guests included Lloyd George, Winston Churchill, George Bernard Shaw, Ghandi and Charlie Chaplin – and all enjoyed lavish hospitality.

Book, notes, inkwell and jug in Isaac Newton's room

Where gravity was discovered, Woolsthorpe Manor, Lincolnshire 

Sir Isaac Newton was one of the most influential scientists of all time. The physicist and mathematician is well-known for his work on calculus, the laws of motion – and of course, gravity. Visit his family home at Woolsthorpe Manor and you can still see a 400-year-old apple tree said to have inspired the scientist’s curiosity when he saw the apples falling down. This made him wonder, why do they do that?

The kitchen at Mendips, John Lennon's childhood home

The houses where music changed forever, The Beatles’ Childhood Homes, Liverpool 

The Fab Four transformed the face of popular culture and revolutionised the sound of pop music having a long-lasting influence on the way music was written, recorded and performed. You can see where it all started at their childhood homes in Liverpool.

The interior of the cottage

Where the railways were born, George Stephenson’s Birthplace, Northumberland 

Before becoming a world-famous railway engineer and inventor of the famous ‘rocket’ steam engine, the young George Stephenson lived in a humble stone cottage in Wylam Northumberland. His entire family lived in just one room. Just outside there used to be a carriage track along which wagons rolled to and from a nearby mine. This inspired the young George and influenced not only his future, but that of the whole world as well.

A visitor looking at the John Harrison clock at Nostell

The man who discovered ‘longtitude’ and helped map the world, Nostell, Yorkshire 

John Harrison’s father was the carpenter at Nostell, and John lived close by as a child. When he grew up he became a carpenter and clock maker and went on to invent the marine chronometer, a remarkable device that allowed sailors to calculate longitude while at sea. The marine chronometer revolutionised navigation and greatly increased the safety of long-distance sea travel.

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