Discover the history of photography at the Fox Talbot Museum
Discover the important contributions made to early photography by a former resident of Lacock, William Henry Fox Talbot. The museum celebrates his world-changing breakthroughs in photography and hosts a changing programme of photography exhibitions.
Who was William Henry Fox Talbot?
One man’s scientific curiosity changed the way we see the world, forever. William Henry Fox Talbot was a polymath whose interests ranged across chemistry, botany, astronomy and mathematics, and a pioneer of Victorian photography.
Born in 1800, he was only five months old when he inherited Lacock Abbey. In 1835, he created the earliest surviving photographic negative, taken of a small window in the abbey’s South Gallery.
The first photographic negative
In the early 19th century, images could only be created through the medium of painting and drawing. Frustrated by his lack of artistic ability, William Henry Fox Talbot began searching for a way to 'fix images'.
After some experiments Talbot took an image of a window at his home, Lacock Abbey, in 1835. This image, not much bigger than a postage stamp, is now celebrated as the world’s earliest surviving photographic negative.
Talbot notes that, 'When first made, the squares of glass about 200 in number could be counted'.
This tells us that when the image was first taken it was clear enough to be able to count all the individual panes of glass that make up the window. This window has not changed and can still be seen today inside the Abbey today.
The Fox Talbot Museum at Lacock
The Fox Talbot Museum is housed in a 16th-century barn once used as stables. It tells the story of the birth of photography with objects and technology from the early years of photography.
Through the museum, go back in time to see Fox Talbot's small mousetrap camera. Discover how photography developed and the chemistry behind Talbot's process. Find out how two men entered into a race to claim the title of 'inventor of photography'.
The Upper Gallery of the Fox Talbot Museum at Lacock houses changing photography exhibitions throughout the year, with a wide range of images and photographers.
From May 27 the Fox Talbot Museum will be hosting Light Struck, a solo exhibition of works by artist and photographer Ellen Carey. Named by the Royal Photographic Society in 2019 as one of their 'hundred heroines' of photography, Carey's work explores two centuries of photographic invention, celebrating colour, light and paying homage to Fox Talbot's early experiments with photograms. She works with a supersized instant camera, using Polaroid technology to marry original photographic techniques with modern processes. Light Struck aims to prompt the viewer to ask 'how is this made?' and 'what is photography in the 21st century?'
Featuring a piece created especially for Lacock in response to Fox Talbot's photogram 'Cascade of Spruce Needles'. The exhibition runs until 31 March 2024.
In its 800 years of history, Lacock has been an Augustinian abbey, a Tudor family home, a birthplace of photography, and a film and TV location.
Three prized items in the collection at Lacock have been included in a special National Trust publication. Discover why they are so unique and where you can find them.
Lacock Abbey's peaceful garden is a place to relax. Discover the Botanic Garden, greenhouse, orchard and woodland along with the sounds of nature at this green natural setting.
Explore the historic streets of Lacock, a quintessential English village with timber-framed cottages and local shops. With its central grid of four streets, Lacock today looks much as it did 200 years ago.
The Stables café is ready to welcome you for refreshments, while the High Street Shop stocks a wide range of gifts and souvenirs.
Have an outdoor adventure at Lacock this winter. Christmas comes on the 25 November when you'll find decorated trees in the Courtyard, a North Pole post box, family activity trail and Storytimes with Mother Christmas in the grotto.