The little town of Lacock, on the southern edge of the Cotswolds, attracts many visitors by virtue of its unspoiled historic appearance. It i s quite easy and rewarding to enjoy a short walk through the small village, have a look inside the church, walk along the streets, and continue back to where you started.
A visit to the village is akin to taking a step back in time. Owned and managed by the National Trust, it has been beautifully preserved and unchanged for many centuries.
Lacock was once a center of the medieval wool trade in the 13th century and is full of traditional half-timbered and stone houses. It's the quintessential English village. Most of the surviving houses in the village are 18th century or earlier in construction, and people still live there today. Lacock looks much like it did 200 years ago. By virtue of its unspoiled appearance, it attracts many visitors, so you might want to get here early in the day or in the off-season.
Lacock was granted market status and developed a thriving wool industry during the Middle Ages. But production of wool ended in the 19th century, depriving the village of its main source of income, which fortunately for us has kept new developments to a minimal, resulting in this historic gem.
Its central group of four streets, follows the plan of a medieval planned community, deliberately laid out on a grid which can still be seen today.
Its oldest house dates to the thirteenth-century. They preserve the old-fashioned character: there are no TV aerials, no satellite dishes, all utilities are underground. And all this is owned by the National Trust, a historic preservation charity in this country.
On the eastern end of Church Street we reach the wonderful 14th-century medieval church of St. Cyriac. A more extensive rebuild happened in the 15th century that created this perpendicular-style Gothic church, which has been maintained and utilized ever since. Just next to it is a work house built in 1833 that was a tannery until it closed in 1928, and now it's part of a pottery bed-and-breakfast. The drying shed survives on the right.
One of the landmarks you come across is the 14th-century Tithe Barn, which is a grade 1 listed historic property. A tithe barn was a type of barn used in much of northern Europe in the Middle Ages for storing rents and tithes. In the Middle Ages farmers were required to give one-tenth of their wool and produce to the established church. Tithe barns were usually associated with the village church or rectory, and independent farmers took their tithes there.
Lacock has three pubs and a number of shops in the high street, including a grocery store, bakery, gift shops, and a National Trust shop. Sign of the Angel is a late 15th century house, which is now an inn, including a pub, restaurant, and rooms for rent.
The village has been used repeatedly as a film and television location because of its historic and unspoiled appearance, most notably for the BBC production of Pride and Prejudice, and it was used for scenes in the Downton Abbey TV series and also the movie. The quaint cottages and historic streets also made it perfect for brief appearances in several Harry Potter films, and Disney's Beauty and the Beast.
The George Inn claims to be the oldest pub in town, in a 14th-century building, with excellent pub grub and rooms for rent, including free Wi-Fi. The lounge has a medieval fireplace, and out back, there's a stone courtyard café.
Lacock Abbey was founded in 1232 and converted into a country house c.1540. Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the mid-16th century, Henry VIII of England sold it to Sir William Sharington, who converted it into a house starting in 1539, demolishing the abbey church.
The fine medieval cloisters, sacristy, chapter house and monastic rooms of the Abbey have survived largely intact. The handsome 16th-century stable courtyard has half-timbered gables, a clockhouse, brewery and bakehouse. The Victorian woodland garden boasts a fine display of spring flowers, magnificent trees, an 18th-century summer house, Victorian rose garden, newly restored botanic garden and ha-ha.
Lacock estate comprised 284 acres including the Abbey and the village. It was home to and owned by Henry Fox Talbot one of the 19th century’s main pioneers of photography, inventor of the negative/positive photographic process. The Fox Talbot Museum explores the history of photography, housing a collection spanning photographic developments up to the present day. The village ownership was Passed down through Talbot’s family, which later gave it all to the National Trust in 1944. The village is now owned almost in its entirety by the National Trust and
Lacock was first mentioned in the Domesday book in 1086 with a population of less than 200; with two small mills and a vineyard. During World War II many evacuees came to Lacock and lived on the estate till the latter stages of the war. Lacock has been admired by many, including the playwright George Bernard Shaw who was a regular visitor in his later years, mainly for his hobby of photography;
A school was provided on a central site in Lacock village by Henry Fox Talbot with accommodation for 100 pupils. From the outside the school looks just like it did when it was built in 1824 but on the inside it is a lively and exciting place of learning. They are proud to be a village school at the heart of the community and working with all members of it to provide the best education we can for the children in our classes. Another classroom was added in 1852 and around this time it became a National School; by 1858 there were about 120 pupils.
The school was rebuilt on the same site in 1859, again at the expense of the Talbot family, for 220 pupils and 80 infants. Numbers declined in the 20th century; 135 attended in 1955 when the school gained voluntary controlled status. Children of all ages were educated until the early 1960s when older pupils were transferred to Chippenham.
There is no train service to Lacock, but you can go from London to Chippenham by train in 75 minutes, and then take a 15-minute public bus ride from there into Lacock. Lacock is in the county of Wiltshire, England, about 3 miles south of the town of Chippenham.
The bus stop in the village is by the George Inn, Frequencies are broadly hourly, Monday to Saturday only. Chippenham Railway Station has fast links to London Paddington. Trains are one or two an hour taking about 75 minutes.