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Welcome to Lacock
SWARMS of tourists engulf the cobbled streets of
Lacock on a daily basis. Weekends and bank holidays are bedlam, but the village still manages to retain its olde worlde charm.
The Talbot family became landlords of the village in the mid 19th Century and lived in Lacock Abbey, parts of which are now open to the public. Founded in 1232 by Ela, Countess of Salisbury, the abbey was until its dissolution in 1539 a nunnery for Augustinian canonesses. After 400 years of ownership by the Talbot family, Miss Matilda Talbot donated the abbey, together with most of the village, to the National Trust in 1944.
These days Lacock Abbey is best known for featuring in the box office hit Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. "The place was unrecognisable when they built the film sets here. Everyone in the village was caught up with the excitement," she added.
Lacock Abbey also hosts classical music concerts and performances of Shakespeare's plays in the spacious grounds. During peak season up to 1,000 visitors a day come to take a step back in time and enjoy the simple pleasures. Despite having a population of only about 350, Lacock still boasts five pubs, a village hall, a church, a primary school and a local store complete with post office.
Gaining residence in one of the 89 houses, which date back to the 16th century, is no mean feat. The National Trust has a written letting policy, favouring people with family connections in the village. Having children is also an advantage. Graham Heard, National Trust property manager for Lacock, said: "We have to be selective. People who apply to live here should contribute to community life, so commuters are far from ideal."
Another tourist highlight is The Fox Talbot Museum. The museum commemorates the life and work of Henry Fox Talbot, an owner of Lacock Abbey. A pioneer of photography, he invented the negative process in 1840.
Lacock does traditional tearooms very well with King John's Hunting Lodge being popular with the cast of Eastenders. Actor Alan Rickman and acid-tongued restaurant critic Michael Winner have also enjoyed light refreshments in this 13th century guesthouse, reputedly the oldest in the village. Manager Margaret Vaughan said: "Michael Winner called us a 'credit to the nation', which was wonderful. I'm up at six in the morning making bread. But everyone is a joy to serve. Their gratitude makes it all worthwhile."
Not everything for sale here is edible. The Lacock Woollen Centre harks back to its history as a flourishing wool town, famed for its sheep and weaving. But the trade declined in the 19th century, when cheap cotton was imported from America. A goldsmith's, a silversmith's and a pottery studio add to the village's reputation as a craft centre.
- Camilla Parker Bowles lives just a mile away from Lacock in Reybridge.
- Built in 1361, The George Inn dates back as a pub to the days of Oliver Cromwell. It has a grand open fireplace with a dogwheel. Centuries ago this turned a spit, using a specially bred dog called a Turnspit.
- Besides being used as a film set for the blockbuster Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Lacock appears in a host of other films and TV costume dramas. Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe and, most recently, Thomas Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge, are just some of the literary classics Lacock has helped bring to life on screen.
- William Henry Fox Talbot produced the first book to be illustrated with real photographs. Entitled The Pencil of Nature, it was published by Longmans in 1844. His most famous photographs include The Open Door, The Fruit Sellers and The Haystack.