Destinations, England, Europe, Travel

Explore England: Lacock Abbey – The Birth Place of British Photography

It’s Royal Wedding Day and it’s bright and sunny in the UK. We’re on the move and there’s excitement in the air as we further explore England. This leg of Road Trip UK follows the road from Bath in the county of Somerset to London, where the FA football final was played that day, via Castle Combe and the historical market town of Lacock.

Lacock Abbey

The abbey dates from the 13th century when it was built by a woman for women.  Ela, Countess of Salsbury, built it for nuns and it remained a nunnery until the 16th century.  It then passed from owner to owner until owned by the Talbots in the 19th century.  Lacock Abbey and the surrounding village was given to the National Trust in 1944.

Lacock Abbey & The Fox Talbot Museum

Lacock is the birthplace of British photography and its father was Henry Talbot.  I bet you didn’t know that.  If you did you’re probably a huge fan of photography, in which case a visit to Lacock Abbey should be on your bucket list if you’ve not already been there.

 

Johann Zahn designed the first camera in 1685. But the first photograph was clicked by Joseph Nicephore Niepce in the year 1814.  In Britain, the paper-based calotype negative and salt print processes were invented by William Henry Fox Talbot, who lived in and owned Lacock Abbey at the time.

It’s mandatory to honor these inventors with museums dedicated to them alone.  Imagine a world without photos today. Imagine this blog without photos!  How boring and bland life would be.

A latticed window in Lacock Abbey, photographed by William Fox Talbot in 1835. Shown here in positive form, this may be the oldest extant photographic negative made in a camera.
A latticed window in Lacock Abbey, photographed by William Fox Talbot in 1835. Shown here in positive form, this may be the oldest extant photographic negative made in a camera. Source: Wikipedia

 

One man’s ambition changed the way we would see the world, forever. William Henry Fox Talbot, polymath and pioneer of Victorian photography moved to Lacock Abbey in 1827 and created the earliest surviving photographic negative in 1835, taken of a small window in the abbey’s South Gallery.

Source: National Trust

 

Lacock Abbey

You don’t have to be a photographer or have any interest in photography at all to want to visit the historical town of Lacock and Lacock Abbey. It’s a good day out for anyone who enjoys history, beautiful old estates, architecture or anything to do with Harry Potter.  For families, it’s well worth spending a few hours exploring the abbey and to end it off with a play at the little park next door and an ice-cream.

Lacock Abbey
Lacock Abbey

We can’t pass an ice-cream truck without Kate going ballistic and the darn thing was parked right outside the exit so that’s how our visit ended.   If Kate misses the ice-cream truck, Leah will innocently make sure she knows about it.  Big sister’s got little sister’s back.  Or is it the other way around?

 

Lacock Abbey & Fox Talbot Museum Entrance
Lacock Abbey & Fox Talbot Museum Entrance

Lacock Abbey & Harry Potter

The abbey was used in films such as The Other Boleyn Girl, The Wolfman (starring Anthony Hopkins) and the  BBC productions of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Daniel Dafoe’s Moll Flanders and Wolf Hall.  But it most recently featured in the Harry Potter movies in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and The Half-Blood Prince. If you’ve seen the movies you’ll recognise the cloister walk where Harry comes out from Professor Lockhart’s room after serving detention and hears the basilisk.

For fans, it’s a surreal experience walking in these hallways and although there are more film sites all over the country, the hallway and courtyard at Lacock Abbey is one of the most easily recognisable from the movie.

Another British Bucket List destination ticked: Lacock Abbey. It’s amazing. Do you recognise the corridors and courtyard?
A view into the court yard at Lacock Abbey.
Harry Potter Film Location Lacock Abbey
Harry Potter Film Location Lacock Abbey

Entrance Fee & National Trust Membership

A family ticket costs £35.  Under 5’s go free.

We signed up and bought an annual family membership with the National Trust for £180.

With a National Trust membership our entry at Lacock Abbey (£35), Dunham Massey (£33.75 + £7 parking) and Cragside (£45) were FREE.  I’ll leave you to add it up, but only a few more National trust sites to visit or savings at parking lots across the UK and we’ll have saved some money. Parking at any of their parking lots across the country is free to members.

Apart from saving money,  it’s worth supporting the trust for future generations.

Lacock Abbey
Lacock Abbey

Facilities

There are baby-changing facilities in the abbey courtyard toilets and at the Red Lion car park toilets.

They have hip-seat carriers on loan (free) at the abbey.  I find this a very considerate touch.  Having a hip-seat carrier for me to use during a visit to Dunham Massey estate is what convinced me to buy one of my own for Kate.  I go everywhere with it now.  My hip-seat carrier has neat little zip pockets, enough for me to leave my handbag or a changing bag at home.  We don’t even take the stroller on outings anymore!

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The parking lot is 220 yards away from the entrance and it’s pay and display so remember your pounds, unless you’re a member of the National Trust.  Parking is free for members. We saw a couple of RV’s / motorhomes in the parking lot too.

During winter season (1 Nov-31 Mar) dogs are allowed in the abbey grounds and guide dogs are allowed throughout the property year-round.

There is a gift shop, a lovely tea-room and you can picnic in the abbey grounds or at the play park just outside the abbey grounds

Lacock Abbey Tea Room
Lacock Abbey Tea Room

You can go on one of the self-led family walking trails in the abbey grounds and there is a rope swing in the woodland garden. You’ll find family-friendly events to attend at the abbey all year and they even have their own cottage for you to stay in if you have more time to spend in Lacock.


I visited Lacock with my husband and three children (10,8,2) and we paid for everything ourselves.  All opinions are 100% our own.  This post is not endorsed or sponsored by any of the places mentioned here.  Facts, fees and general information were sourced from public websites but please check the relevant websites before your visit for up to date info.

Please share this post and feel free to comment below.

CulturedKids

 

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10 Comments

  1. Hi Tanja, You should visit if you get the chance. The Harry Potter link is a small part of the fascinating story of Lacock Abbey. Thank you for reading.

  2. i’d love to visit it not just because of hp 🙂 #CULTUREDKIDS

  3. Interesting, isn’t it? Can you imagine a world without photography? You’re very welcome Nancy.

  4. I’m still digesting the fact that the first camera was designed in 1685! I’d love to visit the museum and of course gorgeous Lacock. Thanks for all the info!

  5. How interesting Emma. I didn’t know that. Thank you for sharing.

  6. We do the same Esther and when we see the entrance fees we’re always happy that we went for membership. We also didn’t expect the photography museum, but it was a good surprise. Very informative.

  7. I’m glad you learned something new here Scarlett. Thank you for reading.

  8. What an interesting place Lacock is. I had no idea it was the birthplace of British photography. I imagine the Abbey is a popular pilgrimage for Harry Potter fans. #CULTUREDKIDS

  9. The National Trust membership is great! We try to look for national trust properties wherever we visit to make use of it. We haven’t been to Lacock Abbey but it sounds really interesting, especially they history of photography. #culturedkids

  10. I am so glad you made it to Lacock, it’s so beautiful! It’s one of the few places in the UK they aren’t allowed to put phone and electricity line poles up to keep it looking old and beautiful. It’s often used in film and TV programmes because of that! Thanks so much for joining in with #CulturedKids

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