Lacock - A Wiltshire Home for Generations

on Saturday, 17 May 2014. Posted in Archives, Wiltshire Places

Lacock is a village known to tens of thousands of people around the world, but how many people really know it? They visit the abbey and museum of photography, have lunch in one of the pubs, look at houses dating from medieval times to the 18th century, and have tea and cakes in one of the tea rooms. If they’d been one of the participants in our Lacock interpretation day course last week they’d now know a great deal more about the history and development of this village!


We looked at the central part of the village from medieval times and especially concentrated on documents from the 17th to 19th centuries – many of these were part of the Lacock Unlocked project. One lady found her family cottage on an estate map of 1684 – the occupant was her ancestor; another lady found her farmhouse on a schedule for 1804, again the occupier was an ancestor. Outside the village it’s little known that several local families have been in the parish for many generations. We considered the site of the Saxon church and village, the manor house that preceded the abbey, the ages of the two river bridges, the unusual rectangular pattern of streets, and the possibility of burgage plots.

In the afternoon the National Trust allowed us to meet in the Manger Barn and to visit their holiday cottage, 2 High Street, where the trees used in the cruck construction were felled in the spring of 1445, by dendrochronological dating. Fortunately by the time we ventured out for the village tour the heavy shower had ended and we enjoyed sunshine while members of the Lacock History Group explained some of the buildings to us. The Lady Chapel in the church of St. Cyriac (an unusual Norman dedication also found at Swaffham Priors in Cambridgeshire and South Pool in Devon) attracted great interest with the great Sharington monument and some unusual carvings.

Cantax House, c.1700, allowed us to reflect on the will and inventory of one of the Colbourne family of clothiers who had built it; another member of the family had lived in a 15th century hall house across the road, his will and inventory had also been examined in the morning. The market cross is outside the village school – at least the third site it’s occupied. The market began in Church Street, before the church, but by the 18th century it had moved to the High Street and cross was re-erected in the road near the Red Lion, being moved to its present site when traffic increased. In the morning we’d noted that on the 1764 map Church Street was described as ‘Old Market’ and High Street as ‘New Market’; a good example of how the morning’s research was mirrored by observations in the afternoon.

We’re holding a different Lacock course on 21st July when Claire Skinner, Ally McConnell and Michael Marshman will be looking at the evolution of Lacock parish – Lacock, Lackham, Bewley, Bowden Hill and outlying farms – from Saxon times. There are still a few tickets left if you’d like to join us for a morning in the History Centre followed by an afternoon guided walk around the parish (own transport to Lacock). Tel. 01249 705500

Michael Marshman
County Local Studies Librarian


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