• North Wilts Community Club
  • Pageant Procession on horse back 1932
  • Harold White horses Stretched
  • Lacock Abbey
  • Church Street 1903
  • North Wilts Community Club visiting Lacock Abbey in June 2015.
  • Horseback procession at the Lacock Pageant 1932
  • Bill Gillett leading horses through High Street. (Photograph by Harold White)
  • Lacock Abbey
  • Church Street in 1903.

Cats in the Lacock archive

on Monday, 11 April 2016. Posted in Other

When I visited Lacock recently, I was privileged to meet the lovely Morag, whom I had seen featured a few times on the National Trust’s Facebook page and was delighted to meet in person. She was taking this in her stride, used to being fussed over, as one of the resident cats of Lacock.

Morag paint

Morag outside Lacock Abbey. Photo courtesy C. Hardy

The Lacock archive is as full of references to cats as there are currently cats living in and around the abbey. Although these are mostly photographs, there are also text references to cats. The earliest reference I’ve found is from the 19th century. Charles Henry Talbot, who owned Lacock from 1877, kept most of the letters written to him (although sadly didn’t make copies of the ones he sent) and from there we can find several interesting references to his home life and relationships with his family and friends – and animals! We know from correspondence that Charles had at least two cats in the last part of the 19th century, called Stripy and Bunny. It appears that he was very fond of them. Matilda Talbot, who inherited Lacock from her uncle Charles, was equally fond of them and many photographs of cats have appeared from amongst her papers.




Ela, Countess of Salisbury

on Tuesday, 24 March 2015. Posted in Other

Lacock Abbey was founded in 1232 by Ela, Countess of Salisbury. She had inherited the land following the death of her father the Earl of Salisbury who died when she was a minor. The village of Lacock already existed in some form, as it appears in the Domesday survey of 1086 where it is assigned to Edward of Salisbury. When eventually it passed to Ela and her husband, William Longspee, she decided to build a nunnery there.

Lacock Abbey

Henry Davenport III

on Thursday, 07 May 2015. Posted in Davenport

Henry Davenport (1678-1731) was the son of Henry Davenport of Hallon, Shropshire. He inherited his father's estates following the death of his eldest brother Sharington. He married twice, firstly Mary Lucy Chardin who died in 1712, and secondly Barbara Ivory, the sister of John Ivory who had inherited Lacock from Sir John Talbot.

Henry Davenport III

John Jones: attempting to carve a career in India

on Wednesday, 02 December 2015. Posted in Other

John Talbot (1717-1778) fathered four children outside of marriage, the third of these children was John Jones, who appears in the Lacock Parish records on 23 September 1764 as b.b.s (base born son) of Catherine Jones. John’s sister Ann, also the daughter of John Talbot had been born a year earlier. His half siblings were Thomas Elms (1758–1783) and Louisa Spicer Talbot, born and died at three weeks in April 1778. John Jones’ life is the most documented of the four, due to his correspondence with Martha Davenport.

John Talbot

John Talbot, the father of John Jones

Matilda Talbot

on Tuesday, 24 March 2015. Posted in Matilda Talbot

Matilda Theresa Talbot (born Matilda Gilchrist-Clark in 1871) was the last owner of Lacock Abbey. She inherited it from her unmarried uncle Charles Henry Talbot. He died in 1916 and left it to her in his will. She had an older brother William (her other brother Jack predeceased his uncle) and it was expected that William would inherit because he was older, a man, and married with children. Matilda, on the other hand, was unmarried and had no children, but it can be assumed that the reason she inherited the estate was because she had spent so much of her life living with her uncle at Lacock, with her aunt Rosamond Talbot until her death and then for the next ten years. She continued to live at Lacock until her own death in 1956, although for a decade of that she actually lived as a tenant of the National Trust having given the abbey and most of the estate over to the public in 1944. She offered the estate to William when her uncle died, but he declined it, saying that he would always be on hand to give advice if she needed it. There are letters that survive from William giving very good advice, and there are also some documents which show the influence and assistance of the agent, Richard Foley, who had been employed as a young man by Charles Henry Talbot and continued to work for the estate until the early 1940s. It appears from the estate records that she did very well being a Lady of the Manor. She ran the estate well, taking advice when she needed it and letting her agent help as much as he could. But she enjoyed running a large estate and the significance that came with it. She certainly put her own stamp on Lacock Abbey and its part in 20th century history.

 Matilda Talbot in Wren uniform 1914-1918

Matilda was a very colourful character and this comes across in the sources in the Lacock archive as well as through personal memories – there are many people still alive today who remember her clearly even if they were young children when she was still living. Her autobiography, My life and Lacock Abbey, is another good source of knowledge of her character. The book describes her early life and her association with Lacock as she was growing up, and then how she took over the abbey and enabled the estate to flourish in the 20th century. Lord Methuen, in his introduction to her book, writes “She has been a great traveller, with a passion for learning foreign languages. A woman of many parts she has been, amongst other things, a professional and highly qualified cookery instructor. After inheriting Lacock Abbey from her uncle, she proceeded, after paying off the death duties, to put the house and estate in order and on an even financial keel and to live there: eventually, in 1944, making the property over to the National Trust as a measure of assuring its future existence and continuity”.

Olive Sharington

on Tuesday, 24 March 2015. Posted in Sharington

Olive Sharington (later Olive Talbot and Olive Stapleton) was the daughter of Sir Henry Sharington, the second owner of Lacock who inherited the estate from his childless brother Sir William Sharington. Sir Henry Sharington had four children, including a son called William, but he died in infancy.

Possibly Olive Sharington

Robert Raworth's rebellion, 1713

on Saturday, 18 June 2016. Posted in Other

“Robert Raworth late Deputy Governor of Fort St. David has contrary to all Law and Justice assumed a power to himself to keep Fort St. David in his Possession and not render it as it is his duty to the Order of the Honble. Presidt. Of the Council of Fort St. George to whom he is subordinate therefore he can be found none other than a Rebel and a Traitor to his Queen and Country and an Enemy to the Company.” 

These were the opening lines of an arrest warrant issued by the Governor and Council of the Honourable East India Company, 13th October 1713. Nine days earlier Henry Davenport had been dispatched from Fort St. George, Madras (1) to become Acting Deputy Governor and send Robert Raworth back to Madras to answer charges against him. Henry and Robert had been colleagues and friends in the Company, but letters and documents in the Lacock archive attest to the complete reversal in their relationship. They also beg the question: why did Robert Raworth as Deputy Governor of the Company in Madras choose to rebel in October 1713?

Fort St George

Fort St George

Sir William Sharington

on Tuesday, 24 March 2015. Posted in Sharington

William Sharington was the son of Thomas Sharington and his wife Katherine Pyrton. Little is known of his early life. His family was wealthy and owned several manors. They came from Norfolk.

Sir William Sharington by Hans Holbein the Younger

He married three times: first to Ursula, the illegitimate daughter of John Bourchier, 2nd Baron Berners. His father in law was influential and it is probably because of him that Sharington became well placed in the King’s court: in 1538, he was in the retinue of the diplomat and Chief Gentleman of the Privy Chamber, Sir Francis Bryan, who was a nephew of Lord Berners. He then became a Page of the Robes and a Groom by 1540. In 1541 he was elevated to the Privy Chamber.

William Henry Fox Talbot

on Tuesday, 24 March 2015. Posted in William Henry Fox Talbot

William was born at Melbury House in Dorchester at his mother’s childhood home, the home of his grandfather the 2nd Earl of Ilchester. Although his father William Davenport Talbot owned Lacock Abbey, the family did not live there and it was leased to the Countess of Shrewsbury.

William Henry Fox Talbot

William’s father died only six months after his only son and heir to the estate was born, and left his mother with debts. He spent much of his childhood at the home of his aunt and uncle, Thomas Mansel Talbot and his mother’s sister Mary Lucy (nee Fox-Strangways), at Penrice. He attended Harrow School and studied at Trinity College Cambridge.