Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire. Nannery, family house and school of Wichcraft and Wizardry

lacock abbeyLacock Abbey in Wiltshire (photo by Derek Harper)

After the death of her husband, Lady Ela, Countess of Salisbury, didn’t marry again. With the grant of Henry III, allowing her the free widowhood, a rather exceptional favour at that time, she could brush aside the officious wooers and concentrate on her motherhood, and later on devotion to God. Lady Ela founded Lacock Abbey that was thriving as a nunnery for about 300 years, until, with the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Henry VIII sold it to his courtier William Sharington. Although Sir William converted it into a family nest, he didn’t have children himself, so later on, Lacock Abbey passed to his niece Olive, who brought a tad of romantic spirits into this once virtuous place.
lacock abbeyThe cloister of Lacock Abbey featured in the films about Harry Potter (photograph by Derek Harper)

Olive and her future husband Sir John Talbot were truly and utterly in love with each other, but by some reasons the girl’s father, Henry Sharington wasn’t happy about John walking his daughter to the aisle. However, the couple wasn’t going to give up on their feelings, and Sir John was secretly playing Romeo underneath the abbey’s wall, where Olive used to listen to his sweet talks.
lacock abbeyThe first window that was ever photographed
One night the disobedient daughter of Sir Henry probably got bored with her sweethearts’ oration skills, and decided to add a bit of extreme into her life. She said to Talbot that she would leap on him from the battlement. The young love seeker rashly said that he would catch her, likely having underestimated his Juliet’s size or having thought, that she didn’t mean it. But she did. The adventurous damsel jumped on her lover, and…surprise, surprise…knocked him down. Having concluded that she killed him, the English Juliet didn’t end up with drinking the poison, but screamed for help instead. Sir John was taken to the abbey, where he recovered in a while. Olive’s father, in all likelihood, decided that it would be safer to stay away from his eccentric daughter, because he suddenly changed his mind, and gave his consent for the marriage.
lacock village wiltshireThe well-preserved village of Lacock often appears in period drama films (photo by Roger Cornfoot)

The descendant of Olive and John Talbot, William Henry Fox Talbot, who was the resident of Lacock Abbey in the 19th century, is certainly well known in the circles of the photographers. Owing to him the world have become able to get their snapshots printed from the negatives. The inventor’s first photograph was the one of an abbey’s window. It is still there and invariably has a sprinkle of visitors, hovering around with their cameras.
harry potters houseThe house of Harry Potter in Lacock

The true fame came down to the Abbey with the success of the films about Harry Potter. The old building became the rendition of Hogwards School of Wichcraft and Wizardry, and its chambers and cloister walk became the “must sees” places in the list of Harry Potter’s fans. The nearby village of Lacock, that looks almost untouched by the technical progress, is also one of the favourite sets for filmmakers. It featured in “Pride and Prejudice” with Colin Firth, “The Other Boleyn Girl”, “The Wolf Man”, and most recently in the BBC mini-series “Cranford”.


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