The Fox Talbot Museum acquires historic photographic collection of international significance

Lacock table top showing items from the Fenton Collection (c)National Trust/Roger Watson

An extraordinary collection of early photographic technology and images is being transferred from the British Film Institute to the Fox Talbot Museum at Lacock in Wiltshire, thanks to a £36,100 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and support from Art Council England’s Preservation of Industrial and Scientific Materials (PRISM) fund.

Lacock table top showing items from the Fenton Collection (c)National Trust/Roger Watson

Lacock table top showing items from the Fenton Collection (c)National Trust/Roger Watson

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Halloween fun with the National Trust

Avebury Spooky Adventure (c)National Trust/Abby George

The mysteries of Halloween have brought out the creativity of the National Trust which is celebrating the end of October in very different ways.

Children are being invited to solve a mystery of missing beasts at Lacock, join a Halloween trail at Dyrham or explore a cat trail at Avebury during the half term fun.

Avebury Spooky Adventure (c)National Trust/Abby George

Avebury Spooky Adventure (c)National Trust/Abby George

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The Hollow Crown costumes on display at Lacock Abbey

The Hollow Crown: The Wars Of The Roses

An exhibition of costumes from the hit BBC Two series, ‘The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses’, including those worn by stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Keeley Hawes and Sophie Okonedo, is on display at Lacock Abbey, where many scenes from the show were filmed.

The costumes are on display in the Great Hall of the abbey until 4 September 2016, giving visitors the chance to view their intricate detail first hand, and get a glimpse behind-the-scenes of ‘The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses’.

Lacock Hollow Crown costumes - Lady Bona 3 (c) National Trust - Alana Wright

Lacock Hollow Crown costumes – Lady Bona 3 (c) National Trust – Alana Wright

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Rare manuscript goes on show at Lacock Abbey

A rare book, a priceless survivor from the days when the nuns lived at Lacock Abbey, has gone on display for the very first time. It has been at the abbey for over 700 years. 

The Manuscript (c) National Trust / SWNS

The Manuscript (c) National Trust / SWNS

The 14th-Century copy of an early bible dictionary gives a unique insight into the ways the nuns must have lived in the abbey and was recently bought at auction by the National Trust.

It is one of very few monastic books to have survived the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII in the 1530s, still in its original location – the others are all in cathedral libraries.

The book Expositiones Vocabulorum Biblie by William Brito – sometimes known as Guillaume le Breton – has had a long association with Lacock.

Written in Latin, it was part of the abbey library and even has earlier 13th-Century financial accounts of the abbey pasted into the binding. The dictionary contains explanation and origins of difficult words in the Bible and is hand written on parchment.

“We know little about the everyday lives of the nuns at Lacock Abbey that this one book gives us a remarkable rare glimpse, a short glance into how they might have lived their lives,” said Sonia Jones, House and Collections Manager. “It tells us that they studied the Bible closely and most would have been literate. There is scrap parchment in the bindings which are part of the accounts of the abbey, recycled when the book was bound. Those fragments let us see just a little of some of the business side of the abbey, selling wool to provide an income.

“It is a special and important book, but to have it in Lacock and to be able to put it on display in the abbey, in its original home is simply priceless.”

Although it is known there was a book cupboard and a book room in the abbey, the size of the library is not known. Only three books from the Lacock Abbey library are known to have survived – an illuminated Psalter, currently at the Bodleian Library and a collection of Anglo-French poems.

It is not known whether books such as the dictionary were ever written at Lacock or where this copy was laboriously hand written. However, it was rare enough to be valuable and still bears the signs of having been chained when it was in the abbey library.

The National Trust’s Libraries Curator, Mark Purcell, said the book was a very rare survivor from its time.

“Books of this type would not have been printed until the late 15th Century. Being hand written would have made it rare and valuable even when it was new so it is not a surprise to find it shows signs marks from the copper clasps which held its chains when it was in the nun’s library. The manuscript in the book is written on parchment made from sheepskin – and is written in several different hands. Some of the pages show flay marks – small holes in the skins with the words carefully written around the holes.

“The dictionary had a wide circulation and was regarded as an essential scholarly tool so this would have been an important reference work in the library at Lacock.”

“The binding contains some fragments of receipts from the nuns. Both the front and back of the book contains sheets from the 13th-century compotus rolls of Lacock which record both expenses and receipts, including the sale of wool. That shows us that the book, even if not written at Lacock was probably bound here.”

The book was already known to the Trust and had passed down through generations of the Talbot family who lived at the abbey. It was put up for sale and was bought by the National Trust at auction at Christies.

Lacock Abbey was founded in 1232 by Ela, Countess of Salisbury. Although there were rarely more than 20 or so nuns in the convent, the abbey held significant land in the region, including pastures used for farming and wool production.

The end for the abbey came when it was closed down in 1539. The buildings were bought by William Sharington who converted the abbey to a house and built the octagonal tower – preserving the medieval cloisters.

Arrangements in Black and Grey – an exhibition at the Fox Talbot Museum

Is Black and White photography still relevant today?

Untitled, by Mark Voce, who prefers to work at night capturing empty city scenes.

Untitled, by Mark Voce, who prefers to work at night capturing empty city scenes.

The question is being posed by the National Trust in a new exhibition at the Fox Talbot Museum in Lacock which features six present day photographers who still use black and white.

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Quenching your thirst for Lacock Abbey’s history

A new room has been opened for the first time for visitors to Lacock Abbey along with extra information revealing more of the history of the medieval cloisters through new information panels and discovery maps.

(c) National Trust / SWNS

The National Trust has opened the old wine cellar of Lacock Abbey, a room which was originally part of the medieval cloisters and which still shows traces of earlier history.

The team at Lacock believe that this room was created by partitioning off the adjacent Servant’s Hall in the early 1800s. There is also evidence that this bigger room would have served as accommodation to ‘lower class’ visitors of the abbey, in the more class conscious medieval times, while ‘superior visitors’ would have resided on the upper floor near the Abbess’s suite of rooms.

Sonia Jones, House and Collection Manager of Lacock Abbey: “It’s wonderful to be able to open this room to the public for the first time; not only will it enhance the experience of visitors to the furnished Abbey Rooms, but the wine cellar is also another part of the abbey where it’s possible to see the layers of architectural history that subtly reminds us how the use of the building has changed over the last 800 years.”

(c) National Trust / SWNS

House Manager Sonia Jones putting the final touches to the wine cellar at Lacock Abbey which has just been opened to the public for the first time.

In the early eighteenth century the residents of the abbey decided to turn this room into a wine cellar. The room is partly underground and the lack of natural light makes it humid, cool and dark, ideal conditions to store wine. However, the installation of heating pipes in 1876 meant that the temperature rose in the room – nice and cosy for the occupants but not ideal for wine.

More evidence of the Talbot family and their life has been discovered by the Conservation team last winter as they were cataloguing family heirlooms and an exhibition of children’s toys and clothes has gone on display in the abbey for the first time, bringing visitors closer to the former residents and life in the early twentieth century.

Another new addition for history hungry visitors will was unveiled on Wednesday. New information panels and discovery maps are installed in the medieval cloisters and will help quench their thirst for knowledge as they find out about the life of the nuns and its connection to the local history of Wiltshire.

“Visitors often ask about the day to day life of the nuns at Lacock and want to know where the original abbey once stood. We wanted to come up with a way to make it more interesting for both young and old audiences to find out about the medieval history of our special place. We have created two different maps, one for adults and one for children, which they can take around the cloisters on a discovery walk.” explains Karen Bolger, Visitor Services Manager at Lacock. The maps are available on the entrance to the cloisters, with key facts, and fun and fascinating highlights. But that’s not all; more in-depth information panels are installed in the rooms and near important sites, such as the tombstone of Ela, Countess of Salisbury, who founded Lacock Abbey in 1232, for all those that just can’t get enough of Lacock’s history.

The wine cellar will be open to the public from Saturday 23 March (as per Abbey opening hours) and the new information panels will be on display from Wednesday 20 March 2013.

 For opening times please visit or call 01249 730 459.