If buildings could talk, the half-timbered, lime-washed houses of Lacock would have some serious bragging to do. Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson competed for Eric Bana’s affections in The Other Boleyn Girl amid the courtly rooms of the abbey, which also provided interiors of Hogwarts School in the Harry Potter films. Miss Matty and a gaggle of Cranford ladies peered out from the leaded windows of a house on the corner of Church Street, while Lizzy Bennett and siblings swooned over bonnets (and Red Coats) among the fictional shop fronts of Meryton in BBC’s Pride and Prejudice.
Location-spotting aside, the collage of medieval, Tudor and 18th-century architecture, clustered around a grid of four easily navigated streets, appeals in its own right. It’s particularly fun to visit during the abbey’s Easter egg hunt, and April’s scarecrow trail attracts huge crowds.
CAPTURED IN TIME
Perhaps most famous as the location of BBC’s Cranford, which portrayed a town on the cusp of change, today Lacock’s appeal lies in the very opposite – it represents a snapshot from the past, a village barely changed since photographic pioneer William Fox Talbot (who created the world’s first negative in the village) captured it in the 1800s.
Start by popping your head into the 14th-century tithe barn, on the corner of East Street and High Street. Originally used to collect the tenants’ tithes (a tenth of their produce paid in corn, hides and fleeces as rent to the abbey), it’s an impressive sight, with massive cruck beams rising above a beaten earth floor. Later, the barn became a market hall, and later still a place to store grain gathered from a threshing machine that stood in the doorway. Nowadays it presents a tempting set for film makers – recent flick Wolf Man saw it transformed into an ice house, when producers built a 7.5m (25ft) L-shaped wall of ice, and hung model bodies from the beam with medal hooks.
A hodgepotch of architectural styles, each building in the village is unique. Lacock prospered from a thriving wool trade in the Middle Ages and many of the houses were built with wide first-floor rooms to accommodate looms. Some even retain original horse passages, which allowed animals to be led to stabling in the backyard. Take time to peer through the window of the old post office on High Street, which only recently closed.
At the corner of West Street, see if you can spot Slughorn’s house from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and also Miss Matty’s house, from which the Cranford ladies eagerly watched the arrival of the new doctor. Further down Church Street, Lacock Bakery tempts customers in with the scent of freshly baked hot cross buns and pasties – the perfect way to refuel after an Easter egg hunt around the abbey.
The George Inn
4 West Street, Lacock SN15 2LH
This 14th-century pub features the old remains of a dogwheel, where a specially bred dog, called a Turnspit, helped to cook meat over a crackling fire.
The Sign of the Angel
Church Street, Lacock SN15 2LB
A horse passage leads into this cosy restaurant with winter log fires and a streamside garden. Upstairs in the hotel, doorways are low, floorboards creek and character abounds.
Fox Talbot Museum
Lacock Abbey, Lacock SN15 2LG
Dedicated to William Henry Fox Talbot, who invented the world’s first negative in 1835.