"..a bardy view!"

Lacock – A Wizard of a Place……

DSCF0583 Mrs Bardiness (the world renown historian on Tudor affairs) and I, were not aware prior to our short break in the village of Lacock that it had been used several times in the Harry Potter movies.

I'd heard that it had been used for Elizabeth Gaskell's Cranford by the BBC, as well as their production of Jane Austin's Pride and Prejudice.

We went primarily because it's a village owned by England's National Trust who have captured it in a time capsule.

There are no buildings here which are older than the 18th century. Many date back to the 15th century, and some as far back as the 13th. It was mentioned in the Domesday book of 1086, where it was recorded as having been both a Roman and Saxon settlement. Egads! You're in for a history lesson dear reader! Cranford_1_470x313

Lacock Abbey was founded by Ela, Duchess of Salisbury in 1232, who was also the ward of Richard the Lionheart. It was even the place where the first photographic negative was created by William Fox-Talbot in the 1820's, whose ancestors acquired the village through William Sharrington who purchased the abbey from Henry VIII after his dissolution of the monasteries.

Sharrington set about converting the abbey into a manor house, although much of the original features remain. (I'm writing on the hoof so bear with me!)

Lakock is 100 miles west of London in Wiltshire on the River Avon, and about 10 miles from the City of Bath in Somerset. Bath is renown the world over for its Roman Baths and famous Georgian architecture, but Lacock is a village which was little known until after 1946 when the last of the line bequeathed it to the Trust. Latterly film and television companies discovered it, and nowadays the village accommodates four filming events every year. DSCF0651

Yet surprisingly this is not a film set. Nor a fossilised village even though it is effectively frozen in time, but it is a living, thriving and working community of about 400 people with family shops and businesses that form it's life blood.

There are no ubiquitous yellow road lines or traffic signs, and the residents are not permitted to make external alterations to their buildings due to their graded listings, and any interior changes must be approved by the National Trust.

So don't think these residents are country bumkins – far from it. But they clearly value the uniqueness of their position, and indeed, outsiders who fancy living in it would go through a strict selection process.

The National Trust would only consider applications from people who have some historic or family connection with the village and be willing to be productive in the community. They certainly wouldn't entertain the second-home city dwellers looking for a holiday retreat. Which just goes to show money doesn't buy everything. DSCF0643

As a local remarked to me – it may seem idyllic, but everyone knows everyone and privacy or seclusion is a luxury which cannot be afforded. When the film crews are present they have to suffer a great deal of inconvenience because invariably their properties will have cameras and lighting outside their homes until the early hours, and their movements are severely restricted.

In addition the village receives thousands of tourists from all over the world almost every day, and yet it seems very happy and accommodating. For all that, there is an incredible calmness and slow pace, and the locals know that hassle or not, they wouldn't give any of it up. Their children are encouraged to grow up in it, and to that end there is a primary school, and the older ones only have to travel three miles to Chippenham to get their senior education.

Families here are very fortunate for they live in a microcosm of history, embraced by the modern world which is theirs to utilise with ease, and yes…wifi is easily available! This is not a world akin to the secular Amish or Mennonite communities of North America with all their hang-ups – nothing could be further. These people are just regular Brits. DSCF0653

You'd be forgiven for thinking, when walking around Lacock on a late summer evening, that you have been transported back in time. It's a time when the day-visitors have gone, and the village recovers itself. It's a time when the streets become quiet and the only sound is birdsong or the occasional trot of horses hooves on cobbles. Somewhere, in the local inns, people are eating and drinking, but they fade away unnoticed and unheard. 

Residents sell plants, herbs, books and handmade items outside their homes. Just drop a pound through their letter-box. They even provide carrier bags. It's just a sideline. Not Amazon – but Avonon!

Sadly, things are going to change in Lacock. An employee of the Hotel we stayed in remarked that the yellow lines and parking signs are coming soon. Apparently all avenues have been considered, all options analysed, but over recent years they have failed. Many of the ever increasing flux of visitors which arrive are not willing to use the designated car-park outside the village, and drive with impunity throughout it in the belief that their car can take them anywhere. A village with no visible parking restrictions is an open invitation for a driver to abuse. Lacock's charm is it's lack of traffic and that is slowly being eroded.

The residents don't want the yellow lines on the road. They don't want the sign posts, but the times have dictated them. The parking cones which are dotted around are not working, and blight the scenery, so it's the lesser of two evils. This will change the village – the 21st Century has finally arrived – if not the 20th! DSCF0650

Nevertheless, I suspect that after all said and done, it will protect the village further, and the film crews will just have to work harder and cover up the signage when they are present.

If they can cover the abbey with fake snow for Harry Potter and transform it into Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry, they can do anything.

Lacock is a village where the history of England can be measured by each footstep. (The cauldron above dates from the 13th Century – it's not a facsimile!)

From the Roman Invasion of Britannia, through Saxon times, through the Plantagenets and Tudors, to the English Civil war with the Stuarts and Oliver Cromwell, to the Restoration, the Industrial Revolution and right up to the invention of photography. Now that's magic!


July 4, 2011 - Posted by | Conservation, Culture, Education, Film, General, History, Photography, Religion, Science, Travel, United Kingdom | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. It sounds splendid and a journey back through time. How sad about the yellow lines and the traffic. I wouldn’t be for this one jot.


    Comment by Spook Moor | July 5, 2011 | Reply

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