I visited the Wiltshire village of Lacock as part of a day tour from London that also featured visiting Bath and getting up close and personal with the sarsen pillars at Stonehenge. You may not have heard of Lacock but I can almost guarantee you have seen it, or part of it!
The village of Lacock is almost entirely owned by the English National Trust (a heritage organisation that protects historic buildings and landscapes), all but about six houses. The National Trust requires anyone who wants to live in Lacock to sign an agreement guaranteeing that no modern accoutrements such as TV aerials, telephone or electricity lines etc, shows from the front of houses.
This makes for an unspoilt English village of the sort that is perfect for gracing the lid of chocolate boxes. It also makes the village very popular with film makers. It also makes for a real mess of wires and things when you look around behind the houses!
Bits and pieces of a number of the Harry Potter movies have been filmed here. The Abbey was used to portray the cloisters of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry; Professor Slugworm’s house is here, as is the house where Harry Potter was born and where his parents met their end thanks to he who must not be named:
Our first stop in Lacock was The George Inn, which can boast being the first pub in England to be granted a license to sell liquor (in 1367). They do a good breakfast and some decent ales. The George (named after King George II) is also the proud owner of a dog wheel.
You could be forgiven for not guessing what this is. It is a contraption to turn meat on a spit in the great stone fireplace. In the wall behind the fire is the wheel – a bit like a giant hamster exercise wheel – where a dog was set to run and so turn the spit. Appallingly they used to put hot coals under the wheel to make sure the dog didn’t stop.
Other films to use Lacock as a location include An American Werewolf in London, the Cranford series based on the Elizabeth Gaskell novel, and a host of Jane Austen adaptions over the years. Perhaps the most famous Austen novel adaption to be filmed in Lacock was the 1995 Pride and Prejudice starring Colin Firth.
You can visit an elegantly-raftered 14th century tithe barn – where people brought their taxes in the form of hay or other produce – and the lovely St Cyriac’s Church, built in the Middle Ages. Or try a few minutes in the ‘Blindhouse’ an 18th century temporary lockup for citizens who had too much to drink of an evening:
So how did the National Trust end up owning Lacock and preserving it unspoilt to delight film location scouts everywhere? The Lacock estate was previously owned by Charles Henry Fox Talbot, a pioneer in the invention of photography. He left it to his niece, who gave it to the National Trust in 1944. The rest, as they say, is historical drama.
And finally, a real life famous once-resident of Lacock is Camilla Shand – perhaps the future queen of England. How many villages can boast that?
By Natasha von Geldern
Have you visited Lacock? What was your favourite building?