Tuesday, October 19, 2010

LACOCK ABBEY - Oxford Class Excursion

Happily, the excursion for our English Country House class was to Lacock Abbey, the gorgeous village, museum, abbey, and estate located less than two hours from Oxford.

After parking, we walked into the village, which looked like most English villages, a bit of charm tucked here and there.

Rounded the corner and this vegetable garden said, "Good morning!" It is always a good sign when someone takes the time to stake their tomatoes in such a neat and tidy manner.

Next I noticed the gorgeous embellishments on simple buildings. And aren't those lace curtains pretty?

Look at those looming clouds heavy with rain!  We lucked out and not even a sprinkle (although a bit of rain is always a treat for me). 

Now we are following the curve of the street and this village is becoming even prettier. Worn out walls, hanging pots of white flowers against the gray stone, a bay window every so often.

Now I feel as if I'm in a movie. Does this look familiar to you?  It should if you've seen Pride and Prejudice, Emma, or Cranford, which of course you have. And there was also a bit filming here for two or three of the Harry Potter films.

I'm always tempted to peak over (or sneak through) a gate such as this.  I'm intrigued by the curve of the gates, the pillars, the casement windows, and that small window at the top of the roof (wonder what room is tucked behind that paned glass?)

Vines, lace curtains, pots stuffed with flowers, leaded windows, darkened sky, a bit of rumble in the distance.  I'm ready to leap into this picture, how about you?

This picture was taken just because I loved the clock embedded in the door--and it works!

Now we have left the village and have arrived at the Abbey itself.   Lacock Abbey started as a cloister of the Augustinian nunnery founded in 1232.  And then the ever charming King Henry VIII broke away from the Catholic Church leaving the monasteries and abbeys empty.  So, in 1540 this abbey was transformed into a country house adding rooms and such as owners came and went.

This Gothick arch signals the entrance to the grounds.

These architectural details have a feminine style that enhance the Abbey.  So often these English country houses are so over done that they appear weighed down.  This house has an uplifting look to it making it seem light and airy (remember, this is compared to other country houses, not your neighbor's house next door).

This is to the left of the above picture.There are three main styles at play at Lacock Abbey: medieval Gothic, Renaissance, and 18th-century Gothick.  That's what makes studying these grand houses great fun.

The front entrance.

William Henry Fox Talbot was one of the last famous owners of this estate.  He pioneered photography as art and in fact, Lacock Abbey is considered the birthplace of modern photography thanks to him.  My traveling partner and friend, Leslie, is a Talbot.  Truly, that is her maiden name, and her family is related to the Talbots. And her son, Michael, is studying photography, and her dad actually resembles Fox Talbot!  A coincidence?  I think not.

Those cut-out diamond shapes trimming the bottom of the oriel window are just right.  See, I did learn a few things by taking this class.

Matilda Talbot, the last of the Talbots to own Lacock Abbey, donated the abbey, village, and estate to the National Trust in 1944. A great number of family estates were donated to the National Trust during this time due to World War II. 

This is octagonal tower is called the Banqueting Tower where wines and sweetbreads would have been served.  And remember, don't confuse sweetbreads with yummy pastries.  Not even close.

A ribbed barrel ceiling in the Cloisters.  This is one of my favorite design styles.

Just another pretty Gothic leaded window.

If you look closely you will see "Miss Talbots" name front and center on this bell ringing device.  I envision my name on this contraption signaling to the servants my desire for tea and, "Oh, have you seen my book?  I've seemed to have misplaced it."

Another pretty window.

The Stable Court.

The South Gallery.  I took far more pictures of the exterior versus the interior due to the gorgeous architectural details.

So we say goodbye to Lacock Abbey and return to Oxford.

And now, it's tea time!  Leslie treated me to afternoon tea in the Drawing Room at The Randolph, the place for tea at Oxford.  It lived up to its hype.

At the table next to us was a friendly couple who ordered the same tea service that we had ordered.  They couldn't finish theirs saying they couldn't believe how much food it was and that they couldn't possibly eat it all. In fact they offered the remainder of theirs to us thinking we had just ordered tea.  Nope, we ordered the full-on service and of course, we finished ours.  We were just grateful they had left the dining room before they could see our nothing-but-the-crumbs on the three-tiered plates.

So, cheers to one of my favorite traveling partners, Leslie.  

And, cheers to you for indulging my trip excursions for the last gazillion posts!


  1. Thank you for sharing this amazing pictures! I am so happy to have seen them, they are exquisite.

  2. Ditto Willa.
    You brought such a huge smile to me seeing you two with your tea cups. Love it, love it, love it.
    Lovely scarf, you chic lady.

  3. I continue to be amazed by your adventures. Okay, and more than a little jealous. But you do such a lovely job of capturing them for those of us not lucky enough to tag along that I can hardly complain. :-)

  4. Your photos are delightful so please keep them coming.

  5. Willa: Thanks so much for stopping by!

    Tami: It was yummy lemon zinger tea. I'm glad it made you smile.

    Jennifer: Thank you, thank you.

    Mary: Thank you--it isn't hard to take pretty pictures in the English countryside!