Lacock Abbey

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Lacock Abbey in the village of Lacock, Wiltshire, England, was founded in the early 13th century by Ela, Countess of Salisbury, as a nunnery of the Augustinian order.



Lacock Abbey, dedicated to St Mary and St Bernard, was founded in 1229 by the widowed Lady Ela the Countess of Salisbury, who laid the abbey's first stone 16 April 1232, in the reign of King Henry III, and to which she retired in 1238.[1] Her late husband had been William Longespee, an illegitimate son of King Henry II. The abbey was founded in Snail's Meadow, near the village of Lacock.[2] The first of the nuns were veiled in 1232.[3]

Generally, Lacock Abbey prospered throughout the Middle Ages. The rich farmlands which it had received from Ela ensured it a sizeable income from wool.[4]

Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the mid-16th century, Henry VIII of England sold it to Sir William Sharington, who converted it into a house starting in 1539, demolishing the abbey church. Few other alterations were made to the monastic buildings themselves: the cloisters, for example, still stand below the living accommodation. About 1550 Sir William added an octagonal tower containing two small banqueting chambers, one above the other; the lower one was reached through the main rooms, the upper one only accessible by a walk across the leads of the roof. In each is a central octagonal stone table carved with up-to-date Renaissance ornament.[5] A mid-16th century stone conduit house stands over the spring from which water was conducted to the house.[6] Further additions were made over the centuries, and the house now has various grand reception rooms.[4]

In the 16th and early 17th centuries, Nicholas Cooper has pointed out, bedchambers were often named for individuals who customarily inhabited them when staying at a house. At Lacock, as elsewhere, they were named for individuals "whose recognition in this way advertised the family's affinities": the best chamber was "the duke's chamber", probably signifying John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland, whom Sharington had served, while "Lady Thynne's chamber", identified it with the wife of Sir John Thynne of Longleat, and "Mr Mildmay's chamber" was reserved for Sharington's son-in-law Anthony Mildmay of Apethorpe in Northamptonshire.[7]

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