Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

What We Did Last Week: 7

On Saturday- another dull and dreepy day- we went to Lacock. You'll know it if you're a fan of BBC costume drama. They filmed Moll Flanders, Cranford and the definitive Pride and Prejudice here. Then there's the Abbey. That's where they filmed scenes from the first two Harry Potter movies.

But the place's greatest claim to fame is that it was the home of William Fox Talbot, one of the three founding fathers of photography. There was Niepce- who was the first to fix an image, Daguerre, who, building on Niepce's work, invented the beautiful dead-end that is the Daguerreotype and Fox Talbot who, working quite independently, discovered a method of fixing images that was much quicker than Niepce's and unlocked the potential of the photographic negative. As a photographer myself, I regard Lacock as holy ground.

Fox Talbot wasn't only a photographic pioneer, but a man with wide-ranging interests- scientific, literary and political. He was, for instance,  one of only two Englishmen in his generation who could read cuneiform. He makes me feel small.

There isn't a house in Lacock that's later than the 19th century, and most are older. The very oldest, now a tea room- where I had Wiltshire rarebit with plum chutney and Ailz had a sort of cinnamon teacake called a Lacock Lumb- claims to be King John's Hunting Lodge- and I see no reason to doubt it.

The abbey is a real abbey, more specifically a nunnery- with an intact monastic cloister and Tudor and 19th century gothick add-ons. It's a beautiful house. 

A Chinese bride in her wedding dress was being photographed in the cloisters by her husband who was also dressed in his wedding gear. They'd been married in Hong Kong and had travelled all the way to England, with their wedding clothes in their luggage, to pose for photographs in romantic locations. Isn't that sweet! 

After leaving Lacock we asked Jane the Sat-Nav to take us to see something prehistoric. First she took us to a farm track with no public right of way; then she took us to a roadside hedge we couldn't see over. Desperate to end the day on a high note I settled for the nearest church.  And here it is, St George's Preshote- a Victorian rebuild with a 15th century tower. Preshote is a contraction of Prestes Hotte- Priest's Hut.

It's a lonely church- down a narrow lane in a field beside the river. In the porch I found this fragment from the old church- a woman's head- and another medieval masterpiece. Medieval art is seriously undervalued, I think. We'll miss it when it's gone.


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