Saturday, 5 July 2014

Great Chalfield Manor And A Close Encounter With Fame, Followed By Lacock Abbey...

Determined to get the most out of out freshly-acquired National Trust Membership, M and I visited Great Chalfield Manor in Wiltshire on Thursday.

When we arrived, there was no sign of a National Trust Booth, so we strolled in, through what looked like a film set being painstakingly pieced together, straight into the beautiful 14th Century house.

We found a nice, bright, bubbly lady on the stairs amid all the clutter. She laughed when we said we'd just walked right in and were worried we might get arrested. Oh good, she said, I've always wanted to arrest someone. Let's go into the courtyard and I'll explain what's going on.

It turned out the house was pretending to be Austin Friars, Thomas Cromwell's London Abode from the time of Henry VIII, and the film crew were there readying the place for the arrival of.....wait for it......TV Boyfriend Number One Himself: Damien Lewis, who is playing Henry VIII in the BBC adaptation of Hilary Mantel's Booker Winner Wolf Hall which will be on our screens in 2015.

He's my wife's Fancy Man, M told the bubbly lady glumly, while I looked around eagerly, as if  expecting TVBF1 to pop out grinning from behind a fake stone lion.
Ooh, said bubbly lady, turning to me and laying a hand on my arm, he is rather lovely isn't he? But you really ought to see the man who's playing Cromwell, he is even more lovely. They spent a month here in April. She cast a critical eye over M who was looking fed up as all this was going on. You should be cast as an extra, she told him, you have the nose for it. At which point he straightened up considerably and grinned broadly. The grin got deeper and definably more smug when bubbly lady added that DL wasn't due until tomorrow.

We weren't allowed to take any pics inside, so I got some of the outside for you. Great Chalfield is a gorgeous place, unchanged in any of its external details since it was built in the 14th C. Like many of the houses we've seen this week, it stands on its own at the bottom of a quiet lane miles from anywhere, so it really isn't hard to feel the hand of history reaching back for you.......

Remember this view of the outer courtyard when you see it in the TV prog next year

The scaffolding is for the lighting
Old doorway into the church, parts of which date from the 13th Century

One of two Oriel Windows

One of the film crew nailing polystyrene stone lions on to pillars in the front courtyard (M had to wave one around to prove how strong he was). Watch out for these lions next year when the series comes out!
Chalfield was built during the Wars Of The Roses and would originally have had a wall around it to protect it
This is the gatehouse- it is a hundred years older than the current house and dates from the period when a much older fortified house stood on the site.

After all that excitement and Close Encounters Of The TVBF Kind, we headed over to Lacock, which is ten mins down the road.

The village also looks like something out of a film set, and the ancient Tithe Barn which stands in the middle of the village is simply the most beautiful of buildings, quite open to the public so you can wander round it to your heart's content.

The village was built in the 13th C as a planned settlement to house workers at the Abbey...

Imagine this without any cars.....

This sign tickled me.... I wonder what 'other public entertainment' refers to? The Mind Boggles (well, mine does anyway).

This is the older of the village's two Tithe Barns and it dates from the 14th C when it served as a market hall for the villagers.

The other tithe barn is younger and situated closer to the abbey and now houses the Fox Talbot photographic museum (the first ever photographic negative was taken in the grounds of Lacock Abbey by photography pioneer Fox Talbot). M reliably informs me that there are more photographs taken now in ten seconds than there were in the whole of the 1800s.

The Abbey was founded in the early 13th C by the Abbess of Salisbury and dissolved in 1539 by Henry VIII during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, at which point it was turned in to a Tudor Home.

I have been here before, and have to say I much prefer the old abbey bit than the tudor house bit, although the tudor brewery is fascinating and worth a look. As coincidence would have it, TVBF1 had also been filming at Lacock, although once again I missed him :-(

Inside the original Abbey

Tudor Brewery

Hops in the brewery

Smart Chairs in the house, with teasels on them to stop anyone putting their bums down and feet up. Simple but effective.


Ancient face detail on the end of a pillar

Hen Pecked stone- these indented grooves are so that plaster adheres to the stone. I learnt something new this week!

Ancient painting showing religious figures in the cloisters

I'm a Bit Fond of Old Doors and we saw lots of them this week . I am now All Topped Up For Ancient Doorways for a while...

Oh Look, another Ancient Door....This one leads into the brewery....

And another one, although this one is technically a bricked up arch. The curved stones set in to it are what remains of the old stairway the nuns used to use to get to and from night services.

See the stars on the ceiling....?

Lovely old wrought iron window latch
graffiti dating from 1853
Both Great Chalfield and Lacock are worth putting on your list of places to see if you haven't been before. They were beautiful and I really enjoyed wandering around them.

I'm deliberating going out on a glow worm hunt tonight, but I rather think sleep might overtake me. It seems the pace of visiting old houses is too much for me.....

Hope you're all having a lovely weekend,

CT x


  1. Love Lacock but Chalfield is a new one.. it looks well worth a visit. Glad you've had a good week x

    1. Definitely worth going to Chalfield, there are some lovely historic bits in it. It's had work done but sensitively and retains some lovely original features. Pretty gardens too. x

  2. What an exciting time you've had. I think ancient buildings are the best, they almost talk to us with their history. National Trust membership adds an extra incentive to get out and about too.

    Jean x

    1. You're so right about membership giving one a kick up the bum to go out exploring- we wouldn't have seen half the properties we've visited this week without it. It's been a complete treat x

  3. Lovely to see your photographs. It's nice to know about other National Trust properties, I will put it on our list. (I had to google Damien Lewis though)!

    1. There are so many lovely places to choose from and the weather made all the difference this week. M googled DL to show his father yesterday too! :-)

  4. Well congratulations for not mentioning Harry Potter in the same breath as Lacock Abbey - a rare feat these days. I met a Frenchman who told me he had just visited 'La Coq'. It took me a while to understand.

    I was once ankle deep in snow during the Summer at La Coq. Another fillum.

    1. Thank you kindly :-) It was hard to resist the temptation but somehow I managed it. I suspect Lacock will forever more be burnt into my head as La Coq (although as M pointed out I had written 'laycock' through the post, a combination of a tired brain and an unconscious draw towards double entendre).

  5. How fortunate you are to live with such history at your doorstep. Here, we think anything from the 18thc is old.

    1. We are lucky, and I do try not to take it for granted. Spending a week visiting old historic houses has been absolutely lovely :-)

  6. What a superb day out :) even if a really close encounter with TVBF wasn't to be!! :( Would love to visit those places. I keep telling my husband we ought to both visit NT properties more as we aren't getting value for our membership!!! Some lovely photos :)

    1. Much to M's relief- he would not be happy with too close an encounter :-)
      I think having the membership now will force us to make use of it and go and see more. Somehow you feel you have to! x


Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x