In the small village of Lacock in Wiltshire, sits the National Trust location, Lacock Abbey. Originally built in the 13th century as a nunnery, and turned into a private residence in the 16th century, Lacock Abbey has quite a history to it. In fact, it is considered the birthplace of photography, as William Henry Fox Talbot’s photographic negative of one of the abbey’s mullioned windows is considered the first of its kind.
All of that is cool and all, but none of those factoids are the reason for our visit to the abbey. Oh, no. We went out of our way to visit Lacock Abbey, because it was one of the original filming locations for the Harry Potter movies. Ooooh, yeeeeah! I got to walk the halls of Hogwarts!
As it is still mid-winter, a lot of the National Trust properties have a somewhat limited access. Some larger parks aren’t open until more of the flowers and foliage come in, and many of the buildings which are private residences don’t even open their doors to visitors until the fall. Luckily, Lacock Abbey’s grounds are open most of the year; the home itself however, was closed. We were kind of bummed to hear that the abbey wasn’t open to viewers, but we wandered around the grounds for a while, and found some pretty cool places to take some pictures.
Surrounding the abbey are acres and acres of fields, orchards, and gardens. Before we walked out towards the abbey, we first took a stroll through the garden, where we got some interesting shots of “the rockworks”, a neighboring church, and the property’s greenhouse. We actually met a sweet (and incredibly soft) little farm cat along our walk as well.
When we circled back around the garden, we stopped through some of the more authentic buildings, which have been kept up by the National Trust. In a courtyard adjacent to the main house, are the brewhouse and bakehouse. Though there wasn’t really anything set up in the bakehouse other than the alcove where the ovens once were, the brewhouse was a fair representation of how it most likely looked centuries ago.
One interesting little bit of detail I noticed when I was up in the loft over the bakehouse, was a window which looked out into the courtyard. On the masonry all around the window, there were dozens of graffitied names engraved into the stones, some of which were dated to the early 1800s! It makes me wonder who these people were. Were they staff members? Young nuns or monks? Or simply friends of the family who occupied the abbey at the time?
Once we were done perusing the outbuildings, we finally passed through a great stone archway, and circled around the far side of the abbey. When we were told the house was not open for viewing, I was disappointed and refused to get my hopes up, in case I didn’t actually get to walk through the halls of Hogwarts. But, when we turned the corner, we found signs which pointed the way to the cloisters, which were open to the public. These cloisters are the halls and rooms in which pieces of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone were filmed!
The first, and most obvious, bit of the cloisters which I recognized to be from the movie, were the halls themselves. Wrapped around three sides of the inner, grassy courtyard, these halls are where Harry, Ron, and Hermione are confronted by Professor Severus Snape, and he utters the line, “You ought to be more careful. People will think you’re… up to something.” (GAH! Fangirl scream!) I got to walk the same floors where Alan Rickman (May he rest in peace) once walked! Yeah, yeah, yeah. Dan, Emma, and Rupert were there too. But I think they would agree, that Mr. Rickman is the most geek-out inspiring of them all.
Once I had settled down enough and collected myself, we actually investigated the rooms which led off of the halls. This simply led to two more geek-outs. The first of which was a large cauldron in the center of what was actually the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and the other was the chamber in which Harry stares longingly into the Mirror of Erised at his deceased parents. Although I will admit it is quite difficult to see in the movie, Professor Quirrell actually stands right next to the towering cauldron as he holds up what appears to be a simple iguana when Professor McGonagall asks if she may “borrow Wood for a moment.” I know, there was a whole bunch of nerd that just fell onto this page, but I’m not embarrassed for knowing the Harry Potter movies line-for line. Nope. If there’s a word for how I feel about that, it’s got to be “Proud”.
Finally, the last scene, the one with Harry and the Mirror of Erised, was another tricky one to pick out. There were two neighboring rooms where it seemed that the scene could have been filmed. Surprisingly, it was actually Ian who spotted some small differences in the stone pillars in the scene and compared them to the pillars in the rooms. Through the magic of pre or post-production, the room was given gold detailing in the arched ceilings, and several bits of stonework in the walls and in the center of the room were edited or cropped out; but I was definitely standing in the room which housed the mirror that showed Harry his greatest desire, and helped him find the Philosopher’s Stone at the end of the film.
For our first Harry Potter location, I was pretty stoked to be able to check this one out. Lacock Abbey had a lot going for it, and we actually got a couple of souvenirs on the way out. In the National Trust gift shop, I found a magnet and another wooden postcard (like the one I got from Corfe Castle), but there was also an impressive variety of Harry Potter merchandise as well. One thing that I figured might come in handy on our trip, was the book Harry Potter On Location (Amazon). With a breakdown of the different regions of England, and then the specific locations in those regions where different parts of the movies were filmed, I knew I had to pick up a copy, to help us find the perfect places to check out on our Great British Tour.
Because we didn’t get to check out the rest of the village of Lacock (and I wouldn’t mind wandering the abbey and its cloisters again) we may stop through again when we have a few days off between house sits. The village of Lacock is actually almost entirely part of the National Trust (all except for four houses and one pub, we’ve been told), and there are actually a few more filming locations around the village as well! So, we may not have seen the last of Lacock Abbey, and I sure did have a great time checking it out the first time. Definitely a must see for any Potterheads who come to the UK for a visit! Stay tuned to this channel for more Harry Potter locations in the coming weeks! (Semi-Spoiler: We’ve already stopped by another, but it’s a couple of posts down the line! Sorry!)