Lacock, St Cyriac's Church
History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: 16th-century Sir William Sharington memorial
At the eastern end of what must be one of the most picturesque streets in England stands the medieval parish church of Lacock, dedicated to St Cyriac. It is possible that a late Saxon church stood on this spot but the present building is largely a product of the 15th century, with some earlier stonework.
Who was St Cyriac?
The dedication of Lacock's church is unusual in England. Cyriac was a three-year-old child executed by the Roman Governor of Cilicia in 313 AD for refusing to recant his Christian beliefs. Churches dedicated to Cyriac are common in Normandy, emphasising Lacock's strong links to the region in the aftermath of the Norman invasion.
We do know that a church was built here in the 11th century by a pair of Norman lords, William of Eu and Edward of Salisbury. Edward's great, great-granddaughter Ela, Countess of Salisbury, later founded Lacock Abbey, an Augustinian nunnery that was transformed into a Tudor mansion after the nunnery was suppressed by Henry VIII.
The Norman church was comprehensively rebuilt in the 15th century by local merchants made wealthy by the wool and cloth trade.
An octagonal tower was added in 1604 and a south annexe, dubbed 'The Cottage' was built shortly after. The annexe is a peculiar structure that looks more civil than ecclesiastical. It stands two storeys high, with an attic.
The chancel was rebuilt in 1777 and in the 19th century the Baynard Chapel was rebuilt with pews for the family and their estate workers.
The entire church was restored in 1861 by AW Blomfield, who swept away the galleries and organ loft, cut down the box pews, and broke up the ledger stones set into the floor. Finally, in 1902 the chancel was remodelled by Sir Harold Brakspear in honour of the photography pioneer William Henry Fox Talbot of Lacock Abbey.
You enter the church through a west porch, built in the late 15th century. The porch gives access to the base of the tower, built a century earlier.
Inside the church you will find the Victorian font, given to the church by the architect Sir Arthur Blomfield when he rebuilt it in 1861.
At the east end of the north aisle is a double squint. One opening allowed worshippers in the aisle to view the high altar while the other gave them a view of the Lady Chapel.
The Lady Chapel acted as the mortuary chapel for the Sharington family of Lacock Abbey and the Talbots who succeeded them. The chapel dates to the early years of the 15th century and boasts an exceptional vaulted ceiling which still has traces of medieval paint.
At the east end of the Lady Chapel is the ornate tomb of Sir William Sharington, who built the Tudor house of Lacock Abbey, incorporating the medieval nunnery cloisters.
The south transept (also known as the Lackham or Baynard Aisle) was the burial place for generations of the Lords of Lackham. Set into the floor is a beautifully-preserved memorial brass to Robert and Elizabeth Baynard, dated 1501. Beneath the wonderfully detailed brasses of the couple are smaller figures of their eighteen children, boys to the left and girls to the right.
The south aisle boasts some of the oldest memorials in the church. In the south-west corner is a memorial to the Awdry family. The aisle ceiling dates to 1619.
The churchyard boasts some exceptional 17th and 18th-century table tombs. Outside the east end of the chancel, protected by an iron railing, is the grave of Rear Admiral Charles Fielding (1780-1837). Fielding was the stepfather of William Henry Fox Talbot, the photography pioneer.
Don't spend time looking for Fox Talbot's grave; it is not here. Although many online guides to Lacock say that his grave can be found in the churchyard, it cannot. By the time Fox Talbot died in 1877 the churchyard was full and a new village cemetery was opened on West Street.
To find Fox Talbot's grave follow Church Street west from the churchyard. Turn left onto West Street when you hit the end of the street. Follow West Street past its junction with High Street and you will come to the new cemetery on your right. From the church to the cemetery is no more than 6-8 minutes stroll. You will find Fox Talbot's grave on the right of the main path.
A Royal Connection
In 2006 St Cyriac's hosted the wedding of Harry Lopes and Laura Parker Bowles, the daughter of the Duchess of Cornwall, who maintains a house at nearby Reybridge. Among the guests were the Duchess and her husband Prince Charles, Prince Harry, Prince William, and Kate Middleton.
St Cyriac's Church is located at the eastern end of Church Street immediately opposite Lacock Pottery. There is no dedicated parking. The best place to park is the official visitor car park on Hither way, run by the National Trust. A charge applies for non-members of the Trust.
About Lacock, St Cyriac's Church
Address: Church Street, Lacock, Wiltshire, England, SN15 2LB
Attraction Type: Historic Church
Location: At the eastern end of Church Street opposite Lacock Pottery. Easily reached on foot from the main visitor car park on Hther Way (National Trust).
Website: Lacock, St Cyriac's Church
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
NEARBY HISTORIC ATTRACTIONS
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low to exceptional) on historic interest
Lacock Tithe Barn - 0.1 miles (Historic Building)
Fox Talbot Museum - 0.1 miles (Museum)
Lacock Abbey - 0.2 miles (Historic House)
Corsham Almshouses - 2.9 miles (Historic Building)
Corsham, St Bartholomew's Church - 3 miles (Historic Church)
Bowood House and Gardens - 3.9 miles (Historic House)
Sheldon Manor - 3.9 miles (Historic House)
Corsham Court - 4.5 miles (Historic House)
Nearest Accommodation to Lacock, St Cyriac's Church: