Saturday, May 05, 2012

Get thee to a nunnery

Sarah and I headed to the lovely old Wiltshire village of Lacock today. It isn't too far away, about 20 minutes drive. But that's far enough for us to feel that we had a nice day out. Lacock is famous as the setting for various films and costume dramas, including the Harry Potter movies and BBC adaptations of Pride and Prejudice and Cranford.  

The village is full of character and olde-worlde charm. Original Tudor-style houses abound, some small and cottagey and others more grand and imposing. Quirky shops nestle on narrow streets. Lacock features a large tithe barn and part of the village is only accessible by car by traversing a ford. With all the recent rain, the stream was flowing rather fast today. You'd need a decent 4x4 to get across. 

We had a good pub lunch in the Carpenters Arms, wandered around the village a little more before heading for Lacock Abbey, a National Trust property. As the name suggests, the stately old pile was originally an Abbey of the Augustinian order. It became a manor house when Henry VIII abolished such institutions. 

William Henry Fox Talbot, who once owned the house, was a pioneer of photography, inventing the photographic negative. The Fox Talbot museum, located at the entrance to the Abbey grounds, is entirely devoted to photography. A fine exhibition of some of the photographs of Basil Pao, Michael Palin's travelling companion was worth a look. 

We've been round the Abbey itself many times, but since we last visited more of the property has been opened up to visitors. What used to be the entrance to the Abbey is now the exit, which confused us a bit. Trying to get in we made for the courtyard, which hosts a second hand bookshop. I snapped up The Lion Christian Poetry Collection, a 500-page hardback, containing over 700 poems, for only £3. 

The entrance to the house is now via the old Abbey cloisters, featured above. Once inside it was nice to have a nose around some of the rooms that were formerly off limits to the public. One of the rooms boasts a mini-grand piano, on top of which is a note inviting guests to ask a guide if they wish to play. A young lad of about 13-14 years of age stepped up to the piano and started playing what I think was one of the movements from Beethoven's Hammerklavier suite. The solemn and complex sound filled the large room. Amazing. 

Wandering around the old Augustinian Abbey made me think about the Reformation and its impact on our nation's life. According to B. B. Warfield, the Reformation was nothing less than the triumph of Augustine's doctrine of grace, 
But even so, it is Augustine who gave us the Reformation. For the Reformation, inwardly considered, was just the ultimate triumph of Augustine's doctrine of grace over Augustine's doctrine of the Church. (Warfield, Calvin and Augustine, P&R, p. 321-22).
A good day out.

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