Holidays – Part 2

It’s the second part of Rambler5319’s holiday adventures! Enjoy.

From Lacock Abbey I drove to my overnight stop in Melksham.

Here is the front door of the place.
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Certainly got a country-like feel, eh? My room was, across the small car park, in a converted block and the little name plate on my door said Fagin’s Den – hmmm. (I was wondering if at the evening meal I might meet Charley Bates, Bill Sikes or even Nancy.)
My room was the blue door on the left in the next pic; the other one was a separate bedroom.
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Dinner was a delight – really well cooked and presented. I spent the rest of the evening just relaxing and doing a bit of reading. Saturday morning dawned and it was time to get breakfast (full English, very nice), pack bags & set off back to Lacock to see the rest of the village as there were a number of interesting things which I hadn’t got round to yesterday. First stop was the Fox Talbot Museum – another National Trust place. (I was given a year’s membership as a birthday present this year and I certainly got my money’s worth out of it on this holiday alone as you will as things progress.)
Originally the museum building was used as stables for the Abbey back in the 16th century but it was converted in the 18th century to a stone barn; the museum opened in 1975. And probably like me you’ll be saying Fox who? Yep, I admit I’d never heard of him before but he was a very influential character in the early development of photography. His full name was William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-77). He was one of those guys who was very rich but used some of his money for research rather than simply buying loads of “stuff”. He invented a process (called calotype) which used paper with silver chloride on which then went dark according to how much light it was exposed to. And it took a long time for this process to produce an image – in fact about an hour or sometimes longer. Lots of story boards give the history and background to his innovative and groundbreaking work. There was also the inevitable dress up and take a picture (with your own camera) section with a selection of old clothes and some hats – so, after waiting for the previous folks to finish, I did that. Well, I put a hat on actually.
I was also surprised to learn that he, along with Sir Henry Rawlinson (sometimes called the “Father of Assyriology”), were the first people to translate Assyrian Cuneiform writing. Rawlinson has four volumes on cuneiform writing to his credit. Here’s an example of what the script, on a clay tablet, looked like.
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Next was the rest of the village. First stop – the tithe barn in East St.
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It dates from the 14th century and its roof was restored in 2007. For UK readers it was used in the BBC series called Cranford where a village dance took place. More recently in 2010 it was used as an ice house in the film The Wolfman (an American re-make of the 1941 werewolf horror film of the same name starring Lon Cheney & Béla Lugosi). In the film, set in the 1890s, there are characters with the following names: Ben Talbot (played by Simon Merrells), Lawrence Talbot the Wolfman (Benicio del Toro) & Sir John Talbot (Anthony Hopkins). So I’m wondering: they’re in a building right next door to the Fox Talbot Museum and the film has three characters with the name Talbot….. Now I think it’s time to cue the spooky X-Files music don’t you? And who was the male lead in that? Er… wasn’t it FOX Mulder? Too many co-incidences don’t you think?
At the bottom of East St is the village bakery and of course the delivery boy’s bike outside. I wonder when they last had someone who used the delivery bike to take orders to customers’ houses?
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A bit further on was King John’s Hunting Lodge advertising teas & accommodation. Now just in case you’re thinking perhaps King John visited the village it’s worth bearing in mind that there are King John’s Hunting Lodges all over England. Google has apparently 95,900 references to the name. Even though they won’t all be different that’s still an awful lot of King John’s Hunting Lodges isn’t it?
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And would you believe – another bike!
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Then I came to St. Cyriac’s parish church and had a look round.
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Cyriac was tortured & then beheaded during the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian in 303AD: the reason being probably that, after Cyriac had exorcised a demon from Diocletian’s daughter, she and her mother Serena converted to Christianity. (Towards the end of his reign as emperor, Diocletian became ill and voluntarily abdicated. He retired to his palace situated on the Dalmatian coast (Croatia) which later became the foundation for the present day city of Split.) St Cyriac’s day is celebrated on 8th August and in 1899 when a hurricane hit Puerto Rico on that very day it was named Hurricane San Ciriaco after him.
The church was originally built in the 11th century by Edward of Salisbury & William of Eu. (Remember last week’s post where we learnt about the woman who was countess of Salisbury – Ela. The church had probably been there for about 100 years when she was born in 1187.) Over the years of course there have been a number of alterations and even re-buildings of various parts and in 1902 the chancel was remodelled as a memorial to Fox Talbot.
I saw this inscription on the wall of the south aisle
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The text reads: “Heare lyeth in this allye neere unto this place the bodie of Robert Hellier late one of His Majesties criers to the courts of the common pleas in Westminster who lived 63 yeares and deceased ye 9th of April Ano 1630.”
The etymology of the name “hellier” is interesting because it comes originally from the occupation of a slater or tiler of roofs but this guy is working in a completely different field. (Of course this is not unusual: how many people called Baker do you know who are actually working as bakers? Or called Butcher who are real butchers? Etc).
What is interesting is that the place where he worked – The Court of Common Pleas – actually came into being through the Magna Carta (1215, King John at Runnymede). This is the document imposed on King John by the barons who had rebelled against him. They wanted his powers to be limited & have their rights protected. It is the point in our history when the idea of “The Law of the Land” rather than of the king came into being. The king’s opinion could change depending on his mood and so his judgements might not have consistency we expect today from statutes enshrined in “The Law”. The court sat in a fixed location (Westminster Hall). This now became the place where actions between subjects of the realm could have their cases heard: in other words cases not involving the king were tried there. It lasted, in that form, for over 600 years until 1880 when it was merged with another body and became the High Court of Justice. Given the fact that this court was limited to just one location -Westminster Hall – I’m guessing Robert Hellier’s job was quite exclusive. Whether it was well paid or not I don’t know but, in 1660, Justices in this court got the same as Judges in the Court of the King’s Bench – £1,000/year. Now using one of those calculators for money it tells me that in 1630 when RH died that £1,000 would be worth close to £100,000 ($170,000) today. Wow that’s some salary! (I reckon I could scrape by on that for a year but it’s unlikely that I’ll be able to put it to the test!) I’m wondering how RH came to be buried at Lacock as it’s just over 100 miles from Westminster. Had he retired there or maybe was he was born there and taken back when he died?
Just across from the church is the pottery. I took a few pics but actually there is a YouTube clip of someone walking around this area of the village which shows it quite well; there’s some nice background music too. It starts off going past the church and shows the stonework of the buildings. It goes inside the pottery for a quick peek at some of the stuff on sale. After that it goes past King John’s Hunting Lodge (at 4:18) on the left and a bit further on past the bakery on the right (at 4:59) but unlike my photo no bike outside this time. It carries on down the street and you see some more of those really old buildings. (Btw if you ever visit the pottery ask the owner about his intriguing connection to a previous British prime minister. I won’t spoil the story by telling you who he is but it is a fascinating bit of genealogy.)

If you want to see a bit more of the village there is a Part 2 & Part 3 both on YouTube & done by the same person (pptaku).
A wander round a couple more streets and I came across the village primary school. On the wall facing on to the High St is a stone shield/crest. Underneath are the words: “Erected by W.H.F. Talbot Esq, 1824”.
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Btw the name Talbot comes from the German name Talabert meaning “bright valley”. The motto – which is not included in the stonework – but appears above the coat of arms for the family name of Talbot reads: Prest d’Accomplir. This means quite simply: “ready to accomplish” – and given all that Fox Talbot did I reckon he was spot on in being faithful to the family motto.
Time was moving on and I grabbed a quick cup of tea in the Red Lion and sat at an outside table enjoying the sun. Now like many buildings around Lacock this pub has its own “claims to fame”: the front of it was transformed into a shop for the BBC Cranford series and some of the pub’s own employees were used as extras in Emma & Pride and Prejudice. Then it was back to the car to drive the last 70 miles to Swanage, on the Dorset coast, and pick up the keys to the flat.

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