The Reformation

The cloisters, Lacock Abbey

Lacock Abbey Cloister_530x433

The cloisters, Lacock Abbey
Engraving: from 'The Architectural Antiquities of Great Britain, Vol. II', J. Britton (1809)
Source: RIBA British Architectural Library

Originally, cloisters acted as the hub of an abbey, allowing access to all the main rooms of a monastic house. More than just a corridor, they were spaces used for a variety of functions - writing, reading, sewing, even washing. Full of life, their architecture was designed to accommodate this. Of considerable breadth and height, they were usually finely vaulted with many grotesque bosses, and well lit, with large traceried windows extending from floor to ceiling.

At Lacock the fine late fourteenth-century cloisters of the former Augustinian convent survive. The local limestone enabled the sharp linear forms to be easily carved in a style that we call Perpendicular. However, with the dissolution of the monasteries, Lacock was converted into a private house by Sir William Sharington. The church was demolished, the other spaces adapted, the daily movement of the community was lost.

It is this peculiar absence that Britton concentrates on in this fine engraving. Now the cloisters are a place of contemplation: to pace around in shelter, or a spot to read and question the passing of time.


About the online exhibition

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