The manor houses of Lackham 1050-1949 (part 1)
Introduction and illustrations
In 2003 I made a much briefer, and wholly inadequate, attempt to detail the development of the main buildings and drives at Lackham. By 2009 the first edition of this version was made possible because much more information has come to light. Some of this had been published in various places but it seemed a good idea to publish a new version - to tell the story of the Lackham Houses in much more detail than has previously been possible. It was hoped then that even more maps, photographs and pictures would be discovered and this has been the case. This second edition includes even more new information, particularly from the period of HB Caldwell and George Llewellyn Palmer, and even more illustrations.
(Tony Pratt, Lackham historian, 2011)
There are records for the manor of Lackham that go back to Saxon times, when it was part of Aelfstan’s lands (1). One of the richest of the Wiltshire thegns, Aelfstan of Boscombe, held over 200 hides in eight shires, of which nearly 80 lay in Wiltshire. Aelfstan enjoyed the King’s favour [Edward the Confessor] from the beginning of the reign (2).
After the Norman Conquest Aelfstan’s lands were given to William d’Eu (3) who entertained King William I and “A large gathering of the leading magnates at his Manor of Lackham” (4).
The old manor house has been described as:
"deserv[ing] a passing mention. It exhibited specimens of various periods from the Norman downwards, and presented an appearance of rude grandeur rather than the beauty of regular architectural proportion. It stood completely embosomed in woods. The great hall was hung with armour" (5).
It is noteworthy that the phrase “completely embosomed in woods” appears in both the article by Kite and this one. Neither is the source, however – it first appears in an article by George Montagu’s daughter Louisa (6), where she discussed her memories of the old house (7). These are probably valid, though she could not have written them from clear personal recollection because she was only a small child when the old house existed the article by Kite and this one (8).
The exact location of the old house had been lost for many years but Earthwork and probing surveys indicated the likely site, and various geophysical survey methods supported this. In late September 2001 an exploratory trench was put in by a team led by Tim Robey and Mike Stone+ (9). This dig located the rear wall of the house, and more were found in the excavation that followed in April/May and August 2002 (10). It would seem that this house dates from the mid-14th century, as no Saxon or Norman remains were found. It may be that the original Saxon and Norman manor house might be located some 200 meters south, close to the Ponds that are east of the Back Drive and Home Farm. This remains to be seen.
The house located in 2001 is almost certainly that which is shown in seventeenth and eighteenth century records.
Illustrations of the house
Of the few illustrations of the old house the earliest is dated 1684.
The original is found in Dingley’s History from Marble, which is held in the Bodleian Library. The Camden Society produced a facsimile in 1869, which is faithful to the original (11). Fig. 1 is not the original, however, but a reproduction by the author of a sketch by Edward Kite (12).
Fig.1 Lackham House 1684
There are a number of versions of this illustration in existence. Some of the differences between the original and the illustration in Kite’s article are important as they affect interpretation. For example, Kite puts bushes at the western end of the building to the south of the curtilage wall. In the article the engraver missed an entire roof ridge. This omission has serious implications for anyone trying to work out the house floor plan from the published illustration.
There is also a watercolour by Canon Jackson (in his papers at the Society of Antiquaries) but this follows the published article, not Kite’s or Dingley’s originals.
The only other illustration of the early house is an engraving by Kite that reproduces an illustration made in August 1790 by Grimm. This is a sketch in one of the many volumes of superb illustrations compiled by him in the late eighteenth century. They are now held in the British library (14).
It is clear from this, and the earlier illustration, that the porch formed a major feature, the “shield on the gable is…carved with the arms of Bluet and Baynard” (15). The Bluet arms are on the front (western) side:
Fig.2 Arms of the Bluet family. After Buckeridge (1995) (16)
and the Baynard arms are clearly visible facing south.
Fig. 3 Arms of the Baynard family (17)
There is a funeral hatchment almost covering the upstairs window in this sketch of James Montagu, buried at Lacock in 1790, which shows the arms of Montagu and Mortimer impaling the arms of his wife Eleanor, (Hedges and Gore). It is likely that the original was as large as indicated – in Kimbolton church (the family seat of the senior branch of the family) there are a half dozen funeral hatchments that are anything up to 6 feet across. The sketch was made only four months after James’ death, and it was common for such large shields to be placed on the bereaved house for anything up to a year afterwards.
These are the same arms as seen at the bottom of Fig.1. These arms can be seen on a monument in the Lackham Aisle in St. Cyriac’s, Lacock.
James Montagu (born 1714) had married Eleanor Hedges, the heiress to the nearby Alderton estate, in 1744 - three years before he inherited Lackham. Alderton came into the Montagu estates in 1751 upon the death of Eleanor’s father, William.
Fig.4 Arms of Montagu and Hedges from the memorial in St Cyriac’s, Lacock
The Hedges arms, on the right hand side of the shield, show the swan necks of the Hedges family, and the bulls heads of the Gores, the ancient owners of Alderton; the Hedges had inherited Alderton from the Gores in 1714 when that ancient line eventually failed (18).
A shield immediately above the door was clearly the combined Bluet / Baynard arms used by the Baynard family at Lackham. This carving may still exist and be the carving that is incorporated into the western wall of the current house.
It is by no means certain that this carving is the one shown on the front porch of the original house, but it seems likely; it has been provisionally dated to the Tudor period (19).
Fig. 5 Bluet / Baynard arms on Lackham House
This is not the only example of these arms, carved in stone and located prominently on a building; there are a number of references to the Lackham estate having owned land in Notton, for example Robert Baynard, and indeed one of the later Montagu owners was given as Edward of Notton. Until recently it was unclear whether Lackham owned any buildings at Notton. It was only in 2015 that the author (20) realised that on one of the original parts of the mostly Georgian Notton House another example of these arms can be found. The date for these arms is unknown but stylistically they seem similar to those on Lackham House, and the weathering is not inconsistent with a Tudor date or even earlier.
These arms however include the supporters for the Lackham Baynard line.
Fig.5b Baynard arms on Notton House (21)
Fig.5c Closeup of arms on Notton House (22)
Kite does not discuss the heraldic carving below the window of the solar, which is curious. It is clear that they are the Tudor Royal Arms: the only explanation for its presence would appear to be a claimed visit by Henry VIII’s visit 1535 (23).
There is an account of the old house, written by Louisa Crawford which refers to this visit, telling how “The Banqueting Hall.. memorable for its size, was newly floored with the antique oak of the estate in the reign of Henry VIII” (24).
Close by were the rooms
"occupied by that Bluebeard of husbands [which were] not much in request with the young folk of modern times and the old arched door, which conducted (as some rudely carved letters upon it instructed) to “King Henry's apartments" were rarely unclosed after night fall. In one of these chambers stood the antique carved bedstead on which the King reposed, the royal arms and those of the Lackham family were beautifully emblazoned on the dark polished oak at the head of the bed and the curious key which gave entrance to this room was presented by Col. Montagu to the British Museum. The late Col. Montagu always slept in the apartments when at Lackham" (26)
Until 2002 that was all that was known of the layout of the old house, but interleaved into the library copy of WAM III, in the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society (27) library at Devizes, there is an (undated) plan (28) entitled “Ground floor plan of Lackham House” (29).
Fig.6 Plan of medieval Lackham House (date unknown)
(redrawn by the author from the original, ref WANHS 1982.1863)
(below) It is a plan of the old house and as far as is known this is the first time this document has been discussed. It provides useful information on the layout of the old house.
There is no indication of orientation on the original plan, the compass rose in Fig.6 has been placed using the excavated features for alignment. Fig.6 is a plan redrawn from the original by the author (30).
The plan is to scale, and walls located in the excavations carried out so far confirm that it is accurate (31). For further information on the layout of the house it is necessary to turn to contemporary maps.
It is likely that the original house was a fairly simple building, but its imprint may be visible in the plan. The Great Hall was possibly the original (Fig.7a), with the building to the south (right) of the hall, with its undercroft and Solar. The Porch was possibly also present in this early house.
The rooms on either side, and the rear passage, may well have formed the next stage of development, they give a symmetrical balanced house (Fig.7b). It is stressed that Figs.7a and 7b are entirely speculative.
Fig.7a Possible early plan of Lackham House
Fig.7b Possible development of house by cross passage
To be continued!
1 Brocklebank, Rev GR (1968) The Heraldry of the Church of St Syriac in Lacock The Uffington Press p11.
2 Victoria County History of Wiltshire (hereafter VCH Wiltshire) II, p65
3 Thorn , F & Thorn, C (1979) Domesday Book : vol 6 Wiltshire Phillimore 0 85033 160 3 p71d
4 VCH Wiltshire II p101
5 Cunnington W (1852) Memoir of George Montagu WAM III p87
It is interesting that the phrase “completely embosomed in woods” appears in both appears in both the article by Kite and this one. This article is some 47 years earlier than Kite’s, so this is probably Kite’s source document
6 George Montagu (1753 – 18150), a famous naturalist, was a younger son of the owners of Lackham. For details of the life of this extraordinary man see Pratt, T (2003) Two Georgian Montagus Lackham Museum of Agriculture and Rural Life Trust also available online at
7 Crawford, L ( 1835) Autobiographical sketches connected with Laycock Abbey and Lackham House Metropolitan Magazine pp306-314
8 Blackmore, M (1965) in a letter written to Ms. TE Vernon, Lacock, dated 25 September 1965. Louisa Montagu was between 5 and 7 when the old house was demolished, see below.
I am indebted to Mr J Cleevely of South Moulton, Devon, for making me aware of the existence of this document, providing me with a copy and the many other instances when he freely shared the results of his painstaking researches.
9 + previously Manager and Curator, Chippenham Heritage Centre & Museum
10 I count myself very fortunate to have been actively involved in these Excavations
11 A copy of this edition was kindly made available to me in the Library of the Society of Antiquaries in London. My sincere thanks to the Society for allowing me access
12 Kite EJ (1899) Old Lackham House and its owners Wilts Notes & Queries, III, p2
13 Drawn by the author and based on the illustration held by Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society, Devizes. An online copy of Dingley can be found here.
14 British Library Additional MSS no. 15,547, dated August 1790
15 Kite EJ (1899) Old Lackham House and its owners Wilts Notes & Queries, III,
16 Buckeridge, D (1995) Church Heraldry in Wiltshire
Or, an eagle displayed gules, armed or
17 Sable, a fess between two chevrons Or
18 For the history of the Gore family and the manor of Alderton see Pratt, T (2004) The Manor of Alderton: Its owners and some historical connections. This can be viewed online here.
19 Tim Robey, pers. comm..
20 Assisted by Colleen McDuling whose help is gratefully acknowledged
21 Photographs 5b & 5c copyright © to C McDulling. My sincere thanks to her for allowing me to use her images
22 Photograph copyright to C McDulling
23 For a discussion on this alleged visit see Pratt, T (2008) “A brief note on King Henry VIII at Lackham, and why Sir Robert Baynard was unhappy with Thomas Cromwell”. A copy of this is held in the Wiltshire College Lackham library or can be found online here.
24 Crawford, Louisa (1835) Autobiographical sketches connected with Laycock Abbey and Lackham House Metropolitan Magazine vol unknown pp307-308
25 Louisa’s father
26 Crawford, L (1835) ibid pp307-308 interleaved in the Society’s copy of WAM III in the Library at Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society, Devizes p307
27 hereafter WANHS
28 WANHS 1982.1863
29 Thanks again to Mr. Cleevely for telling me about this document. I believe the author was the first to appreciate this is the old house, excitingly while taking part in the 2002 excavations
30 My thanks to Wiltshire Natural History and Archaeological Society for permission to refer to the original and to use it as the basis for this figure
31 This plan was not located until nearly the end of the second excavation in April/May 2002, the recovery of the walls in the excavation trenches was the result of experienced placement of the trenches by Mr. Robey and Mr. Stone, somewhat aided by the geophysical survey
“Tony Pratt has stated his right to be identified as the author of this work and he retains copyright to it wherever this does not conflict with other acknowledged copyrights”.