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Lacock Abbey is a country house near to Chippenham in rural Wiltshire. Notably, it might be considered home to modern photography. It was here at his Lacock Abbey home, that British photography pioneer William Henry Fox Talbot developed a process for making photographic prints from negatives. At the time this was a comparatively huge advantage over the rival French, daguerreotype, process.
Louis Daguerre and Nicéphore Niépce invented the daguerreotype photographic process. The process produced a single daguerreotype rather than a negative. In contrast to modern film photography, the process made the production of several copy images from one single shot difficult. Around the same time, British chemist Henry Fox Talbot was experimenting with his new salt paper and calotype, negative / positive process. At Lacock Abbey, Fox Talbot developed his Fox Talbot process and the three primary elements of photography: developing, fixing and printing. He received a medal from the Royal Society for his work. He went on to write ‘The Pencil of Nature‘ a book detailing the new process developed by Henry Fox Talbot.
Today, Lacock Abbey is home to the Fox Talbot Museum which the National Trust manage. The National Trust have put together some great exhibits to explain why the process developed at Lacock Abbey was so important. There is a whole host of information from early photography processes to how Henry Fox Talbot came to develop his negative / positive photographic process. In fact you can go to the same window where Mr Fox Talbot took one of the first ever photographs and make your own image. Even if you are not interested in Lacock Abbey as the birthplace of modern photography, it is a lovely place to visit for a walk. You can explore the grounds of the country house which is packed with over 800 years of history. Additionally, Lacock Abbey plays host to Royal Photographic Society workshops.
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Updated: 16-April-2018. Original version: September 2015.