Community ID
Alternate Names
S. Mary and S. Bernard; S. Mary;
Medieval Location
Between the village of Lacock and the Avon river in a meadow called Snaylesmeade.
Modern Location
Corporate Status
S. Mary and Bernard
Date Founded
1229 (buildings in Snaylesmead meadow completed in 1285); (1231 or 1232, first nuns)
Date Terminated
Religious Order
Augustinian as of 1230
first rule: Augustinian
Foundation Information

Founded by Isabella or Ela, countess of Salisbury, with the donation of her manor and church in Lacock for the female community to be called "Locus beate Marie." She intended that it be a Cistercian house, but it is uncertain as to whether the order was ever Cistercian, or remained Augustinian, as it was in 1230.

First Members

Countess Isabella (Ela), the founder, was a nun, then became prioress (after the death of Wymarca in 1239?), then later became the first abbess when the priory became an abbey.

Notable Heads

First Prioress: Wymarca (1229-1239); Prioress Isabella 1239-1257 (later became an Abbess). Later abbesses: Beatrice of Kent (chosen by Isabella); Alice (first elected abbess); Juliana; Agnes of St. Croix.

Notable Members/Residents/Guests

Eleanor de Montfort, a minor in the custody of Abbess Elena de Montfort (1426).

Population Counts

There were 15 in 1230; 22 in 1395; 17 in 1445; 14 in 1473. The abbess and 18 nuns were granted pensions after the surrender of the house.

Other Ecclesiastical Relations

Confessor was the Bishop of Salisbury.


Visitation by bishop of Salisbury, 14th-15th century (Bishop of Salisbury was able to and did nominate novices during this period); visitation by the Archbishop 1332; and in 1392, 1450 & 1518 there were visitations by the Augustinian chapter.


Family of the founder (Isabella, countess of Salisbury); Duke of Lancaster; Edward the Black Prince; John of Gaunt; King Henry III (royal donations in 1246, 1247 and 1264); King Edward I (donation in 1285 to aid a building project); Humphrey d'Bohun, earl of Herfordshire & Essex (c. 1274); John of Ripariis (13th c.); John of Bluet (donated the Lady chapel); Constance of Legh; Amice, countess of Devonshire (c. 1261); daughter and granddaughters of the founder; Marg of Lacy, countess of Lincolnshire (1309).

Social Characteristics

Before 1300, the house was made up of members of noble or feudal families, but in later years it included local aristocracy and the upper echelons of the middle classes.

Relative Wealth

Considered wealthy until its supression (valued at 101 pounds in 1291). Assets totaled 194 pounds at the time of its supression.


Lands, quarry, fishery, 2000 sheep (with grazing rights as of 1476), fulling mill, wealthy to termination date. Henry III granted the community 40 acres of forest (Thompson, 171).


Rents and revenues from markets (held in 1242 & 1260), as well as from Lacock fairs (held in 1237 and 1257), also enjoyed local jurisdicion (collected court fees?), and controlled the town's wool trade. In 1535 the net income of Lacock was over 168 pounds.


Fed the local poor, especially during Lent, Maundy Thursday, and All Souls. Donated at least 9 pounds to the poor the year of its termination.


[1] 13th/14th c.: actions against the Bluet regarding the ownership of the chapter house and water rights; [2] 14th/15th c.: court actions to resist royal intrusions.

Early Documents

Document 1: 1229 foundation/donation charter from countess of Salisbury - full text available at;
Document 2: confirmation charter, issued by Henry III

Art & Artifacts

13th-century seal with an impression that is possibly an image of the founder, Countess Isabella.

State Of Medieval Structure

Remains exist of the chapter house wall (13th c.), cloister and vault (15th c.), doors (13th c.), sacristy and warming rooms.

Manuscript Sources

[1]Public Records Office, E40/9350.
[2]British Library Cotton MS Vitellius A. viii, fo. 127.
[3]Report of Materials at Lacock

Published Primary Sources

John of Gaunt's Register, [Part I, 1371-1375]
Earliest Charters of the Abbey of Lacock;

[3] Bliss, Willian Henry and J.A. Temlow (editors) Calendar of entries in the Papal Registers relating to Great Britain and Ireland: Papal Letters (1198-1492)1 14 vols. (London: H.M.S.O., 1893-1960).

[4] Lacock Abbey Charters

[5] Somerset Medieval Wills, with some Somerset wills preserved at Lambeth

Miscellaneous Information

Isabella (Ela), Countess of Salisbury was able to obtain a grant of confraternity with the Cistercians, granted because of the great devotion which she had for the order (Thompson, 112).

Manuscripts Produced

Community owned manuscripts, including annals, psalters, Anglo-French poems, cartularies, account books, and a copy of the Rule in French. However, none of these survive.

Conversi/ae and servants

Yes. At one point (exact date uncertain) in the 13th c., there were 20 novices, 4 chaplains, and 38 servants, 9 of whom were women.

Admin. Notes


WRL Project
Date Started
Date Finished