William Henry Fox Talbot
William was born at Melbury House in Dorchester at his mother’s childhood home, the home of his grandfather the 2nd Earl of Ilchester. Although his father William Davenport Talbot owned Lacock Abbey, the family did not live there and it was leased to the Countess of Shrewsbury.
William’s father died only six months after his only son and heir to the estate was born, and left his mother with debts. He spent much of his childhood at the home of his aunt and uncle, Thomas Mansel Talbot and his mother’s sister Mary Lucy (nee Fox-Strangways), at Penrice. He attended Harrow School and studied at Trinity College Cambridge.
William did not live at the Abbey until 1828, but he owned it, with his mother as his legal guardian and his stepfather taking care of the affairs, from the time his father died.
There are several thousand letters written by and received by William Henry Fox Talbot available online, as well as some from the Lacock collection.
William was a pioneer of photography and his negative of the Oriel window at Lacock is thought to be the oldest in existence. He published several books and was keen on science, botany, art and politics. He served as MP for Chippenham from 1832-1835, and was High Sheriff of Wiltshire in 1840.
William died of heart disease in 1877 and is buried in the churchyard in the village of Lacock.