Lacock Abbey was founded in 1232 by Ela, Countess of Salisbury. There had previously been a manor and small village of Lacock: the Domesday survey of 1086 mentions a settlement in Lacock of a similar size to that of neighbouring Lackham.
The Abbey continued to be a religious house, accommodating Augustinian nuns, until it was suppressed by Henry VIII in 1539. It was then purchased from the Crown by Sir William Sharington, who set about transforming the abbey into a family home.
The abbey and estate passed eventually to the descendants of William Sharington's brother Sir Henry Sharington, whose daughter Olive inherited Lacock and various other estates; her grandson Sharington Talbot inherited those estates on her death in 1646. Thereafter, the Lacock estate was owned by the same family until 1944.
Very few changes were made to the abbey itself until the middle of the 18th century, when John Ivory Talbot decided to rebuild the front of the abbey in a gothic style and altered the Great Hall. Most of that work still survives today and is interesting to see alongside the older nunnery parts of the abbey.
The abbey was presented to the National Trust by Matilda Theresa Talbot in 1944, and has remained in the Trust's ownership ever since. The National Trust also own the village of Lacock, but most of the tenant farms were sold by Miss Talbot to the farmers when she gave the rest of the estate to the Trust.