Lacock Abbey and Elizabeth Leighton

Now I may be stretching the St. John connection too far with this Good Gentlewoman, but I hope you will humour me.

When the monastic properties came on the market in the 1530s Sir William Sharington snapped up the Augustinian nunnery at Lacock, Wiltshire for the bargain price of £783. With the nuns expelled he set about a spot of DIY, demolishing the abbey church and building a courtyard in its place and converting the abbey into a family des res. Despite marrying three times he left no heirs so his younger brother Henry inherited the property.

Henry, who was knighted by Elizabeth I on a visit to Lacock in 1574, left his two surviving daughters, Olive and Grace, to squabble over their inheritance. The younger daughter Olive, already married to Sir John Talbot of Salwarpe in Worcestershire, ended up the victor. The couple named their eldest son Sharington [Sherrington] Talbot and following his father’s death in 1581 the four-year-old boy inherited the Salwarpe estate.

Moving on we arrive at Sherrington’s wife to be, Elizabeth Leighton, who was born in c1580 the eldest of three children. Her mother, Elizabeth Knollys, was a cousin of the Queen’s through their shared Boleyn ancestry and her father Sir Thomas Leighton was Governor of Guernsey. It is likely that like her sister Anne, Elizabeth grew up at court where their mother was a Gentlewoman of the Privy Chamber. (Now does all this sound familiar?)

Elizabeth married Sherrington at St. Mary le Strand, Westminster on July 20, 1598 and for at least ten years the couple and their growing family lived at Lacock Abbey. (Convenient for trips to Lydiard Tregoze?)

The Lacock property was eventually inherited by Elizabeth’s son Sharington Talbot the Younger. Like three of her nephews, Elizabeth’s sons were staunch Royalists, supporting Charles I in the Civil War. Lacock was seized by the Parliamentarians but later returned to the family following the Restoration of the Monarchy.

Have you made the dodgy St. John connection yet? Elizabeth Leighton was the sister of Anne Leighton who married John St. John First Baronet. Elizabeth had at least ten children and died in around 1633. The only surviving portrait of Elizabeth at Lacock Abbey reveals she doesn’t match up to our beautiful Anne.

Lacock Abbey has recently re-opened, although Covid restrictions still apply so check the National Trust website before you head off. On my visit this Spring Bank Holiday weekend the upper floor was closed, however, there is still more than enough to engage the visitor.