Wednesday, January 31, 2018

St Mary's, Ickworth - inspiration for the Weeping Angels

Last summer, then big chief of Doctor Who, Steven Moffat, explained to me his inspiration for the most successful of his monsters, the Weeping Angels:
"We were at a hotel in Dorset and there was a graveyard next to the hotel. The church was closed down and the graveyard gates were all chained up with a big sign saying, 'Unsafe structure.' That seemed really frightening. I went over and looked inside, and saw all these leaning gravestones and one lamenting, weeping angel. I thought that was really creepy and strange, and wondered if that was the unsafe structure. So a few years later I wrote it up as [2007 episode] Blink, including the chained-up gate which we had at the very beginning." [From my interview with Steven Moffat
In September, Marcus Hearn at Doctor Who Magazine asked me to write something about Blink for a new special issue, The Essential Doctor Who - Time Travel, published in November. I asked Steven to confirm the hotel he'd stayed in all those years ago, so I could track down that church. It turned out not be to be in Dorset after all. He directed me to the Ickworth Hotel in Suffolk, and said the abandoned church was right next to it.

John Porter, director of the Ickworth Church Conservation Trust, invited me to come see for myself. It was a 180-mile round trip, and I chose to visit the same day as a Wood Fair in the surrounding National Trust grounds, which made it a little crowded and busy. But the church was easy to find and John kindly gave me a tour. These are some of the pictures I took:

As I wrote in my piece:
"Sadly, there’s no lamenting angel statue in the churchyard today. Gargoyles stretch out from the top of the church tower, and some of the graves are carved with cherubs – like those seen in Steven’s 2012 episode The Angels Take Manhattan – or skulls. Stacked neatly against one wall, a broken-off stone crucifix and other pieces suggest that some monuments did not survive the period of neglect.
Though John hadn’t heard of there being an angel statue in the churchyard, he admits that doesn’t mean there wasn’t one. He shows me the church’s impressive eighteenth-century chancel boards and explains they were saved at the last moment from a skip. “Who knows what was thrown away?” he says. Perhaps the original weeping angel wasn’t thought worthy of salvation."
Steven had also been back to the church since creating the Weeping Angels. As he told me,
"It was gone – oh no! Now, there are two possible explanations. One is that Weeping Angels are real and we're all doomed – unless a moth sees them. Or, I misremembered and in my fake memory created the Weeping Angel in that graveyard."
See also:

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