Wednesday 15th June. 1.30 PM – Waverley Abbey, Surrey. On location today in the ruins of the Cistercian Abbey which inspired Sir Walter Scott to write his ‘Waverley’ novels. After the blistering heat of the last two days in studios, today it’s overcast and cold – typically for us – but then there is little warmth in the scene we are about to shoot. For us this icon of the Dissolution is the meeting place for our catholic conspirators.
One of the most visible signs of the rise of Protestantism in Elizabethan England were the ruins of monasteries and chantries that dotted town and country. These Catholic institutions had been dissolved, their monks and priests ejected and their lands and buildings sold off by Henry VIII and his son Edward. In some cases the monastic churches, or at least parts of them, were saved and converted into Parish churches or Cathedrals but the majority were stripped of their valuable materials and either demolished or left to crumble. Waverley, away from other human settlements (as the Cistercians had intended) suffered this last fate, the slates, timbers and lead from the roofs being removed, the valuable worked stone hacked from the walls and the weather left to attack the stark rubble cores that remained.
Such a place, it’s Catholic beauty despoiled by the rise of a new faith, makes the perfect backdrop for our conspirators to meet. It represents the physical truth of what the Reformation meant to people such as Babington, Savage and Throckmorton. But this meeting will not go as intended. In a world of spies and informers not everything or everyone is what or who they seem. When these friends ride out this evening, one of their number will be missing.