Ian Weekley

Master builder of model castles
Click to follow

Ian Ross Weekley, artist and modeller: born London 14 May 1932; married 1957 Anthea Ionides (one son, two daughters; marriage dissolved 1969), 1969 Rosemary Turner (née Mason; four stepsons, two stepdaughters); died Ipswich 21 December 2005.

Ian Weekley was a master modeller, building hand-made model buildings and castles for collectors and museums. His business "Battlements" was very successful, not least with the growing "War Games" hobby, and established him as the leading exponent of his craft in the modelling world.

Between 1980 and 1992, he was involved in several high-profile projects. For Harrods, the London store, he constructed a model of Glamis Castle to be displayed in their corner window in honour of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother's 80th birthday. Harrods later gave the model to the Queen Mother and, after a short time at Clarence House, it went north to Glamis and is exhibited in the muniment room there. Other models included Cawdor Castle for the Earl of Cawdor, Scone Palace for the Countess of Mansfield and Warwick Castle for Madame Tussaud's.

Ian Ross Weekley was born in Chiswick, London, in 1932 into an artistic and academic family. His father, Montague Weekley, was on the staff of the V & A and became Curator of the Bethnal Green Museum (now the Museum of Childhood). Monty Weekley was responsible for putting the museum back on its feet again after the Second World War and was also a biographer of Thomas Bewick, the wood engraver. Ian's mother, Vera Ross, was a landscape and figure painter of great ability who had studied at the Slade School of Art under the triumvirate of Wilson Steer, Henry Tonks and Randolph Schwabe. She shared a studio, at one time, with Rex Whistler, and designed posters for London Transport. Her work is represented in the V & A.

Ian's grandfather Professor Ernest Weekley, Professor of French at University College, Nottingham, was a leading philologist of the 20th century, writing many popular books on the origin of words. He had married Frieda von Richthofen, daughter of a branch of the Silesian family which also produced Manfred von Richthofen (the "Red Baron"), the scourge of the Royal Flying Corps in the First World War. After bearing three children to Professor Weekley, Frieda met and then eloped with the writer D.H. Lawrence. (They married two years later, in 1914. Monty was 14, and didn't see his mother again for 25 years.) Ian was to meet some of his German cousins when, as a second lieutenant, he was doing his National Service and serving with the Rhine Army in Germany. He only met his grandmother once, when she came from New Mexico to stay for a fortnight in 1953. "I was immensely proud to be seen with her," he remembered. "I thought she was a breath of fresh air."

It was somehow inevitable that he would train as an artist. His first enthusiasm was for theatre design but, in fact, he studied printmaking and illustration at the Sir John Cass School of Art and later, when he came out of the Army, in 1955, he did a postgraduate year at the Central School of Arts & Crafts (now Central Saint Martins), where he studied illustration under Keith Vaughan. He had always shown an interest in military history and the impedimenta of warfare and would frequent the Tower of London and the Wallace Collection to draw weapons and armour.

His first job after leaving the Central was at Luton Art School, where he taught printmaking. Later he became Head of the Graphics Department at Great Yarmouth School of Art. In 1975, feeling he needed a change from teaching, he and his second wife, Rosemary, went to Jeddah, where he ran the in-house Graphics Studio for Saudi Arabian Airlines. The appeal of Islamic architecture was not lost on him and he brought back carved redwood panels and old daggers which were to adorn his homes later in East Anglia.

On his return, he started his own business, making model castles for children, in 1980 winning the first Polka Award of the Toymakers Guild for one of these. Later, on his moving to a substantial house with a proper office and workshop, "Battlements" was born.

When, due to increasing ill-health, Weekley retired from the "one-off" model world in 1991, he designed and built up a range of plastic architectural features for the wargamers (or diorama builders) offering an appeal to a wider and less expensive market, extending as far as the United States and Australia. He also used his skill as a painter to create the sets for over 30 dioramas in the Militarium which the Marquess of Cholmondeley opened at Houghton Hall, Norfolk.

Ian Weekley was the author of a book for Batsford, Buildings for the Military Modeller (1989), and he wrote regularly for the various hobby magazines - both popular DIY articles on the buildings he made and features constituting photographs and drawings of the very large subject matter he created for Wargamers Worldwide.

Personally, he was generous and hospitable - a larger-than-life character and a man of great charm and wit.

John Lawrence