When the Tenth Doctor and Rose mistakenly landed in the Scottish Highlands in 1879 (instead of at an Ian Dury gig in Sheffield in 1979) they bumped into Queen Victoria and ended up spending the night at the nearby Torchwood Estate.
So began an adventure involving a werewolf and a group of warrior monks that ended with the formation of the Torchwood Institute.
But did you know that the Torchwood Estate is now (apparently) a tourist attraction and wedding venue and that its website details its history – and may just hold some clues to both the source of the alien threat faced by the Doctor and the origins of the name Torchwood.
VisitTorchwood.co.uk reveals that the house’s eccentric owner Sir George MacLeish was fascinated by science and folklore, and built the estate’s observatory.
The estate is named after the wood used to build the house’s great staircase, which local legend says came from a gallows that was struck by lightning (ie ‘torched wood’). However, modern analysis shows that it is from the tree amyris elemifera, also known as sea torchwood or smooth torchwood.
It was also Sir George who had the walls and doors of the house’s library varnished with viscum album, the oil of the mistletoe plant. The strange decision is described on the site as one of his many eccentricities but the Doctor discovered that the substance offered protection from the werewolf and that the room was in fact a trap for the creature, so it’s clear Sir George was actually a well informed and determined man.
The site references Queen Victoria’s visit and the death during her stay of Sir George’s heir Sir Robert. It does not reveal the cause of his demise at the hands (or rather claws) of the werewolf but does mention the local legend known as the Howling which is said to have involved the disappearance every generation of a young boy from the area, as well as regular attacks on livestock by some unknown beast.
The Doctor discovered that the curse of the werewolf was caused by an alien lifeform and the Torchwood Estate website details the falling to earth in 1540 of a strange burning ‘star’. It seems likely this was the arrival of the alien and also explains the origins of the warrior monks who vowed to combat the creature.
Who knew history could be so fascinating?