Warhorse painting made real for book fans in Iddesleigh

Image caption The new painting of Joey the horse is hung above a clock saying 10:01 as in the book

A Devon village has bowed to pressure from visitors round the world who flock there to see a fictional painting made famous in the book Warhorse.

The book, which has been turned into a film by Steven Spielberg, tells of a painting of a horse hung in Iddesleigh village hall.

But fans of the book by Michael Morpurgo have been disappointed to find the painting did not exist.

Now visitors can see a new painting, commissioned by Mr Morpurgo.

In the introduction to the book, Mr Morpurgo conjured up an image of a village hall where a clock always stood at 10:01 and a small dusty painting of a horse called Joey hung on the wall.

But his friend Joan Weeks, who lives next door to the hall, was inundated with requests from people wanting to see the painting.

So Mr Morpurgo commissioned an oil painting which has now been hung in the village hall.

Below the painting is also a clock showing the time at 10:01.

Mr Morpurgo said: "Now it is exactly how it is described in the book, everybody has bought into the joke of it, the fun of it, and I do think it is quite interesting for people."

The painting is by Ali Bannister, an artist on the film set.

Retired Mrs Weeks said she had not enjoyed seeing visitors being disappointed.

She said: "I had to say 'it's not there I'm afraid' or 'we've taken it down for cleaning' to make up for the fact that there was no picture up in the hall.

"People have travelled so many miles to see the horse. Some of them have children and they have been really dejected when they found it was not there."

Mrs Weeks is the daughter-in-law of Albert Weeks who gave Mr Morpurgo the idea for the book while the pair were talking in the village pub.

Mr Weeks, who died in 1996, talked about his experiences of World War I and the book tells the story of a horse's journey from a Devon farm to the battlefields in France.

The book has also been turned into a play at the National Theatre in London.

Mrs Weeks is now braced for more visitors, but said she was happy to continue opening the hall to them.

"I don't mind at all, it's very nice to meet these people.

"The new painting is make-believe, but I don't think people will care. To have it there now is wonderful."

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