Stories that inspired M.R. James

Twelve tales of terror recommended by the master of the genre!

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Episode 20 – Speaker Lenthall’s Tomb

Sir Lawrence Tanfield's Tomb in Burford ChurchIn this episode Mike and Will head up the road to Burford to take a peek inside Speaker Lenthall’s Tomb by M.R. James!

Yes, it is another unpublished M.R. James manuscript fragment this week. The most complete version of this story is available in ‘Curious Warning: The Great Stories of M.R. James’ edited by Stephen Jones.

Show notes

  • William Lenthall, 1591 – 1662 (Wikipedia)
    The real Speaker Lenthall was a politician during the English Civil War, famous for standing up for the rights of parliament before King Charles I. For more information see
  • Oxford Movement (wikipedia)
    This story is set against the backdrop of the work of the Oxford Movement, also known as the ‘Tractarians’, who agitated for religious change within the Church of England in the first half of the 19th century.
  • Gothic Revival (wikipedia)
    M.R. James once again uses this story to take a swipe at the followers of the gothic architectural revival, whose renovations of English churches during the 19th century resulted in the destruction of many historic church interiors.
  • Burford Church (
    The church that features in this story is St John the Baptist Church in Burford, West Oxfordshire. Check out the 360-degree view from the church tower, which gives a very nice view of the town as it looks today.
  • Tanfield Tomb (
    The tomb in this story is based on that of an ancestor of Speaker William Lenthall, Sir Lawrence Tanfield. Like the tomb in the story, it fills up most of the north choir aisle of Burford Church, and largely matches the stories description.
  • Burford Priory (wikipedia)
    In the story Mr Cave and his family live in what was originally Burford Priory, now a very fancy private residence. Also see this pdf for images of the Priory as it was at the time of this story.
    Those in the UK can also watch this episode of ‘Time Team’ on 4oD in which they excavate the remains of the priory hospital beneith the front lawn! And finally, how do you link Speaker Lenthall to the phone hacking scandal? Easy!
  • More photos on Facebook (
    To see photos taken by Will of Burford Church, the Tanfield/Lenthall tomb and of Burford Priory, head over to our Facebook page.

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