5 Suffolk locations that inspired famous Christmas ghost stories


This is a analog photo I took of the Gate House in the Suffolk village of Great Livermere. It wa

The Gate House in the Suffolk village of Great Livermere where M.R. James grew up. - Credit: citizenside.com

Everyone has their own Christmas traditions, and for some it is telling ghost stories.

Some of the most popular Christmas ghost stories were authored by Montague Rhodes (M.R.) James, a man who grew up in Suffolk and returned to the county on many occasions.

James was born in Kent in 1862, but was raised in Great Livermere, near Bury St Edmunds, where his father was rector at the local church.

He went on to become an academic and to write short, spooky stories.

The stories of M.R. James have never been out of print since they first appeared in 1904, and have been repeatedly adapted for Christmas TV.

This year, a new adaptation of his short story The Mezzotint aired on BBC 2 on Christmas Eve.

Simon Loxley, a graphic designer and longtime MR James fan, says James was inspired by the county's atmospheric landscapes and wild coastlines.

Most Read

In a new book called A Geography of Horror, Mr Loxley sets out the Suffolk locations that are the backdrop for the spooky tales in a "super.

Aldeburgh

In A Warning to the Curious M.R. James renames Aldeburgh as Seaburgh.

The disguised seaside resort town, which James knew well, plays host to an archaeologist who unearths an ancient Anglo-Saxon crown and is pursued by its ghostly guardians.

Features of the town that we know today, for instance The White Lion Hotel - known as The Bear in the story - are still visible, but other details of Aldeburgh such as the train station and several windmills have since vanished.

Felixstowe Ferry

The view from the plot of land in Ferry Road, Old Felixstowe Picture: RICHARD CORNWELL

The view across the landscape from Ferry Road in Old Felixstowe - Credit: RICHARD CORNWELL

Old Felixstowe and Felixstowe Ferry play host to one of M.R. James' best known stories Oh, Whistle and I'll Come to You, My Lad.

Again, the town has been renamed - as Burnstow this time - but, James wrote in his preface, "I had Felixstowe in mind".

The popular story has twice been adapted for TV by the BBC. However, despite the story being set in Suffolk the 1968 adaptation, called Whistle and I'll Come To You was filmed near Waxham in Norfolk.

Gt Livermere

M.R. James' childhood home features in the last work he ever published, called A Vignette.

The semiautobiographical story is set at the rectory in Great Livermere (now called Livermere Hall), where James grew up.

In the story, a boy becomes increasingly scared of the wood, called 'the plantation' next door for some unknown reason. The story is widely believed to have been based on a genuine experience of James' childhood.

Melton and Bredfield

Felixstowe again features under the pseudonym Burnstown in the story The Tractate Middoth.

But two more rural locations may also feature.

The story focuses on a mysterious black clad clergyman, who is covered in cobwebs, and his search for a book.

Part of the story is a chase from a country house in a village called Bretfield - thought to be Bredfield - and a train station, around three miles away - thought to be Melton. 

Thorpeness

Thorpeness village sign

Thorpeness village sign - Credit: CHARLOTTE BOND

Described only as being set "in Suffolk, near the coast", Mr Loxley believes the short story Rats is actually set in Thorpeness.

He argues that it is only here that a portion of road follows the coast, as James' describes in his story.

The short story is one of the few M.R. James stories that has not been adapted for TV.

For more information on Mr Loxley's book, click here.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter