Following the Christmas Eve BBC TV airing of an adaptation of the classic M.R.James supernatural horror story The Mezzotint, here's my two pennyworth, starting with the fact the story revolves around the fates of two families: the Gawdy family and the Francis family.
About four miles along some wet and muddy country lanes from where I'm sitting writing this story is the Gawdy Hall Estate, just shy of the town of Harleston in South Norfolk. The hall was built in the mid-16th century by a local lawyer called Thomas Gawdy, who was married three times and had sons by each of these wives. These sons all went on become lawyers and, in a remarkable example of vanity, all three were christened Thomas. However upon his confirmation, the youngest Thomas Gawdy changed his first name to Francis.
Francis would subsequently go on to become the Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, one of the highest judicial appointments in the land, and in the course of a legal career that lasted over 50 years, he was involved in some of the most important State trials of that era. These included the trial of Mary, Queen of Scots, and the treason trials of Robert Devereux, the Earl of Essex, and Sit Walter Raleigh. On his deathbed Sir Francis Gawdy, as he by then was, apparently confessed that "the justice of England was never so depraved and injured as in the condemnation of Sir Walter Raleigh".
In his private affairs, Sir Francis was a less-than attractive personality, quarrelling with other branches of the Gawdy family and even defrauding his wife of some of her family property and estates. He died of a sudden attack of apoplexy in June 1606 however then began the farce of locating a suitable church or chapel in which he could be buried.
According to one contemporary commentator "having made his appropriate parish church a hay-house or dog-kennel, his dead corpse, being brought from London could for many days find no place of burial, but in the meantime growing very offensive by the contagious and ill savours that issued through the chinks of lead, not well soldered, he was at last carried to a poor church of a little village thereby called Runcton, and buried there without any ceremony".
This would have been Runcton near Kings Lynn in Norfolk. As for his dead corpse "growing very offensive", this is not altogether surprising as at least eight months elapsed between his death and his burial, apparently beneath flagstones in one of the church aisles.
No males heirs survived Sir Francis Gawdy and so his line became extinct.
We know M.R.J. was familiar with this part of East Anglia (in one of his travel guides he chronicles the sad fate of The Red Book of Eye and Eye is only 10 miles from Harleston) so it is entirely possible he was familiar with the saga of the Gawdy family – and the bizarre circumstances surrounding Sir Francis's mortal remains would surely have amused him.
Although the Gawdy Hall Estate still thrives as a farming enterprise, the big house is one of the lost stately homes of England as it was demolished in 1939. The picture shows it in its Edwardian heyday.
Charles Christian was an English barrister, Reuters correspondent-turned editor, author, blogger, podcaster, award-winning tech journalist, storyteller, and sometime werewolf hunter, who sadly passed away in 2022.
Prior to his sudden death he completed one of his largest works to date: The Witches Almanac, the definitive guide on the history of magic and folklore, including 359 of the most important witches and sorcerers in history.
This site also has links to Charles' books and the Weird Tales Show videos and podcasts.
Latest Video Post
Latest book: The Wold Newton Triangle
Virtual Tip Jar
You can now support Urban Fantasist, its podcasts and its new video channel through our Virtual Tip Jars on PayPal and Patreon, giving you a choice of ad hoc or regular payments.
Tel: +44(0)1986 788666
Tel/Txt: +44(0)7786 738172
WhatsApp etc: +44(0)7786 738172
"The only way to keep folklore alive is to share it" ...comment from viewer on YouTube channel
"Charles Christian... a man of paranormality" ...Howard Hughes, Talk Radio UK
"Cynicism has always been a part of your (very impressive) brand" ...Kirk Fackre
"Your storytelling set the scene for a fascinating evening of stunning music and terrifying drama" ...Chris Caswell
"I can't help myself. Yesterday, I went back to this post over and over again and it made me laugh out loud each time. So now I'm bringing it to all my followers with the recommendation to follow Charles Christian because he posts lots of stuff that brightens my day and will brighten yours, too" ...LinkedIn commentator
"A great witty intelligence in the world. We need more CC and less monkey-brained politicians" ...Julia Bohanna
"I love your posts, always something interesting to read and often funny" ...Karen Morton
"I was saddened to see you have retired your podcast. I never would have found your books without it. Well if a good story deserves rereading a good podcast demands relistening. Looking forward to your next stage with the time this change will afford you. Happy Trails, Pardner" ...Jonathan Neuhaus
"You are a great and generous host" ...Patti Negri, The Hollywood Psychic
"I host a daily morning show in Las Vegas and I like your shows very much. I love the way you pace your voice and thoughts is fantastic and you have a way of making your guest interviews sound more like conversations. Just wanted to let you know" ...Clay Baker
"The ever wonderful Charles Christian and his Weird Tales Show"...Into The Portal Podcast
"The Master of Mysteries & Folklore" ...Fantasy Radio UK
"The witty and knowledgeable Charles Christian."
"We poled our fans on their favorite podcasts and that's how I heard of Weird Tales Show. You are well loved by the geekiverse, and fans of folklore history and monsters!"
"Charles Christian is really out there cool."
"Charles Christian defiantly makes my world a brighter, funnier place."
"The legendary Charles Christian at his eclectic best..."
"Charles Christian is my inner spirit animal, thank you for making me laugh."
"You always make me laugh! Thank you for brightening my day with your dark humour."
"the funny, wonderful and slightly cantankerous Charles Christian"
Charles Christian's Books