Archaeology and Ghosts in East Anglia

The old library and clock tower, Cambridge
The old library and clock tower, Cambridge

M. R. James & the supernatural

East Anglia’s rich archaeological heritage exists alongside fables, legends and stories, exemplified by the ghost stories of M. R. James. As a Cambridge based archaeologist, medievalist and curator, James was born and bred in the region, and was privy to its odd corners and folklore. This tour will introduce some of the world-class archaeological sites that are to be seen, together with a peep behind the curtain into pandemonium as we follow James’ fiction between monuments.

  • Explore the Neolithic flint mines at Grime’s Graves
  • Listen to the haunting classic ghost stories in atmospheric surroundings
  • Tour Sutton Hoo, the burial place of kings and Britain’s richest archaeological find
  • Visit the reconstructed Saxon village at West Stow – a chance to sit in a Saxon Hall

Itinerary 2020

Day 1


We arrive in Cambridge and take an orientation walk around this great university city. An evening presentation on M. R. James includes a reading of “Oh whistle, and I’ll come to you my lad,” perhaps his greatest story – a warning of the dangers of archaeology.

Hotel: Hilton Cambridge City Centre
Meals: Dinner included

Day 2

Fitzwilliam Museum

This morning we visit the Fitzwilliam Museum, where M. R. James was assistant director, and where he most likely composed “Canon Alberic’s scrapbook,” a tale of the dangers awaiting bibliophiles. On to King’s College Chapel, the setting for the story “A night in King’s College Chapel,” and, after lunch, we walk past the Cambridge University Library, which James borrowed for the setting of the story “The Tractate Middoth,” a terrible admonition about returning library books! Next, we pay a visit to the library of Magdalene College, almost as famous as Samuel Pepys’ own collection of books. Tonight will be accompanied by a reading of “Canon Alberic’s scrapbook”.

Hotel: Hilton Cambridge City Centre
Meals: All meals included

Day 3

Bury St. Edmunds

We start the day by visiting Bury St. Edmunds and the ruin of the great Benedictine abbey. From here, we drive to West Stow, where excavations in the 1980s brought to light a remarkable Saxon village of the migration years. After lunch, we go on to Grime’s Graves near Brandon, to visit a Neolithic flint mine. Later, we drive via Great Livermere (where James’ father was Rector) to Scole. This evening, we’ll hear a story about the dangers of illicit excavation in burial mounds, entitled “A warning to the Curious”.

Hotel: Hotel Diss by Verve, Scole
Meals: All meals included

Day 4

Sutton Hoo - Cambridge

Our last day begins with a trip to the coast, and Aldeburgh, the seaside town James used as inspiration for last night’s story, among others. We explore some of James’ haunts – the Martello Tower, the White Lion Hotel and the curiosity shop. After lunch, we will go on to see some burial mounds at Sutton Hoo, the great royal necropolis of East Anglia – burial place of King Redwald, the richest burial ever found in England – with its new visitor centre. We return to Cambridge for our onward journeys.

Meals: Breakfast & lunch included

What's Included

  1. Expert Guide Lecturer
  2. Tour Manager
  3. Local Travel - All local transport
  4. Meals - Water with all meals, tea or coffee with dinner
  5. Entries & Tips - Entry to all sites in programme; tips included
  6. Field Notes
  7. Hotels

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2020 Tour Details

Mon 5th Oct - Thu 8th Oct



without flights

sgl supp: £260


Led By: Oliver Gilkes

Mon 14th Dec - Thu 17th Dec



without flights

sgl supp: £220


Led By: Oliver Gilkes

Guide Lecturer

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