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Burford Priory, Oxfordshire, England

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Burford Priory, Oxfordshire, England

Burford Priory is a Grade I listed country house and former priory at Burford in West Oxfordshire, England.

Image Chris Moore Flickr under Licence



The house is on the site of a 13th-century Augustinian hospital. In the 1580s an Elizabethan house was built by Sir Lawrence Tanfield, incorporating remnants of the Priory Hospital.[2] James I stayed at the priory for three nights in 1603.[3] In the 17th century it was remodelled in Jacobean style, probably after 1634 when William Lenthall bought the estate from Tanfield's grandson, the 2nd Viscount Falkland, who had inherited it from his grandfather.[4] Lenthall was one of the overseers of Tanfield's will and had married into his second wife's family.[5] It remained in the Lenthall family until 1828.[6] The Lenthall pictures were housed here until the collection was largely sold in the nineteenth century.

In 1912, the philanthropist Emslie John Horniman MP purchased Burford Priory from Colonel Frank de Sales la Terrière. He restored the house and later the chapel under the supervision of the architect Walter Godfrey.

Usage by Church of England nuns and monks

From 1949 Burford Priory housed The Society of the Salutation of Our Lady, a community of Church of England nuns. In the 1980s the community's numbers dwindled so in 1987 it became a mixed community including Church of England Benedictine monks. In 2008 the community sold the property and it has now returned to being a private house.[9] After a period of living in rented accommodation, the community moved into a new purpose built monastery in Worcestershire. The new monastery is on the site of a former farm and has taken the name of the farm becoming Mucknell Abbey.

Current ownership

The current owners and residents of Burford Priory are media businesswoman Elisabeth Murdoch, her husband Matthew Freud, owner of the public relations company Freud Communications, and their family.

A 2011 party held at the house was attended by the Chipping Norton set.

Local legend

Little brown monk

The site of the old monks' graveyard is reportedly haunted by a small brown solemn looking monk surrounded by an aura of sadness, who is said to pass through walls. The monk is often linked to the sound of bells which are reported coming from the old rectory at 2am, occasionally accompanied by the sound of chanting.


A second ghost reported on the grounds, particularly around the old vegetable garden, is that of an elderly gentleman in old fashioned clothing carrying a flintlock or blunderbuss who is seen late in the evenings during the month of October but vanishes if approached.The apparition has been linked by Puttick and Yurdan to a gamekeeper wrongly executed for the murder of a servant to William Lenthall (or Lord Abercomb) called John Prior (or Pryor). Puttick[13] reports that the ghost has not been sighted since the nun's took up residence in 1949 and speculates that their prayers may have put it to rest.


An unused room in the Priory is also reported to contain an active poltergeist and a feeling of oppression.

Gentleman's mansion house, on site of a small Augustinian Hospital. c.1200 and late 16th century, remodelled and extended mid C17 by William
(Speaker) Lenthall, and altered again after 1808 when it was greatly
reduced in size. Ashlar and dressed rubble, Cotswold stone roofs. Largely Jacobean with fragmentary C13 and c.1580 elements. Roughly U- plan. Three storeys and attic. Outer gables with steps and cut finials, ; central fluted-fan panel with finials, flanked by set-back, paired diagonal-shaft chimneys. Mullion windows, very long on 1st floor. 3 storey outer bays with crenellations (1580s, moved from S.front - see scars - in mid-cl7). Central swagger porch with Corinthian ground floor and Composite 1st floor; panels, atlantes, strapwork and 'shield', arched doorway. South side: mid-C17 six-bay long gallery wing in freestone with arched-architraves, scroll keys and panelled pilasters to 1st floor windows, bulls-eye windows below, cornice and parapet, weathered verges, ashlar chimney. C18 extension, irregular 11/2 and 2 storey wing, restored 1923, one cross-mullion window to 1st floor right, a Serliana loggia to right of centre with shaped gable over, 4 hipped dormers to left. Rear of house; irregular, dominated by taller stair block with two arched windows (mid-C18); U-plan ranges, South wing restored by Horniman with elements of Cotswold style and Voyseyish detail. The interior: 3 C13 (early) arches and piers re-instated in entrance hall which has a C17 fire-place. Early- mid C18 staircase with 3 barley-sugar balusters per tread, fluted Corinthian newels, enriched plaster ceiling with high relief rose and pendant. On 1st floor, the 'ball-room' (present chapel) has wide-rib enriched plaster ceiling with pedants; large fire-place with 3 spiral pairs of palmette-Ionic columns, broken segmental pediment and overmantel carving in the same spirit as the Harman memorial in the Parish Church (q.v.) however with the Lenthall arms and grey-hound crest; excellent pine panelling. The spine wall at rear of front block is basically mediaeval. History The Hospital of St John the Evangelist was 1st recorded in 1226 and was quite small. In 1543, it was granted to Edmund Harman, one of Henry VIII's barber-surgeons, who seems to have built a mansion here. The Priory was next acquired by Sir Lawrence Tanfield, later Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer (as Lord of the Manor of Burford, very unpopular for reducing the power of the burgesses); he entertained James I here in 1603, and altered it. William (Speaker) Lenthall bought The Priory in 1637 and died in 1662 having extended and remodelled it. Charles II dined here in 1681 en route to the Burford Races. After a chequered history including the amputation of outer wings and flattening of the facade in early C19, The Priory was saved from complete dereliction in 1908 by Col de Sales de la Terriere whose work was continued by Emslie John Horniman, who bought it in 1912. It is now the Convent of The Community of the Salutation of Our Lady (Anglican Benedictine), enclosed order, hence the elegant half- moon yew screen to entrance. Despite alterations, a good example of a mid-C17 gentleman's house.